It's teacher hunting season!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Resolved question re M and V lines mash-up; update: revision found at NYU News

Open question posed to the Gothamist, David M. Quintana of "Lost in the Ozone" blog and other expert parties:

As one of its cost-saving moves the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority is merging the M and the V train lines.
The curious matter is the following: The M train rides on the J train route, and the V train rides on the F train route. (The lines cross at Essex Street station.) How will this connection take place?
Will a train connection (around Essex Station in Lower East Side) need to be created?

Some clues are to be found at an article by Anna Sanders New York University (NYU) News ( website has clues about the matter, with an outline of a map. The question is nearly resolved. The southern Brooklyn segments of the M train will be eliminated. Riders will have to take alternates, like the B train. A "mash-up" of the V and the M would serve hipsters well: a one seat ride from Broadway/Lafayette or Bowery to Williamsburg or Bushwick.
As to how the configuration would occur: the V train would diverge from the BDF lines east of Broadway/Lafayette Station and would divert south through an existing tunnel between Houston Street and the Manhattan Bridge, named the Chrystie Street Connection, then would join the J train and would veer east along its current trajectory from Essex/Delancy Street Station, toward Williamsburg and Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Read thru lines of Daily News: Prince Bloomberg's puppet PEP ignored over 100 speeches by kids, teachers & the community

Daily News' January 27, 2010 report on the 6:00 PM to 3:30 AM Jan. 26 public meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy:
Note that eight of the panel's thirteen members are appointed by King --I mean, Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The votes on whether to postpone the vote on the closings or the vote on the closings fell on "party-line" votes: the first vote, at 11 PM, was eight to five; the 3:30 AM vote on the closings was nine to four. The mayor-appointed panel members know that if they part from the mayor's wishes they might lose their posts, as happened on the only instance in which mayor-appointed panel members voted against the mayor's prerogatives. This makes it plainly obvious that the mayor does not respect democratic plurality of opinion.

Rachel Monahan, "Education Department panel votes to close 19 failing New York City
schools," "New York Daily News" January 27, 2010

Over the objections of thousands of protesters, the city Education Department's panel voted early Wednesday morning to close 19 failing city schools.

After more than eight hours of testimony, the Panel for Educational Policy gave the go-ahead shortly after 3:00 a.m.

The four panel members representing the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan voted against most of the closings.

Mayor Bloomberg’s eight appointees along with the representative from Staten Island supported the decision.

At the beginning of the hearing, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein defended the proposals.

"The sad reality is that the schools we must close tonight are not meeting the standards," he said, barely audible over boos from the crowd.

At one point he left the stage for several minutes, and the crowd interrupted testimony, repeatedly chanting, "Where is Klein?"

Only after he returned did the crowd allow testimony to continue.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, among those who called for a delay, accused the Education Department of procedural violations, including failing to provide information to his panel appointee in time.

The public hearing and the vote were required for the first time this year because of changes made to the mayoral control law last summer.

Teachers union President Michael Mulgrew said the union is weighing a lawsuit but had not yet determined whether the city adhered to the law in moving to close schools.

“If that has not been followed, we will take them to court,” said Mulgrew.

Public sentiment has turned against Mayor Bloomberg's dictatorial school reforms

Juan Gonzalez's column on the mammoth 3,000 strong meeting of the New York City Department of Education rubber stamp, Panel for Educational Policy:
"New York Daily News," January 27, 2010
"Public Sentiment has Turned Against Mayor Bloomberg's Dictatorial School Reforms"
Mayor Bloomberg has ignited a firestorm among parents and teachers with his latest move to shut down 19 more low-performing schools - including many of the city's biggest high schools.

The hundreds who filled Brooklyn Technical High School Tuesday night to protest a vote on the closings by the mayor's Panel for Educational Policy sent a clear signal: The tide of public sentiment has turned against Bloomberg's dictatorial school reforms.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, those parents say, stacked their schools in recent years with huge numbers of special needs kids - especially English language learners and special education students.

Among the big schools to be shuttered are Christopher Columbus in the Bronx, Norman Thomas in Manhattan, Paul Robeson and W.H. Maxwell in Brooklyn and Jamaica High in Queens.

Klein never provided those schools with smaller class sizes and more resources, the parents say.

At a Jan. 7 hearing on Jamaica High, for instance, more than 800 people turned out. Klein aides admitted Tuesday that of 107 people who submitted official comments, not a single person backed the closing.

The chancellor simply ignores local sentiment. He prefers to spend much of his time promoting new charter schools or small public high schools, both of which enroll far fewer percentages of special needs children.

"I could easily get you a 75% graduation rate if you removed allthe students with nontraditional needs," said James Eterno, a social studies teacher at Jamaica High for the past 24 years and head of the local teachers union chapter.

At Jamaica High, for example, 17% of the students are English language learners and 11% are in special education. Nearly half of that special ed population - 4.8% - is classified as needing the "most restricted environment." That means they have emotional or behavioral problems that require highly specialized attention and resources.

At Queens Collegiate, a new small school Klein recently created in the same Jamaica High building, less than 4% are English language learners and none are in the "most restricted" special ed classification.

At Christopher Columbus in the Bronx, another school targeted for closing, an astounding 42% of the students are English language learners or special education - with 14% classified as needing the "most restricted environment."

These new closings will once again end up cherry-picking the best students for the small schools and charters. Special needs students will end up dropping out or being shuttled to another comprehensive school, which will then also be declared a failure.

Each of these comprehensive high schools has roots and traditions in its community. Closing them in this frenzied rush for small schools damages the fabric of our city's neighborhoods.

That's why furious parents are fighting back. And that's why the tide is turning on the Bloomberg school reforms.

Gabe Pressman on Panel for Educational Policy vote

Veteran New York City reporter (WNBC-TV, channel 4) Gabe Pressman on the New York City Panel for Educational Policy vote, of January 26 to 27, 2010:
Column from Gabe Pressman on suppression of the parent role follows last night's PEP. We don't often see this angle covered in the press.
= = =
Parents Battle for a Say in Educational Policy
Updated 6:01 PM EST, Wed, Jan 27, 2010
When the Mayor took control of the city’s schools, he promised to make them better.
Whether he kept that promise is debatable. But whether he has made parents part of the improvement process is not. They are definitely excluded. And that’s a shame.
The recent meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy made that clear. Critics of the plan to close down 19 public schools screamed in frustration as the panel heard arguments for and against the school closings, which are emotionally draining for many families.
The critics and the audience knew the die was cast. The Mayor controls the panel and, amid boos and a deafening chorus of "Save Our Schools!" the panel members, after a nine-hour hearing that lasted until 3 A.M., voted 9 to 4 to shut down the schools. No Mayoral appointee cast a dissenting vote.
Patrick Sullivan, representing Manhattan, who had dissented from many past decisions, asked the Mayor’s appointees to explain why they approved the plan to close the schools for poor performance. He asked: "Is there anyone who will defend this?"All but one of the Mayor’s people remained silent.
It was a stacked deck. That’s the essence of mayoral control as it’s now practiced--- no dissent, no criticism. Even if the schools have been improved---- and many parents don’t think they have----there’s nothing democratic about the way this is being done.
It’s easy to understand the frustration and anger of the parents. But they are learning a practical lesson in how a supposedly democratic process can be distorted to suppress opposition.
The Mayor himself could benefit from some education. He could use a crash course in the values of democracy. The educational policy panel is not there just to ratify decisions already made.
There should be honest and vigorous debate on controversial issues. And all points of view should be respected. If Mayor Bloomberg could be persuaded that this is the right way to handle educational policies, he might still get an A in the course.
First Published: Jan 27, 2010 4:04 PM EST

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pakter --he's back --in the Rubber Room, unfortunately

This will provide, WE HOPE, a wee bit of an antidote to the agenda-driven Steven Brill piece in the New Yorker in the summer of 2009.

The Financial Times of London has reported on the farcical events that sent veteran New York City teacher to one of the NYC Department of Education teacher reassignment centers, also known as "rubber rooms."
Click to the above article for the trials and tribulations of veteran teacher David Pakter, as told by FT's Cian Traynor, published, January 2, 2010.
(The FT does not permit cutting and pasting of its content.)

Shocking concession by US DOE official, on education policies

This disclosure, just in this weekend from Leonie Hamson of Class Size Matters:
This refers to Peter Cunningham, Assistant Secretary for Communications, US Department of Education.
Here is the link for accessing the show by archive. However, the quotes below are about modern education generally; and the link itslef deals more closely with policies aimed at Los Angeles Public Schools.

