New York

Union launches "BE NICE" campaign against KIPP founders

Part of the flier the union sent out today. In its campaign to unionize a KIPP charter school in Brooklyn, the national American Federation of Teachers union has a new target: other teachers in the wide KIPP network. The AFT today reached out to KIPP teachers from San Jose to D.C. to Boston, asking them to join an e-mail campaign to urge the charter network's co-founders to recognize the union. The saga began earlier this year, when 15 teachers at the Brooklyn school, called KIPP AMP, told school officials that they want to form a union with the help of the local United Federation of Teachers. They said a union would help them feel more secure in their jobs and have a stronger say in building their school. KIPP leaders, who have traditionally touted their freedom from teachers unions as a strength, because it allows them to hire and fire as they please, could have recognized the union and worked with it. Instead, they have hedged — and even indicated they might fight back against the teachers or drop their affiliation with the Brooklyn school. A state labor board is now considering the teachers' petitions. (And the group of teachers, meanwhile, has swelled to 16 from 15.) The fliers sent today ask KIPP teachers to send e-mail messages to KIPP's co-founders, Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg, asking them to recognize the union — and offer teachers tips on how they could form a union themselves. Titled "BE NICE," a riff on the KIPP motto, "Work Hard. Be Nice," the fliers narrate the story of how Levin and Feinberg founded KIPP 14 years ago. "They put good ideas together with hard work and a relentless drive," the flier says. "They also worked for supportive administrators who gave Dave and Mike the power they wanted to start a new program." The flier goes on: Today in Brooklyn, a dedicated group of KIPP teachers and parents want the same thing and they're forming a union and PTA to have a stronger voice. They're asking for the power to add their own knowledge to the program and to sustain the school's success. Full flier is below the jump.
New York

Poor parents more pleased with schools, but discontent remains

The blue line represents parents grading the system an A or B; the green line is parents who gave it a D or F. To prove that parents — and especially poor parents — approve of the changes that Mayor Bloomberg has brought to the schools, his administration often cites data collected by a group called the Community Service Society, which every year conducts a survey of low-income families called "The Unheard Third." The troubling thing about this data is that it doesn't exist anywhere on the Internet. (When I referred to it earlier today, I just plucked the figures Klein cites.) Until now! Thanks to a spokeswoman at CSS who just called me back, I've got the numbers from all the surveys that asked a question about the school system since 2002. They tell a story that is encouraging, but less black and white than Klein has had it. "We don't want to paint such a rosy picture that people say, 'Oh, everything is good,' because it truly is not," the spokeswoman, Tracy Mumford, told me. The data suggest that more parents gave the school system a high A or B grade on the survey in 2007 than did so in 2002: The number is up to 35% from 22%. Less encouragingly, the percentage of families who grade the system an F, 11%, is still higher than the percentage who grade it an A, 9%, and the F percentage has been climbing since 2005. C remains the most common grade by far, and the portion of parents grading the schools a C has actually risen since 2002, by one percentage point. The figures also suggest that the path to higher satisfaction has been bumpy, with parent upset rising to a peak in 2005 — the same year Mayor Bloomberg won re-election. The result is that while the portion of parents giving D and F grades has fallen substantially since 2005, the change since 2002 is less dramatic. Here's one other way to look at the figures graphically, below the jump, plus a chart showing the raw numbers:
New York

Questioning the Office of Civil Rights decision about small high schools

I grew up in a Pennsylvania town with a country club that didn’t admit blacks and Jews. The exclusion was taken for granted, even in these minority communities; there were no public protests or even public acknowledgment of the situation, and I think that over time it came to feel natural or normal. There were other choices for those blacks and Jews who wanted a place to swim, play golf, or play tennis. The country club didn’t seem to be in the domain of possible choices. My guess is that the black and Jewish members of the other clubs in town would have expressed satisfaction with their choices. But the fact is that blacks and Jews were excluded from the country club, even if they reported being satisfied with the clubs they chose. I was reminded of the country club when I read the U.S. Office of Civil Rights (OCR) disposition of David Bloomfield’s complaint about small high schools in New York City excluding students with disabilities and limited English proficient students. Based on data provided by the NYC DOE, the OCR determined that there was insufficient evidence that the DOE’s policy of an “optional waiting period” allowing new small high schools in New York City to defer admitting disabled students or students with limited English proficiency was excluding disabled and limited English proficient students from the new small high schools during the first three years of each small school’s existence. If the data that the DOE submitted to OCR hold up under closer scrutiny, that’s good news for rising ninth-grade students with disabilities and with limited English proficiency – although perhaps thin gruel for those disabled and LEP students in the past who sought entry to a small high school that did not welcome them. “Phase-in” policies often disadvantage some in the short-run in the hopes of benefiting more in the long-run, and there are legitimate arguments for and against such policies.