The story about the Bronx teacher, Francisco Garabitos, who barricaded himself in a classroom and caused three schools to be evacuated this morning before being taken into police custody, keeps getting stranger. Earlier today, United Federation of Teachers President Weingarten apparently placed some of the blame for the incident on Garabitos's principal, Dorald Bastian. She later distanced herself from those comments after a disturbing Web site operated by Garabitos came to light. I didn't make the press conference that Weingarten held as soon as she returned this afternoon from Washington, D.C., but judging from the statements I've just received from the principals union and the city Department of Education, she must have had some harsh words about Bastian. Here's what Chiara Coletti, the principals union communications chair, had to say: There's only one issue in the case of MS 328 and Francisco Garabitos. Mr. Garabitos — a teacher and a UFT Chapter Chair — threatened to bomb a school and blow up the 1200 children inside of it. He barricaded himself within a school room, pretending to wait for the bomb to go off. This is a serious criminal act. Dorald Bastian, the Principal [of] MS 328, did everything he could do to protect the school today, and he and the NYPD should be thanked for their work. It's astonishing that the President of the UFT is now finding fault with the Principal, when one of her chapter chairs has committed a hideous crime directed against children.
A line of parents that wrapped around the block, blue and orange balloons, and a carefully choreographed program greetged hopeful families and political supporters last night at the admission event for the four Harlem Success Network charter schools. In addition to the main event, the naming of admitted students, the evening featured a barnstorming speech by Schools Chancellor Joel Klein (in the video above), a surprise announcement about charter school funding from State Sen. Malcolm Smith, and political exhortations from Eva Moskowitz, Harlem Success's lightning rod CEO. "I wish we could open them faster and have spots for absolutely everyone," Moskowitz said about her schools to the thousands of assembled parents. But she said, "There are special interests and even elected officials who don't support the growth of charter schools." Moskowitz has sparred for years with the teachers union over her aggressive school reform strategies. For the thousands of parents in attendance, politics took a distant second to anxiety about whether their children would be among the 475 selected from the 3,500 entered into the lottery.
I woke up yesterday morning to read Norm Scott's post on Education Notes Online about a new study of the effects of charter schools on achievement in New York City. The study, by economists Caroline Hoxby and Sonali Murarka, finds a charter school effect of .09 standard deviations per year of treatment in math and .04 standard deviations per year in reading. I haven't read the study closely yet, but I was struck by Norm's headline: "Study Shows NO Improvement in NYC Charters Over Public Schools." The effects that Hoxby and Murarka report are statistically significant, which means that we can reject the claim that they are zero. But are they big? That's a surprisingly complicated question. I'm going to argue that the answer hinges on "compared to what?" The standard deviation is a basic measure of how spread out a given attribute—such as a test score—is in a population. When scores are widely spread out away from the average, the standard deviation is large; when the scores are narrowly bunched around the average, the standard deviation is small. Many distributions, whether in nature or by design, take on the shape of a bell curve. The family of such distributions are called normal distributions, and they have some properties that are really useful for making sense of a given effect. The figure below shows a standard normal distribution, with a mean of zero and a standard deviation of one. A standard normal distribution is symmetric, with 50% of the cases above the mean and 50% below the mean. About 34% of the cases are between the mean and one standard deviation above the mean, and a similar fraction is between the mean and one standard deviation below the mean. An additional 13% on each end or so are between one and two standard deviations away from the mean, and about 2.5% on each are more than two standard deviations away from the mean.
PHOTO: Alan PetersimeA Queens charter school encouraged parents and students to call Governor David Paterson and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith after it learned charter schools could see their funding frozen. Paterson and Smith are now sending the schools $30 million. (##http://picasaweb.google.com/teach11372/RenaissanceCharterRallyAndMarchAgainstCharterCuts#5319497282636828866##Nicholas##) Governor David Paterson and Malcolm Smith, the state Senate majority leader, are back in good favor with their long-lost charter school friends. Smith has just announced a plan to counteract a budget freeze that took the schools by surprise earlier this year, by sending the schools a one-time $30 million grant. The grant is less than the $51 million that charter schools were slated to lose after legislators axed planned funding increases in their recent budget deal. And it will expire at the end of next year, leaving supporters to wage a new fight over funds then. But a source familiar with the plan who is a supporter of charter schools said that $30 million will be enough to help schools that had been imagining slashing after-school programs and turning down extra staff they'd already hired for next year. Smith announced the planned injection just now at a charter school lottery in Harlem, which Philissa is covering. The lottery is the annual event for the former City Council member Eva Moskowitz, who runs the Success Charter Network in Harlem. Harlem Success is expecting more than 5,000 parents at the lottery, which will determine which children are selected to attend the schools.
More city public school graduates are enrolling at City University of New York Colleges, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and CUNY President Matt Goldstein boasted at a press conference last month. But whether the students are prepared for the college experience, both in and outside the classroom, is much less clear. Only 7.5% of students take all of the high school courses that CUNY recommends, and more than 70% of the first-year students in CUNY's junior colleges must take remedial courses to catch up on basic skills, according to John Garvey, who was until recently the dean in charge of CUNY's College Now program, which allows high school students to take college-level courses. Garvey presented the information at an event Tuesday held by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, which is developing a set of recommendations for how to boost student achievement. One major problem is that the most advanced high school courses, called Regents courses to match the exit exams students must pass, do not approximate the style or difficulty of college classes, Garvey said. CUNY freshmen are exempted from remedial courses if they score a 75 on the math and English Regents exams. But the tests focus on material that should be learned in middle school and the first years of high school, Garvey said. "They don't align with the real needs of college courses," he said.
A KIPP charter school in the Bronx. (By ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/mlleleela/##Leila Haddouche##, via ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/mlleleela/2711133829/##Flickr Creative Commons##) The next front in the tug of war between teachers unions and charter schools is about to commence, and this development will occur at the bargaining table. The game: UFT vs. KIPP. There's been no official word yet, but everyone involved in the saga between the politically powerful teachers union and the prominent charter school network is expecting that 16 KIPP teachers in Brooklyn will become official members of the city teachers union today. UPDATE: It's now official, confirmed by both the union and KIPP. Press releases from both parties are below. And here is the PERB decision. David Levin, KIPP's co-founder and the superintendent of New York City KIPP schools, told me this afternoon that he hopes negotiations will begin as soon as next week. Teachers at the charter school, KIPP AMP, petitioned to form a union in January, but their pitch has to be accepted by the Public Employee Relations Board before the union becomes official. Reports had said a final decision would come yesterday, but both the union and KIPP officials were still waiting for word this morning. Now, all signs point to PERB sending the green light to the union today.