Moderator Warren Olney followed up Rothstein's comments with the question to Cunningham: "Are standardized tests a good measure of teacher performance and ultimately of school performance?"

"No, they're not," Cunningham admitted bluntly. "Education has been corrupted. In addition to narrowing the curriculum by abandoning other topics, what this kind of system does is create incentives to game the system. We're actually harming the education of students in this country

U.S. official admits administration policies are " harming the education of students"
Today at 8:14pm
My blog post:

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education admitted on a Jan. 12 radio broadcast that his own department is promoting policies that are "actually harming the education of students in this country" and that "education has been corrupted" by those policies.

Speaking on the program "To the Point" on radio station KCRW, Peter Cunningham, assistant secretary of communications for the U.S. Department of Education, readily agreed with the views of another program guest that overreliance on standardized testing is detrimental to students, and that "many" charter schools, a model being promoted as a solution for troubled schools, are not successful.

Education researcher Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute, speaking on the program along with Cunningham, voiced sharp criticism of the Obama administration's Race to the Top education policies -- criticism that Cunningham acknowledged was valid.

Rothstein and Cunningham agreed that cornerstone policies in the current education legislation known as No Child Left Behind have harmed education and that the new administration's Race to the Top program continues the problematic policies.

Race to the Top, Rothstein charged, is "accentuating the harm that NCLB did." NCLB's emphasis on testing only for math and reading is unchanged in RTTT.

"A major consequence of No Child Left Behind that's done major harm to American education is the narrowing of the curriculum," Rothstein said. Sciences, history, social studies, music, the arts and physical education are neglected or abandoned as educators struggle to adhere to NCLB's emphasis on math and reading, Rothstein explained, and "Race to the Top doesn't change that." Abandoning other subjects "does the most harm to disadvantaged students," Rothstein added.

Moderator Warren Olney followed up Rothstein's comments with the question to Cunningham: "Are standardized tests a good measure of teacher performance and ultimately of school performance?"

"No, they're not," Cunningham admitted bluntly. "Education has been corrupted. In addition to narrowing the curriculum by abandoning other topics, what this kind of system does is create incentives to game the system. We're actually harming the education of students in this country." He mentioned, without more specifics, the "hope" of reauthorizing NCLB to include testing in more subjects. The prospect of increasing testing is likely to raise more concerns, but the discussion didn't pursue that issue.

On the subject of charter schools, Rothstein disputed the view promoted by both the Bush and Obama administrations that charters are a solution for troubled schools. "The research is pretty consistent," he said. "Charter schools on average don't have better student performance than regular schools."

Rothstein got no argument from Cunningham, who responded, "We 100 percent agree with Mr. Rothstein that many of them are not good" and called for more accountability for charter schools.

Rothstein is a research associate with the Economic Policy Institute, a former education columnist for the New York Times, and the author of many books and studies about education policy.

Cunningham was previously a communications consultant for the Chicago Public Schools during the time when his current boss, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, was head of that school system.

"To the Point" was part of the Jan. 12 KCRW broadcast of the program "Which Way, L.A.?" which also covered the issue of outside groups' efforts to take over a number of Los Angeles schools.

Leonie Haimson

Veteran teacher on 10 myths behind the Race to the Top ("RTTT")

Per Marion Brady, veteran teacher, I couldn't put it better:
By Marion Brady
"Race to the Top? National standards for math, science, and other school subjects? The high-powered push to put them in place makes it clear that the politicians, business leaders, and wealthy philanthropists who’ve run America’s education show for the last two decades are as clueless about educating as they’ve always been.

If they weren’t, they’d know that adopting national standards will be counterproductive, and that the "Race to the Top" will fail for the same reason "No Child Left Behind" failed—because it’s based on false assumptions.

False Assumption 1:
America’s teachers deserve most of the blame for decades of flat school performance. Other factors affecting learning—language problems, hunger, stress, mass media exposure, transience, cultural differences, a sense of hopelessness, and so on and on—are minor and can be overcome by well-qualified teachers. To teacher protests that they’re scapegoats taking the blame for broader social ills, the proper response is, "No excuses!" While it’s true teachers can’t choose their students, textbooks, working conditions, curricula, tests, or the bureaucracies that circumscribe and limit their autonomy, they should be held fully accountable for poor student test scores.

False Assumption 2:
Professional educators are responsible for bringing education to crisis, so they can’t be trusted. School systems should instead be headed by business CEOs, mayors, ex-military officers, and others accustomed to running a "tight ship." Their managerial expertise more than compensates for how little they know about educating.

False Assumption 3:
"Rigor"—doing longer and harder what we’ve always done—will cure education’s ills. If the young can’t clear arbitrary statistical bars put in place by politicians, it makes good sense to raise those bars. Because learning is neither natural nor a source of joy, externally imposed discipline and "tough love" are necessary.

False Assumption 4:
Teaching is just a matter of distributing information. Indeed, the process is so simple that recent college graduates, fresh from "covering" that information, should be encouraged to join "Teach For America" for a couple of years before moving on to more intellectually demanding professions. Experienced teachers may argue that, as Socrates demonstrated, nothing is more intellectually demanding than figuring out what’s going on in another person’s head, then getting that person herself or himself to examine and change it, but they’re just blowing smoke.

False Assumption 5:
Notwithstanding the failure of vast experiments such as those conducted in eastern Europe under Communism, and the evidence from ordinary experience, history proves that top-down reforms such as No Child Left Behind work well. Centralized control doesn’t stifle creativity, imply teacher incompetence, limit strategy options, discourage innovation, or block the flow of information and insight to policymakers from those actually doing the work.

False Assumption 6:
Standardized tests are free of cultural, social class, language, experiential, and other biases, so test-taker ability to infer, hypothesize, generalize, relate, synthesize, and engage in all other "higher order" thought processes can be precisely measured and meaningful numbers attached. It’s also a fact that test-prep programs don’t unfairly advantage those who can afford them, that strategies to improve the reliability of guessing correct answers can’t be taught, and that test results can’t be manipulated to support political or ideological agendas. For these reasons, test scores are reliable, and should be the primary drivers of education policy.

False Assumption 7:
Notwithstanding the evidence from research and decades of failed efforts, forcing merit pay schemes on teachers will revitalize America’s schools. This is because the desire to compete is the most powerful of all human drives (more powerful even than the satisfactions of doing work one loves). The effectiveness of, say, band directors and biology teachers, or of history teachers and math teachers, can be easily measured and dollar amounts attached to their relative skill. Merit pay also has no adverse effect on collegiality, teacher-team dynamics, morale, or school politics.

False Assumption 8:
Required courses, course distribution requirements, Carnegie Units, and other bureaucratic demands and devices that standardize the curriculum and limit teacher and learner options are products of America’s best thinkers about what the young need to know. Those requirements should, then, override individual learner interests, talents, abilities, and all other factors affecting freedom of choice.

False Assumption 9:
Notwithstanding charter schools’ present high rates of teacher turnover, their growing standardization by profit-seeking corporations, or their failure to demonstrate that they can do things all public schools couldn’t do if freed from bureaucratic constraints, charters attract the most highly qualified and experienced teachers and are hotbeds of innovation.

False Assumption 10:
The familiar, traditional "core curriculum" in near-universal use in America’s classrooms since 1893 is the best-possible tool for preparing the young for an unknown, unpredictable, increasingly complex and dangerous future.

"Human history," said H.G. Wells, "is a race between education and catastrophe."

If amateurs continue to control American education policy, put your money on catastrophe. It’s a sure thing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

NYPD photographed protesters outside King Bloomberg's home

On Thursday January 21, 2010, students, parents and teachers protested outside of King ("mayor") Michael Bloomberg's East 79th Street residence.

Little did they plan for surveillance work done by police officers from roof-tops, aiming down at the protesters.
Shouldn't people have the right to peacefully protest?
Where's the outcry from the elected representatives?
Oh yeah, I forgot, we're not in a democracy. This is a city-state, under the thumb of an autocratic king.

Here's the NY1 report from today, January 24:
Parents, students and teachers say the New York City Police Department violated their civil rights during a protest last week.

They released a video Sunday showing several officers taking pictures of them as they protested plans to close city schools outside Mayor Bloomberg's home on Tuesday.

In 1985, a federal court ruled it is illegal and a violation of civil rights for the NYPD to take photos of protesters, unless they have cause to believe a crime may be committed.

"It was a very peaceful demonstration, and I'm outraged that I'm being photographed. There was no mention of any photography going to take place at that meeting and I resent the fact that I have to come home after living up to my fulfillment, fighting for my rights to protest on that block and having my picture taking without my permission," said protest participant Lydia Bellahcene.

"We want an explanation as to, one, why these officers were taking pictures of the demonstration, and two, what is the NYPD planning to do with those pictures? We need to be assured that no one, no one's civil rights have been, or will be violated," said civil rights attorney Norman Siegel.

A police spokesperson says the pictures did not focus on individuals and were taken for crowd control planning which is permitted under the 1985 law.

NY1 features some of the more favorable coverage of some NYC schools issues

It has come to my attention,

that the New York City local cable news station, NY1, has some of the more sympathetic coverage of some issues in New York City education.

In just the last few days, the station has addressed activists' suit re police abuse of protesters' civil liberties, "Group Claims NYPD Violated Protest Rights," Sunday, January 24, 2010,

Without Paul Robeson, Many Students Will Have Their Needs Unmet.

Despite Low Grad Rate, Student Comes To School's Defense.

While they reporters are not going as deep into the issues as the bloggers have, and I must note that the station quotes the NYC DOE and that given that their lies are so deep and loaded that they require voluminous rebuttal, the station is addressing the stories with more depth than the New York Times does.

It is refreshing to hear students themselves defend the schools and their teachers, in contrast to the usual outlets (that merely run press conference announcements or mayoral pronouncements) and far too-many pundits (and probably too many people that you have personally met) believe that Joel Klein is a phenomenal genius, performing the greatest education miracles of all time.

NY State Assembly member explains his vote against raising charter school cap

Harvey Weisenberg publicized his reasons for opposing raising the charter school cap. I applaud Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate leader John L. Sampson New York and other State legislators for opposing the expansion of charter schools. These schools exclude special education students, English Language Learners (English as a Second Language students), save for a few tokens. This movement represents a theft of the public commonwealth for the interest of private investors.

Dear Ms. Smith:

I have received your letter expressing your opposition to expanding charter schools in New York State.

Please be assured that I wholeheartedly agree with your position. On January 19th, the Legislature convened to address the issue of charter school expansion with regard to the federal Race to the Top funds. The Governor put forth a bill that would have allowed charter school expansion and the legislative leaders in the Senate and Assembly also put forth a bill that would have expanded the charters, but with more oversight on their operations. I am pleased to advise you that the
bills were not acted upon and did not come to the floor of the Assembly for a vote.

Please be assured that I will remain opposed to expanding charters unless significant reforms in the laws governing them are included in the package. Specifically, I refer to greater financial oversight, including audits by the State Comptroller. All public school districts and BOCES in New York State have been subjected to Comptroller audits and I strongly believe charters should not be exempted. Additionally, I remain gravely concerned with charter school admission practices, particularly for those students with disabilities. I have enclosed (below) a copy of a letter I sent to the State Education Department in July of this year, which explains my stance in greater detail.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me to express your views regarding charter schools.


Harvey Weisenberg

Member of Assembly

NY 1, the 24-hour municipal news cable station will broadcast January 27 PEP vote on school closings

The ominous vote on NYC closures is coming, in mere days.

NY 1, on the Web at, is broadcasting New York City's Panel for Education Policy (PEP, widely recognized to be a rubber stamp for Chancellor Joel Klein's objectives) vote (on school closings) on Tuesday, Jan. 27. (I'm wondering: by scheduling the vote for Tuesday, not Monday, are they inherently indicating that they are feeling some pressure from the community? Is the panel moving the vote to a later time, to digest the impact of the public PEP meeting at Brooklyn Technical High School?) Please make it a priority to attend the meeting. Education activists fought hard to bring the meeting to this site after the New York City Department of Education originally scheduled the meeting for the more remote Staten Island.
Brooklyn Technical High School is relatively centrally located at 29 Fort Greene Place at DeKalb Avenue in Fort Greene, downtown Brooklyn. (Enter the school's auditorium at South Elliott Place.) The school is paces away from Fulton Street, from the south. It is a short walk north from the Flatbush terminal of the Long Island Rail Road (renamed Atlantic Terminal, for The Atlantic Yards project?); from the B, M, Q, R BMT lines at DeKalb Avenue walk east on DeKalb Avenue to the school; from 2, 3, 4, 5 IRT lines at Nevins Street, walk east on Fulton Street to South Elliott Place; A, E, F, L riders can transfer to the C or G train; C: Fulton Street station, G: Lafayette Avenue from either street, connect with South Elliott Place. Click here to access the MTA Brooklyn Bus map, to see bus routes and a "zoomable" map.
Rally on South Elliott Place at 5 PM, attend the meeting at 6 PM!

As I've written earlier this month, the NYC DOE scheduling plan does not heed actual performance. It closes down large schools and aims to reopen them as small schools, by its preference, as charter schools, even though the small schools do not perform any better than the large traditional, comprehensive high schools.

Unfortunately, no word on exact time of the vote, --day or evening?
See's site at:

WCBS TV to interview rubber room plaintiff attorney, Mon 1/26

Major Breaking Education News

History will be made by CBS Channel 2 Television News
When: Monday 11 PM
Where: Channel 2, CBS, NYC

Who: Legendary News Reporter
Pablo Guzman

Attorney Dr. Joy Hochstadt, Esq.
Representing and with:
David Pakter
[some others]

What: Lead Plaintiffs in major Federal Class Action Lawsuit
seeking to permanently close
New York City's infamous "Rubber Rooms"

Why: Because the Public has the right to know that such abominations
should NOT exist in a Free Democratic Society

This Monday (January 26, 2010) 11 PM WCBS-TV Special News Report
will be followed by a full extended News Special
that will be posted on the CBS News Website on the Internet at the end of the week.

The so-called NYC Dept of Education "Rubber Rooms"
are places spread around New York City
where NYC Teachers are "disappeared",
sometimes for years, on trumped up charges.

While a small number of these Teachers should be removed,
Most teachers in the "Rubber Rooms" ended up there
Because the NYC Dept of Education decided they were allegedly "too old",
Or were earning "too high" salaries,
Or because they were Whistle-blowers who reported,
Widespread corruption and waste of Tax Payer money,
As well as the breaking of Federal Civil Rights Laws.

Watch the Monday night CBS Special News Report at 11 PM

Watch the Extended Pablo Guzman Interviews on
CBS News Internet Website later in week.
WCBS-TV News in New York City deserves much credit
for being the first TV News Program in America
To expose the Truth about New York's "Rubber Rooms"

This is Education News History
No one can afford to miss this News Special Report

Please post, circulate and tell your friends.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Follow the money II: Top education administrator: mayoral control fails children and rewards investors

Numerous academicians have scrutinized mayoral control. (Read on for details.) Interestingly, schools do worse where there is mayoral control. (Read on.) This shift to mayoral control facilitates the destruction of public schools and the intrusion of private "charter" schools in their place. Private investors are a major hand behind the push for charter schools.
The following opinion piece, by a former interim superintendent at Rochester, New York public schools, is the superlative article on the issues at stake in mayoral control, school closure and the sidelining of public school resources for charter schools.
COMMENTARY: Mayoral control doesn't work and is wrong
on January 14, 2010
by William C. Cala, Ed.D
(William Cala is the former interim superintendent of the RochesterCitySchool District and former superintendent of Fairport schools.)
Looking at the statistics of urban schools across the country is enough to make anyone consider radical tactics. In nearly all of these schools graduation rates hover around 50 percent and rates for African-Americans and Latinos are as low as 30 percent. New York State is no different and Rochester has the dubious honor of leading the pack in negative statistics for children. The Children's Agenda's annual report is a must read for anyone who cares about Rochester's kids. And it's not all about graduation rates; it's about health and living conditions that are causative factors of poor school performance. One statistic alone, the teenage pregnancy rate, should make us think twice about where we are putting our reform efforts. Rochester has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world, putting it in the same statistical arena as a third-world country. That has produced kindergarten classes that are made up of nearly 25 percent of the children coming from teenage mothers.
In "Class and Schools" by Richard Rothstein, a clear case is made demonstrating the catastrophic effects of poverty on urban school performance. From community safety to poor health due to living conditions and lack of access to adequate health care to joblessness to a lack of a family structure, children across the country are ill-equipped physically, emotionally and socially to succeed in school. Rochester is the 11th poorest city for children in the country. I have had numerous conversations with pediatricians over the past 20 years, and they have relayed horror stories about the damage that poverty has done to children before they enter the school-yard gate (i.e. the average urban kindergartener has 1/3 of the vocabulary of a suburban counterpart).
Given this scenario, a logical question to ask is, "How will mayoral control of the schools help urban children and the factors leading to the lack of success of children in urban schools?

Is it about academics?
We have heard about the "success" of mayoral control in cities such as New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Cleveland. Since New York has been used as an exemplar for mayoral control here in Rochester, it seems only fitting to look at what Mayor Bloomberg has done since taking over the New York City schools. Historian Diane Ravitch recently provided some eye-opening statistics about this ersatz "success."
The National Assessment of Educational Progress is a federally funded and administered test that is considered by scholars to be the best and only valid measure of student performance in the nation having a 40-year track record of solid performance.
Ravitch points out that of the urban districts that have been tested since 2002, the highest performing districts were Charlotte, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas. The lowest performing districts were Washington, DC, Chicago, and Cleveland. Charlotte and Austin are not controlled by mayors and the lowest performing districts are all controlled by mayors (Cleveland and Chicago have been controlled by the mayor for over a decade).
The city with the most sustained gains is Atlanta, Georgia (not controlled by a mayor).
New York City has been controlled by the mayor since 2002. To date there have been no gains on NAEP in fourth-grade reading, eighth-grade reading, or eighth-grade mathematics. Additionally, there have been no gains for African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, whites or lower-income students. Is this closing the achievement gap? Is this progress? Hardly.
Let's talk about those pesky graduation rates. One of the keystones of Mayor Bloomberg's campaign this past fall was the improvement of the graduation rates in New York City. He has claimed a rate as high as 70 percent. Here are the facts: New York State Education Department statistics clearly determine that the graduation rate in New York City is 52 percent. Mayor Bloomberg has conveniently invented his own mathematical formula to determine the NYC graduation rate. What he and his chancellor of education, Joel Klein have done is create "Discharge Codes." Discharge Codes are ways of designating students who have disappeared from the city schools as "other than dropouts." In fact, they have invented so many Discharge Codes that they are unable to determine what actually happened to the student. This is a convenient manipulation to obfuscate the graduation rate. So egregious is this activity that Advocates for Children did a study this past year citing tens of thousands of children being listed as "discharged" (not dropped out) yet the New York City administration was unable to demonstrate where these children went. Over the past six years, most of the discharges are students of color. The graduation rate for African-American males is 29 percent.
The New York City Department of Education is currently under investigation for this practice. (By the way, the Houston Independent School District has its brand of Discharge Codes called "Leaver Codes." They have over 20 Leaver Codes. They too were called out for seriously manipulating the graduation rate. The "Houston Miracle" turned out to be The Houston Mirage. Unfortunately, the No Child Left Behind Act that governs education nationally was built on the Houston system, which has since been thoroughly discredited).

Is it about money?
If controlling the Rochester school district is about saving money (The City of Rochester is required by law to contribute no less than $119 million to the RCSD coffers), then perhaps we should again look to the beacon that has often been mentioned as Rochester's model, New York City. In 2002 Mayor Bloomberg took over the schools. The budget at that time was $12.5 billion. In 2009 the budget is $21 billion. Given the lack of student performance in NYC, how does Bloomberg justify a 68 percent increase? If we look to other cities controlled by mayors and were to evaluate those mayors based on student performance and cost savings, the public debate could logically center around a voter recall of those mayors.
In 2005 Wong and Shen, in a study called "When Mayors Lead Urban Schools: Assessing the Effects of Mayoral Takeover," examined finances and staffing in the nation's 100 largest urban school districts. They reported that mayoral takeovers did not produce the promised improvement in financial stability and concluded that "no general consensus is emerging about the overall effectiveness of mayoral takeover."
One has to minimally ask the question whether mayoral control is about breaking unions and creating a lower paid workforce with fewer benefits. Author Danny Weil's December 2009 post should cause serious reflection:
"This is the point, and why mayoral control and Eli Broad, Gates, The Fisher family and the Walton family (and a host of other such charitable capitalists) along with Green Dot schools and other EMO's who seek to privatize all of education are so giddy. Creating a sub-prime school system that breaks the backs of the teacher's union is the goal of the new managerial elite who seek only to turn over public schools to private operators and entrepreneurs. This way they can reduce teachers to at-will employees, de-skill them with the "best practices," force them to work longer hours for less pay and less benefits and of course eliminate collective bargaining; that will then give the new managerial elite and their corporate masters, control over the entire educational enterprise - from curriculum development to the hiring and firing of teachers."
If Rochester's City Hall is unhappy with the mandated $119 million it must contribute to Rochester school district, the mayor and council members should look at the track record for mayoral control across the country. If they were to reduce costs under a system controlled by the mayor, they would be the first to do so. While the disdain for the $119 mandate is understandable, how does the city's contribution compare to the share that Monroe County suburban taxpayers contribute to their schools? $119 million is less than 18 percent of the total Rochester school district budget. By comparison, suburban communities contribute well over 50 percent of their total budgets. The local argument is that Rochester's share to RCSD is higher than that of Syracuse and Buffalo. True enough, but it's high time to start looking to models of success rather than using other urban failures as a benchmark.

Is it about crime?
Do dropouts cause crimes or do crimes cause dropouts?
Would there be less crime if the graduation rate were higher or would the graduation rate be higher if there were intact families, less crime, safer neighborhoods, better health care, and most importantly, jobs? While it is easy and convenient to narrow the focus to one culprit (education), the answers are much more complex and require the political will to tackle all of the above issues including educational reform. (See "Class and Schools" by Richard Rothstein for additional information on this topic.)
It is a great sound bite to look at crime statistics and announce that the perpetrators are dropouts. This statistic is a "no-brainer." Of course the vast majority of crimes are committed by dropouts, but in fact in most cases, that which led up to dropping out is the initial crime. Unless we search for the root causes of problems, our efforts are misplaced, ineffective and wasteful. While in the City of Rochester, I made it my business to do a forensic study when children committed serious crimes. Without exception, the home lives of child criminals were stunning.
For example, one adolescent drop-out shot and killed another boy. His life looked like this: His father sold cocaine out of the home. He was arrested and imprisoned twice while in elementary school. His mother was repeatedly beaten by the father. The Department of Social Services was often involved in attempts to resolve domestic abuse. The boy in question was sexually abused by the father and ran away twice. All of this occurring in early elementary school! The boy eventually dropped out. Living off of the streets was less painful.
I wish this were the exception to the rule. In varying degrees, this scenario repeats itself on a daily basis. Surely we should do everything within our means to adequately educate our children and keep them in school rather than having them drop out. However, the elephant in the room cannot be ignored or denied. Our efforts must address the external forces that lead to near certain school failure. At the national, state, and local level, I am afraid that resources are not addressing the root causes. We do not need more money going to urban school districts for programs that do not address root causes.
Mayoral control will not fix this.

In addition to being ineffective, mayoral control is wrong
Clearly, mayoral control doesn't work, but beyond its failure to produce, it is quite simply, wrong.
City residents are already disenfranchised by laws governing big cities in New York State. While suburban citizens are empowered with the right to vote on their district budgets, city residents are not entitled to do so. Mayoral control effectively removes Rochesterians from any meaningful input into the education of its children. I believe that this particular issue outweighs any consideration relative to academic outcomes and political perceptions of economic feasibility. Eliminating yet one more avenue to parent and citizen participation in government is an outright assault on democracy.
I am not alone in this belief. A 1997 case study of mayoral control in Chicago found some evidence that appointed officials were "less accountable to particular constituencies and... therefore, better able to put system-wide concerns above constituency demands."
Mayoral control involves establishing boards appointed by the mayor. Frederick M. Hess has conducted the largest study of mayoral control in the nation. He states that:
"Scholars raise several important concerns about appointed boards. Appointed boards tend to be less transparent than elected boards, and minority voices are more likely to be silenced or marginalized. There is also a risk that politically savvy mayors and their appointed boards may eventually settle into comfortable accommodations with special interest groups. Mayors themselves can also be a problem if they politicize school boards in self-serving ways or neglect education in favor of other issues."
I recall one particular action by Bloomberg and his appointed board early on in the mayoral takeover of the New York City schools. The mayor's appointed board was presented with a plan to retain any third grader who did not pass a standardized test. Up until that point, the mayor empowered the board to make educational decisions. Two of the mayor's appointees could not in conscience vote for a plan that defied all research on child development. The mayor fired them and replaced them with nominees who would support the plan.
A comprehensive national study of mayoral control was presented to the general assembly of Johnson City, Missouri, in October of 2009. Citing numerous research studies on the topic across the nation they concluded that:
1) There is a lack of democracy with appointed mayoral school boards and a concern about education becoming too involved in politics.
2) The larger role mayors play, the more costly their elections become, opening the door for big business involvement in elections (Meier 2005).
3) There is a greater risk of limiting minority participation through mayoral control (Wong 2006).
4) There is debate over whether mayors or other non-educator administrators can offer the expertise necessary to transform a school (Wong & Shen 2003).
5) Mayoral control does not address root problems such as reducing top-heavy administration or the multiple layers of bureaucracy overseeing the school system (Council of Great City Schools 2007).
6) There is no evidence that there have been improvements to the budget process.
7) Financial stability remains unresolved with mayoral control (Henig & Rich, 2005: Wong & Shen, 2005).
8) Minority students are disproportionately underrepresented (educational opportunities) with appointed school boards. Elected school board members are more likely to represent the makeup of the community, and these elected officials make it their business to advocate for them (Leal et al.,2004). (N.B. the formation of the department of African-American Studies in 2007 in Rochester. This department became a reality due to the advocacy of elected minority School Board members.)
Imagine for a moment the following scenario: The New York State Legislature by 2003 had not passed an "on-time" budget in 20 years. Since 2003 it has been named as the most dysfunctional legislature in the country. And recently, a coup was attempted by the Senate to reverse the majority party by winning over two indicted members of its body. That should be sufficient background to justify the statement: The New York State Legislature doesn't work.
Using the logic of advocates of mayoral control, what should happen is that the governor should seek a change in the New York State constitution to eliminate election of legislators. Subsequently, the governor would take complete control, and citizens of New York would no longer be able to vote for their local representatives to state government. From a very cynical point of view, the thought of removing scores of down-state legislators is quite appealing, yet our democracy is much too sacred to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Does a smaller-scale assault on democracy (mayoral control of schools) make the rationale any more valid?
Would a parallel scenario ever be conceived in the suburbs? Imagine the outrage if an equal coup were attempted by a town supervisor to take over a school district or eliminate elections of town board members. Not only would it never happen, such thoughts would never see the light of day. I cannot help but believe that democracy is threatened more readily in urban centers where the vast majority of its citizens are entrenched in poverty and do not have the capacity to have their voices heard. Is it any wonder why voting among the poor is so low? Losing one more opportunity to have a voice (voting in School Board elections) will bring about a deeper cascade into hopelessness and a lack of faith in our democracy.

If not mayoral control, what?
I have no doubt that Bob Duffy truly cares about education in the City of Rochester. I am convinced that he is willing to expend political capital to accomplish the goal of educating all of the city's kids. If not mayoral control, what path should he and local legislators seek instead of greasing the chute for a mayoral takeover?
1) Start a campaign to seek better School Board candidates. After the state elections this past November, editorials sprung up supporting efforts to seek out better candidates to run for the Senate and Assembly. No less of an effort should take place for the RCSD. No one called for a gubernatorial takeover of the legislature!
2) Eliminate salaries for School Board members. This has a lot to do with getting better candidates. School Board members do not get paid in the suburbs and shouldn't be paid in the city, either. Perhaps we will see candidates whose only agenda is children.
3) Eliminate party affiliation in order to be placed on the ballot. Let's face it: if you are not an endorsed Democrat, you are highly unlikely to become a RCSD school board member.
4) Institute term limits. Given the nature of the political machine and the low voter turnout due to a sense of hopelessness by the citizenry, ineffective School Board members are difficult to vote out of office. Perhaps term limits will renew a sense of promise and encouragement.
5) While huge urban districts are notoriously clumsy and overly bureaucratic, the fact of the matter is that poverty is the real issue, an issue that often seems beyond solution, leading to the endless (and fruitless) attacks on urban schools.
The real solutions that will solve the graduation puzzle have very little to do with what is being proposed by the mayor, the governor, or the national secretary of education. The real solutions are with children ages 0 to 5 and their families. There is absolutely no debate about the importance of quality pre-school education, child care, and after-school programs. There is overwhelming evidence that addressing the social, emotional, physical, and financial ailments in homes with young children produces significant increases in graduation rates (more than any power reorganization, school-only program, testing regime, or pay-for-performance scheme).
Three of the four most effective programs in the country that produce the greatest increase in graduation rates are programs involving children younger than age 5. And right here in Rochester we have the Nurse Family Partnership, which is a highly researched and greatly effective program that receives inadequate financial support.
6) And speaking of the Nurse Family Partnership, community leaders should be looking at all of the recommendations of the Children's Agenda. They are researched based and proven to work.
7) Now to go into really dangerous waters: as stated previously, poverty is the real issue as it relates to performance in poor urban settings - poverty and the concentration of poverty in cities. Our cities (specifically Rochester) are exemplars of economic apartheid (Rochester is poorer and more segregated than it was in 1954 when Brown vs. Board of Education outlawed segregated schools).
All of the recommendations above assume the maintenance of RCSD as one urban district under someone's control, be it the mayor or an elected school board. A better solution, however, eliminates the Rochester City School District and sectors off Monroe County into slices of a pie. Each slice or sector would incorporate suburban districts and a small portion of RCSD students. Each educational sector would be managed by the current suburban board with additional board representation from the ranks of the city.
Research tells us that if schools consist of more than 40 percent children and families of poverty (high concentration of poverty), they will not succeed. This recommendation pays attention to the research on what works by providing a middle-class education for the urban poor. Other significant advantages include a massive savings by eliminating one of the most costly bureaucracies in the state, maintenance of local control, and supporting democracy by not eliminating the voice of the voter.

Mayoral control has been a hands-down failure in this country. The mayor has stated, "Documented improvements... are a proven fact in such cities as New York City, Boston, and Washington, DC." The only improvements documented are created by the spin machines of each of the mayors of these cities and the others that I have previously mentioned. Parents and citizens in cities controlled by mayors are up in arms because they have lost their voices and lost their schools, and there is no better performance in schools created by mayors as measured by any valid scrutiny (see and , two of scores of parent groups in Chicago and New York).
Citizens of mayoral controlled communities have experienced massive school closings and reopening with private charters that have done no better, and in most cases, worse than their public predecessors. As Danny Weil stated, this is more about breaking the backs of teachers and their unions and putting schools in the hands of investors who don't care about kids, but whose only concern is making money. Perhaps that is why hedge-fund investors are wild about taking over New York State realty ( Teachers are not the enemy. Poverty is the enemy.
But much more important than whether or not mayoral control is measured as an academic or financial success is the disenfranchisement of the urban poor. Taking away the right to vote is not an option in a democracy. Taking away the minority voices of the urban poor is an egregious assault on civil rights. The mayor, the governor, and the legislators who are lining up behind this ill-thought-out plan should re-think their positions and seek to tackle the root causes of poor performance in the city. If they expect city kids to graduate, it is imperative that poverty and its trappings are vigorously addressed. Paving the way legislatively for mayoral control of the Rochester City Schools would be one more flagrant act of hubris by the New York State legislature.
There are more viable paths available to achieve better results for urban kids than mayoral control. All take commitment and substantial political will and capital. And yes, they all will bring substantial and necessary "incremental" improvement. Remember that the only truly successful paths to graduation are built in pre-school programs that incrementally build to the pride and joy of graduation. The mayor and the superintendent have stated that we do not have time for incremental improvement. I would argue that we do not have time "not" to improve incrementally. We cannot afford the failed policies that emulate Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC. The public debate of this issue must take place immediately. Before any bill is drafted, all sectors of the public should weigh in.
It is not just our city's future that is at stake. Democracy is at stake.

Follow the money I: Gonzalez on Robert$on hand in PAVE vs public school

Behind the push for charter schools to replace public schools is private investment, in the following Brooklyn case, investor Julian Robertson, getting plum treatment from New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, as Juan Gonzalez reports in yesterday's "Daily News:"
Nothing Schools Chancellor Joel Klein can say will calm the furor and sense of betrayal parents and teachers at Public School 15 in Brooklyn have felt for the past few weeks.

"There is a deliberate attempt [by Klein] to undermine and dismantle a successful public school, and we're going to fight it," Lydia Bellahcene, a leader of the Parents Association and mother of three students at the Red Hook school, vowed Tuesday.

The target here is not a failed school. Even the bureaucrats at Tweed have given PS 15 an A rating for three straight years.

Yet, parents at the school find themselves locked in a neighborhood civil war instigated by the Department of Education. Their nemesis is PAVE Academy, a charter school that shares their building but keeps demanding more space.

The same conflict is being fought out in scores of New York City neighborhoods.

It is one of the main reasons Democratic lawmakers in Albany Tuesday rebuffed intense pressure from Klein, Mayor Bloomberg, Gov. Paterson - even from the Obama White House - to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state.

The lawmakers did so even though they risked the state's losing hundreds of million of dollars in "Race to the Top" federal school aid.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) showed the most courage. He was prepared to lift the cap, but only if Klein and other school superintendents agreed to some checks and balances. Among those were new regulations requiring approval from public school parents before space in their school could be turned over to a charter.

Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson of Brooklyn tried to act with Silver but couldn't muster a majority in his closely divided and dysfunctional Senate.

So Silver and Sampson decided no bill is better than a bad one. So the cap on charters stays at 200 statewide.

The parents at PS 15 know the importance of having a real voice. A few years ago, Klein's aides announced they were temporarily installing the new PAVE Academy in their school. It was only for two years, Tweed told PS 15, until the charter could find its own building.

PAVE happens to be run by Spencer Robertson, the son of billionaire Julian Robertson. The father's foundation donated $10 million to various educational reform efforts Klein started.

"We were shocked at the arrogance we were met with when they [PAVE] arrived, as if this building was theirs," Bellahcene said. "They insisted on separate entrances, stairwells and even bathrooms for their students. They even discourage their children from talking to ours."

"I'm sorry they feel that way," PAVE director Robertson said Tuesday. "We believe firmly there is room for our two schools to be successful with co-location. We're working on that."

And he's banking on a lot more time.

A few months ago, the Department of Education suddenly reversed itself and announced plans for PAVE to stay at PS 15 for up to five more years - until Robertson erects a brand new building for his school.

Since PAVE only has kindergarten to second grade, that will mean adding new grades each year, which means more classrooms.

"They are forcing PS 15's enrollment to shrink," one teacher said. "There aren't enough rooms in the building for basic programming."

All the things that made Public School 15 a true jewel for the children of Red Hook are being torn apart, the parents say.

If this is what Klein calls a race to the top, someone save them from it, quick.

Monday, January 18, 2010

GW Bush — you besmirch everything you touch

GW Bush — you besmirch everything you touch

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School Closing Hearings Turning into Perfect Storm

School Closing Hearings Turning into Perfect Storm

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Data debunk Bloomberg administration claims of school failure and success

The New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg / Schools Chancellor Joel Klein administration is in an unprecedented fury to close down large high schools, called comprehensive high schools in the education field. The city is working to replace the schools with small schools, also called small learning communities. While the city has touted the small schools as the panacea for problems in education, academic studies and actual city data show that the city has not made improvements in students' performance.

The real "bible" for every education activist, whether the activist be a student, a parent or an educator should be NYC Schools Under Bloomberg, and Klein: What Parents, Teachers and Policymakers Need to Know. (Lulu, 2009, ISBN 978-1-56592-479-6) It has contributions by academics, education activists and journalists, Diane Ravitch, Deborah Meier, Deycy Avitia, David C. Bloomfield, James F. Brennan, Hazel N. Dukes, Leonie Haimson, Emily Horowitz, Jennifer L. Jennings, Steve Koss, Maisie McAdoo, Udi Ofer, Aaron M. Pallas, Steven Sanders, Sol Stern, Patrick J. Sullivan and Andrew Wolf.

David C. Bloomfield, a professor of Education Leadership, Law & Policy at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, contributed Small Schools: Myth and Reality to the New York City Schools. The essay indicates how private foundation money has dictated public policy. During the 2000s the (Bill) Gates Foundation dispensed $100 million into the creation of small schools in New York City. That foundation has channeled money through intermediary private foundations, the largest of these being the New Visions Foundation, as the Gates Foundation channeled $61 million to the New Visions Foundation. (Bloomfield, p. 49, 50)

The city touted "college readiness" as the sure-fire product of these conversions. Yet, huge percentage of the school graduates require remediation courses when they enter CUNY schools. Bloomfield cited the following excerpt from a study, that shows that New Century High Schools (another of the private foundations that has reshaped New York City Schools):
Examination of the Class of 2006 graduates in the two groups of schools indicates that graduates of comparison-group schools were more likely to earn a Regents diploma or Advanced Regents diploma, however, than were NCHS graduates (67 percent versus 46 percent). When the unit of comparison is students rather than graduates, however, the difference is less stark, with 41 percent of comparison-group students and 36 percent of NCHS students earning a Regents or Advanced diploma. (Bloomfield, p. 53-54)

As Bloomfield noted, this difference indicates that the New Century school students performed worse than students in the traditional high school students, as measured by receiving a Regents diploma.
He added (p. 54):
Like their large-school colleagues, most New York City small schools graduates earned so-called "local Diplomas," rather than Regents diplomas; these are so deficient that New York Sate is eliminating them because they fail to meet accepted standards of college readiness. It appears that, counter to their stated mission, the small schools are putting graduation over education without the academic rigor that [small school] advocates claim.

Remember, we are ultimately concerned with the students' long-time interests; but Bloomberg / Klein have failed with these school conversions:
Small schools students, too, have suffered from their schools' focus on reaching the administration's self-defined benchmarks rather than providing a substantive, well rounded education preparatory to post-secondary [i.e., college] opportunities. (Bloomfield, p. 55)

From Diane Ravitch's introduction to the collection of essays:
In late 2008, the Gates Foundation announced that it was curtailing support for small high schools because its own research showed that students in these schools were mot making as much progress in reading or mathematics as their peers in large high schools.
(Ravitch, p. 3)
Bloomberg made the mission of transforming the schools with the goal of making students "college-ready." The facts show that his makeover of the schools has been a failure toward the goal of college preparedness.

Bloomfield noted a study indicating that the future of a new school school does not improve over the earlier large school "unless the academic profile of incoming students is improved, a DOE contrivance well documented by Jennifer Jennings [New York University sociology professor] and Aaron Pallas [Teachers College, Columbia University professor of sociology and education]." (Bloomfield, p. 55. He pointed to "Jennings writing as Eduwonkette, 'Why Has the Education Press Missed the Boat? The Case of Small Schools,' Education Week, vol. 27, no 39, June 4, 2008 and Jennifer L. Jennings and Aaron Pallas, 'Who Attends Small Schools?,' presented at the American Educational Research Association annual conference, San Diego, CA, April 13-17, 2009.")

The New York State Report cards indicate that small schools, broken from large schools do not perform better than the traditional large schools. I have presented performance on Regents tests. Now, I recognize that authentic sophisticated learning is more than performing well on a standardized test, the test performance comparisons provide a standard measure from school to school. It is interesting that the data of "the system" or "the education establishment" do not show the small schools as performing better than the larger traditional schools.
Let's focus on the two more difficult New York State Regents tests that are mandated for all students, the Global History test and the Living Environment test. The previous passing grade was 55; for the newest graduating cohorts of students the passing grad is 65. Students that entered the ninth grade in 2007 (the class of 2011) must pass four of the mandatory tests to receive Regents diplomas. (The mandated tests are English, Math, Global History, U.S. History and Living Environment.) Local diplomas will be eliminated, beginning with the cohort of students entering the ninth grade in 2008 (the class of 2012).

Let's look at a sample of schools that have been broken into smaller learning communities, and then let's look at larger, comprehensive schools:
(The New York State Regents test data come from:
*Sampling of small schools, created in the 1990s and 2000s from large schools:
*Erasmus Campus (in the former Erasmus Hall High School, Flatbush, Brooklyn) Business/Technology:
(This small school-within-a-school academy is itself moving to closure; it does not have figures for the latest available year, 2007-2008)
percentages of students getting 55 and 65 scores, respectively, on tests:
Global History, 2006-2007: 66, 26
Living Environment, 2006-2007: 76, 35
*Erasmus Campus Humanities:
Global History, 2008-2008: 64, 18
Living Environment, 2007-2008: 60, 20
*(in Erasmus) Academy for Hospitality and Tourism:
Global History, 2007-2008: 60 48
Living Environment, 2007-2008: 63 37
*(in Erasmus) High School for Service and Learning:
Global History, 2007-2008: 65 48
Living Environment: 80 62
*(in the former Andrew Jackson High School, Cambria Heights, Queens) *Business/Computer Application High School:
Global History, 2007-2008: 49 29
Living Environment, 2007-2008: 85 57
*Humanities and the Arts:
Global History, 2007-2008: 80 66
Living Environment, 2007-2008: 73 46

*Traditional, larger, "comprehensive high schools" in comparable communities, central Brooklyn and east-central Queens:
*Boys and Girls High School, Bedford-Stuyvesant:
Global History, 2007-2008: 69 62
Living Environment, 2007-2008: 76 44
*Clara Barton High School, Crown Heights:
Global History, 2007-2008: 68 35
Living Environment, 2007-2008: 75 56
*Jamaica High School:
Global History, 2007-2008: 66 52
Living Environment, 2007-2008: 71 48

So this settles the issue. It will be necessary to pass four of the Regents exams with at least 65 to get high school diplomas in a few years. By New York State's own requirements, the performance scores in the small schools are not stronger than those in comprehensive high schools in comparable neighborhoods. The small schools are not meeting the challenge. So, why is there the tremendous urgency to shut down comprehensive schools and replace them with small schools? The city is publicizing so-called failures of the comprehensive schools. Why are large schools over-whelmingly the targets? Why are they not treating the small-schools or the academies-within-the schools not receiving comparable scrutiny? As I have just documented, the small schools are "failing" by New York State's own Regents requirements. Even the private foundation that engineered the makeover for small schools (the Gates Foundation) has abandoned the trend of breaking apart large comprehensive high schools.

As I have noted elsewhere on this blog, large schools afford benefits of economies of scale: music, art, performing arts, physical education facilities, including full size basketball courts or competition-ready pools, diversity of foreign languages of study, electives in English and senior year social studies, honors classes and advanced placement classes. Conversely, as Bloomfield noted, "Because of their size, small schools usually lack diverse curricula; depth in specialized faculty, particularly in math and sciences; professional guidance and college counseling; another strengths of comprehensive schools." The break-up of schools entails undue uneconomical duplication of administrative staff, not the least of which is the hiring of multiple $100,000+ principals per school building.
This break-up of comprehensive high schools is a civil rights issue; the break-up of schools has not been forced upon white or Asian communities. These school-break-ups are not happening in Forest Hills, Bayside or Midwood. These school break-ups are exclusively in African-American and Latino neighborhoods: eastern Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Download leaflet for Jan 16 Emergency Parents' Conference on School Closings

Emergency parent conference on

School Closings

at the School of the Future
127 East 22nd Street, take the 6 IRT local to E 23rd Street
9:30 AM - 1 PM

Click on the image or here on this text for the leaflet / flier.

Norman Siegel, the renowned civil rights and civil liberties lawyer, is among a confirmed speaker for the event.
Contact Renowned New York City education critic and activist Leonie Haimson at or call her: 212-674-7320
or Event Co-Chair Monica Major at or call her: 347-664-6712

Download flier for January 21 demo at Mayor Bloomberg's mansion

Download here the GEM / CAPE flier for the Thursday January 21 demonstration at
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's townhouse residence at 17 East 79th Street
on the block between Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue

The demonstration will rally outside the mayor's mansion from 4 to 6:30 PM
Join us in support of the students, parents, and teachers
at the 22 school communities affected by the proposed closings & charter takeovers.

Because Bloomberg is closing our schools
which are the lifeblood of our communities.
We need to bring this issue to where he lives!

Because these schools are remarkably successful,
given budget cuts, overcrowding and the high
needs students they serve.

NEED? More support and greater resources! They
should not to be closed down and replaced by boutique or
charter schools that exclude our neediest children.

Put on the pressure! Call and email the Mayor,
Chancellor Klein, your State legislators, your City council
member and members of the Panel for Educational Policy
(PEP). For contact info, go to: nycpublicschoolparents.

The coalition behind the demonstration is broad; the flier is drafted by the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) and the Red Hook, Brooklyn affiliate of GEM, Concerned Advocates for Public Education (CAPE)
SPONSORED BY: The Emergency Coalition to Stop School Closings; including parents, teachers, and
students at PS 15k, Jamaica HS, William H. Maxwell CTE (list is in formation). For detailed information
about the rally, keep up to date at these blog sites:,
or email:, call 718-601-4901, or go to

Flier for Friday Wall Street demo

Join community and labor activists

as they protest mammoth giveaways to banks amidst slashing of MTA farecards to students, MTA transit lines and bus routes.

Assemble at Wall and Broad Streets, at the New York Stock Exchange,
on Friday, January 15, 2010, from 3:30 to 6 PM

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gotham Schools columnist calls for Independent Review of NYC DoE school closing steamroller

January 6, 2010, a Gotham Schools columnist called for an independent review of the Bloomberg / Klein Department of Education administration's school closure tidal wave.

Here is the column; I do not concur with 100% of the sentiments. The author does make valuable points; and it is encouraging that a sort of mainstream site, outside of the education defense community, is airing an articulate critique of Bloomberg's rabid haste against schools.

Leadership, Law, and Policy
January 6, 2010
David Bloomfield
Closing Schools: A Call for Independent Review

by David Bloomfield

To write that I am a fan of closing failing schools is to fall into the same bombastic trap now enmeshing the Bloomberg administration. Before the Mayor took office, I wrote about the need to take forceful action against these educational mediocrities. But the wholesale closing and opening of schools that the Mayor has embarked upon is not the answer.

Replacing schools does not necessarily improve education. In the Mayor’s hands, it has become a shell game that defers instructional problems until they reappear elsewhere, to be met again with a similar reaction. Meanwhile, the often lengthy period of the schools’ decline — until so drastically and unconstructively arrested — has harmed thousands of students.

Until now, the Mayor’s strategy has been largely immune to public opposition. The Department of Education announced its hit list with little or no prior warning, the better to keep critics at bay. The new school governance statute, however, has created a process for notice and hearings that — while imperfect — will subject this year’s target list to formal scrutiny followed by likely approval by the mayor-controlled Panel for Educational Policy. Students, parents, teachers, and their supporters are organizing to reverse the DOE decree.

This is a public scenario that DOE operatives — probably with the best of technocratic intentions — wanted to avoid. School-based opposition was identified as the Achilles’ heel of reform after the failure of Mayor Giuliani’s initiative to have Edison Schools take over a number of failed schools. Families at the schools voted against the move.

But Bloomberg still seems committed to playing a power game despite the new legal landscape and a public increasingly fed-up with his paternalistic mien. His is likely to be a Pyrrhic victory, with his PEP majority ready to work his will but giving rise to increasingly mobilized school communities that will oppose even justified closings.

This warfare could be avoided if the Mayor took a different, more conciliatory tack. What is needed — both legally and instructionally — is to articulate a clear set of standards for determining school closures, with thorough review of actions taken to avoid the disruption attendant to this last resort and the possible impact of closure on other schools.

The Mayor has created a sense that these closures are less than inevitable but, rather, part of a considered strategy to free up space in certain schools for charters and preferred small schools. Rationales for school closure are a moving target. Some are cited for low graduation rates — though other schools, not slated for elimination, are worse. Or the emphasis shifts to enrollment, or application rates, or whatever other metric might appear deficient either currently or over time. The data seem a pretext for closure and, like so many dominoes, set up a new round of schools predetermined for failure.

These actions give the appearance of illegal caprice: the inconsistent application of otherwise rational criteria so that the action is ultimately unpredictable and subject to whim. If indeed there is a hidden, consistent rationale for these decisions, then it is the Mayor’s obligation to reveal it. Keeping the public off-balance through secrecy is deplorable. This is a typical private-sector strategy based on the competitive edge of proprietary trade secrets. The Mayor’s people still haven’t learned that such tactics are inappropriate in a democracy where an informed public is a paramount, legally-enforceable value.

The more objective, transparent, and deliberative process of school closure suggested here has been used successfully in State registration reviews and finds favor in State law. Education Law § 402-a recommends district creation of an Advisory Committee on School Building Utilization six months before a scheduled school closing, with a clear set of factors for committee review. This is a more independent process than the current New York City formula and could profitably supplement it without sacrificing urgency.

So far, though, Mayor Bloomberg has refused to see the writing on the wall. His unexpected announcement shortly before the holidays, of almost two dozen school closures with a quickly scheduled series of required hearings prior to the PEP determinations on January 26 manifests a continued disdain for the spirit of recent statutory changes.

As a result, the Legislature should publicly contemplate buttressing the new but demonstrably ineffective requirements of Education Law §§ 2590-e(21), 2590-f(1)(w), and 2590-h(2-A) with mandatory application of Education Law § 402-a unless the Mayor recognizes that his policy of intentional opacity will no longer be tolerated.

The days of Oz and the application of naked, self-justifying power are over. If the Mayor is right, then he should step from behind the curtain and allow independent review of his decision to close each school.

Meet at Norman Thomas HS! (Jan. 11) Converge on Tweed Courthourse (Jan. 13)

Mobilize to defend public education in New York City!

Mobilize to defend teaching as a career!

If we do not defend schools under threat of DoE closure, hundreds more teachers will become ATRs (absent teacher reserve) this year!

Do Not forget the World War II German pastor's (Martin Niemöller) warning about ignoring the plight of oppressed groups,
before you become the next victim of the New York City Department of Education.

Attend Monday (Jan. 11, 2010) night's public meeting at Norman Thomas High School; see details in box in right panel, "Activism Calendar."

The following is a UFT memo, calling for a concentration of union reps upon DoE headquarters at Tweed Courthouse (south side of Chambers Street, between Broadway and Centre Street), on Wednesday night, January 13 (CTE pertains to Career and Technical Education):

As you are aware, the struggle over the DoE's plans to close twenty schools – including fifteen high schools – is growing. Last Thursday evening, there were turnouts of over 1000 people in opposition at two meetings – Columbus in the Bronx and Jamaica in Queens. A real grass roots movement against these closures has begun to emerge.

Reflecting the high priority of this struggle, we are once again holding a joint High School Committee-CTE Committee meeting this month. The High School Committee was originally scheduled for this coming Wednesday in Queens, but we are switching it back to the UFT's Headquarters in lower Manhattan. The DoE's Citywide Council on High Schools meets Wednesday at 6 PM at Tweed, and we would like to adjourn our assembly at 5:30 and head en masse to that meeting, which will be addressing the school closures. It would be ideal to have a powerful turnout from all high schools – not just those slated for closure – at the meeting.



4:15 p.m.







Refreshments will be served.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Should the Giants coach be put in the rubber room?

Teachers are at fault for everything. There is no responsibility assigned to the parents, nor to the students, god forbid. And a distractive culture, with an ever-rising range of electronic distractions, at home and in the classroom, consuming students' attention.
But we all want to throw teachers upon the bonfire.

With the ignominious defeat by the Minnesota Vikings, last Sunday, January 3, 2010, of one of local football teams, the New York Giants, we see the need to make some heads roll. Lets make some tough, hard decisions, put their feet to the fire, raise the bar, and leave no New York fan behind. This defeat is too demeaning to us. Some examples must be made!!!!!!!!!

The skill set in the Giants is deficient; let's make the right choice from our toolset: rubber room, cloaure, what else?

Vote in our online poll, the results will be channeled, magically, both to Joel Klein and to the national football commissioner.

DoE official gets boos at public meeting at Jamaica High

Live reports on WNYC radio (820 AM and 83.9 FM) of a public meeting, of tonight, Thursday, January 7, 2010, reported that the audience met the Department of Education representative's statements with boos. This was at a public meeting on the New York City Department of Education's plans to close Jamaica High School. The mayor and chancellor are feeling omnipotent as ever as they are set on closing nearly two dozen high schools. I concur with bloggers that think that there should be a coordinated fight-back against these closures. As a Bronx-oriented blogger, JD2718, wrote, "A school-by-school campaign would involve a strategy whereby each targeted school would create its independent case for not being closed. I understand the desire to do this. If I was in one of the schools, I would try. But I see the danger that school could be pitted against school."

Earlier today the member-supported radio station uploaded a long text article with positive photographs of the school, murals behind students, and a large pool.

Let's make sure to support the city's comprehensive high schools, by making a similar show of support for a large high school, this coming Monday night, January 11, 2010, at 6PM (with a rally preceding at 5 PM). Come to the meeting at Norman Thomas High School at 111 E 33rd Street (and Park Avenue). (Transit info in side-bar at the right.) Organizers in the movement to defend New York's schools are mobilizing to make this meeting the center-piece for a city-wide meeting.

Print this Grassroots Education Movement flyer on the issues surrounding the massive, class- and race-skewed pattern of school closures.
Come to Monday, January 11's meeting!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

List of Jan. rallies planned for school closing protests, by school

From NY Indypendent online:
NYC School Closings Draw Heated Protests on a Bitterly Cold Day: Community Activists Claim Department of Ed Targeting People of Color Neighborhoods for Privatization Schemes
By John Tarleton
From the December 31, 2009 issue | Posted by John Tarleton , Local | Email this article

Parents, educators and community members rallied in the freezing cold outside Tweed Courthouse late Monday afternoon to protest the Department of Education’s (DOE) recently announced plan to close 21 more public schools in 2010 including 15 high schools.

“They dropped a bomb on the schools without any notice,” said William McDonald a Queens parent and a leader of Save Our Schools Coalition (SOSC), a group that opposes the school closings. “The principals didn’t know. The teachers didn’t know. The parents didn’t know.”
Tweed Courthouse, located in Lower Manhattan, serves as headquarters of the NYC Department of Education. PHOTO: Flickr-CC
Tweed Courthouse, located in Lower Manhattan, serves as headquarters of the NYC Department of Education. PHOTO: Flickr-CC
The closings primarily target schools (see full list below) in predominantly people of color communities that serve a disproportionate number of high-needs students. Vanessa Sparks, a former member of the District 28 Community Education Council in Central Queens, cited the closing of Jamaica High School as an example. While the predominantly black Jamaica HS is slated to be closed after serving as a pillar of the community for 117 years, Sparks said schools in whiter, more affluent neighborhoods like Forest Hills and Kew Gardens with similar records of academic achievement remain unscathed.

“They don’t play the same game with every community,” Sparks said, referring to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and DOE Chancellor Joel Klein.

About 20 people turned out for the rally which was organized by SOSC. Many of those present expressed concern that the school closings were being carried out to facilitate the expansion of privately-run charter schools.

“They are using kids as pawns to privatize the schools,” said Monica Harris, president of the P.S. 20 Parent Teacher Association in the Lower East Side, which is locked in a battle to prevent the expansion of a charter school that would come at the expense of P.S. 20 and another public school in the neighborhood.

Elizabeth Bouiss and Joseph Occhiogrosso, both teachers at John Dewey High School in Bensonhurst/Coney Island came out to show their support. Bouiss said DOE directives have made it increasingly difficult for teachers at Dewey HS to “carry out the school’s progressive mission”, which emphasizes empowering students to make decisions regarding their educational experience. Dewey HS is not targeted for closure this year but Bouiss worried that it could be targeted in the future, especially given the DOE’s record of breaking up big schools and turning them into clusters of smaller, specially themed schools.

McDonald said protests would continue during the next month as the Panel on Education Policy (PEP), holds public hearings at each of the schools slated to be closed. The 13-member PEP, which replaced the old city school board in 2002, will vote on the DOE proposal on January when it meets at Brooklyn Tech High School in Fort Greene. Despite the fact that Mayor Bloomberg appoints 8 of the Board’s 12 voting members, the demonstrators vowed to fight to the end.
“January 26 will be ground zero in this fight,” McDonald said.

Here are the dates and times for upcoming hearings at schools designated for closure:

5-Jan 6pm School for Community Research and Learning HS 1980 Lafayette Ave, Bronx
5-Jan 6pm Academy of Environmental Science and Renaissance Charter 410 East 100 Street, Manhattan
6-Jan 6pm Frederick Douglas Academy III (6 -8) 3630 3rd Ave, Bronx
6-Jan 6pm Beach Channel HS at Beach Channel HS
7-Jan 8pm Columbus HS 925 Astor Ave, Bronx
7-Jan 5pm Global Enterprise HS 925 Astor Ave, Bronx
7-Jan 6pm Paul Robeson HS 150 Albany Ave, Bklyn
7-Jan 6pm Jamaica HS 16701 Gothic Drive, Queens
8-Jan 6pm Choir Academy of Harlem HS 2005 Madison Ave, Manhattan
11-Jan 6pm Norman Thomas HS 111 E 33st, Manhattan
11-Jan 6pm Kappa II (6-8) 144-176 East 128 st, Manhattan

11-Jan 6pm Alfred E. Smith HS 333 East 151st, Bronx
12-Jan 6pm William H. Maxwell Vocation HS 145 Pennsylvania Ave, Brooklyn
12-Jan 6pm Business, Computer Applications and Entrepeneur HS 207-01 116 Ave, Queens
13-Jan 6pm Academy of Collaborative Education (6-8) 222 West 134 St, Manhattan
13-Jan 6pm PS 332 (k-8) 51 Christopher Ave, Bklyn
13-Jan 6pm School for Academic and Social Excellence (6-8) 1224 Park Place, Brooklyn
14-Jan 6pm New Day Academy HS 800 Home St, Bronx
14-Jan 6pm Metropolitan Corporate Academy 362 Schermerhorn St, Bklyn
19-Jan 6pm Monroe Academy of Business Law HS 1300 Boynton ave, Bronx
26-Jan 6pm PEP meeting Brooklyn Tech High School
Source: Ed Notes