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September 5, 2013
Facing federal funding freeze, Success to nix lottery preference
After becoming one of the state’s first schools to reserve seats for English language learners in its lotteries, Success Academy Charter Schools are now planning to…
August 6, 2013
Arne Duncan steps in to assuage fears about N.Y. test scores
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said New York's new test scores should be a benchmark for growth, not cause for concern. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wants New Yorkers not to worry when they see the latest round of state test scores on Wednesday. The scores are from the first tests to measure students' skills under the Common Core standards, and state officials have said the scores are "significantly lower" than in the past. They have warned that the scores are more in line with assessments that show a statewide college-readiness rate of about a third than with last year's test scores, where more than half of students were deemed proficient in English and two thirds in math. "We should absolutely not be alarmed if these test scores drop," Duncan said today during a phone call with reporters. Duncan has good reason to want to assuage concerns about the lower scores. While the U.S. Department of Education does not impose state learning standards, Duncan made support for shared standards a consideration in the Race to the Top funding competition, and he has defended the Common Core vigorously.
June 7, 2013
Aviation school model earns latest praise from Arne Duncan
Credit: Michael Haberman on Twitter New York City high schools continue to be a favorite launching pad for the Obama Administration to tout its ideas about education policy. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan paid another visit to New York City today, this time at Aviation High School in Queens, a school where students earn a diploma and certified training to become an airplane mechanic in five years. On this visit, Duncan also announced a $300 million competitive grant proposal to replicate Aviation's model to better prepare students for college and career paths across the country. The grants, which Duncan is calling the High School Redesign Competition, would fund districts to create schools with college and corporate partners that integrated their programs into a student's education. One of the partners at Aviation is JetBlue, which has become a career pipeline for hundreds of graduates, said Michael Haberman, president of PENCIL, which brought the two institutions together as part of its work in forging relationships between schools and private organizations. This spring, the company flew a small group of Aviation students to Florida for an aviation expo.
December 13, 2012
Staten Island schools affected by Sandy get high-profile visitors
UFT President Michael Mulgrew (left) and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan toured a storm-swept area of Staten Island between school visits today. After Hurricane Sandy devastated Staten Island, New Dorp High School sprang into action. Under the leadership of Principal Deidre DeAngelis, the school turned into a command center for the area, hosting a school displaced by the storm, drumming up donations from alumni, and distributing food, clothing, and blankets to students and staff members who needed them. On Thanksgiving, New Dorp hosted a dinner for 650 families. "Matt cooked until he couldn't cook anymore," DeAngelis said about the school's culinary arts teacher, Matthew Hays. "We were so appreciative that we got help when no one else was helping us," said Amanda Delapena, the student body vice president whose home was heavily damaged. "I thought the story of what this school has done needs to be told," UFT President Michael Mulgrew said during a visit to the school this morning. At his invitation, U.S. Secretary of Education also visited the school, along with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Ernest Logan, president of the principals union.
October 23, 2012
At P.S. 111, call for public-private alliance yields translation help
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan (middle) visited P.S. 111 in Hell's Kitchen to discuss PENCIL partnerships with Principal Irma Medina (right). As the neighborhood around her school transformed into a cultural melting pot, Principal Irma Medina sensed that the city education department's translation services wouldn't be adequate to break through language barriers for new parents. By 2010, over 40 languages were represented at P.S. 111 in Hell's Kitchen, Medina said. So to improve communication with parents at the school, Medina turned to an increasingly popular option: donated services. Through the help of PENCIL, a nonprofit that forges school-business leader partnerships, Medina's translation needs were matched to VOCES, the Latino Heritage Network of The New York Times Company, headquartered about a half mile down the road near Times Square. The public-private partnership is now one of 395 that PENCIL manages in 377 schools in New York City. With the support from cash-strapped city education officials, PENCIL hopes to nearly double that number in coming years. As part of the P.S. 111 partnership, VOCES has donated resources as well as its professional expertise in translation services to support Medina's growing need for translations, which include information for parent association meetings and weekly school-issued material.
June 20, 2012
City's delays temper Arne Duncan's praise for New York State
Speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan suggested that New York City look upstate for help fulfilling its school reform promises. After early difficulties, the state is now doing an admirable job carrying out the changes it promised when it won Race to the Top funds from the federal Race to the Top program, Duncan said, reiterating praise he extended when the state reached a deal about teacher evaluations with its main union in February. But New York City still has not adopted new evaluations, costing it this year's federal School Improvement Grants. Last week the city became the last of 10 eligible districts across the state to remain cut off from the funds. Duncan said New York City's failure to adopt new evaluations was "obviously the big issue" in the state but that it could be overcome. "If nine out of 10 districts can figure this thing out together, I'll expect that hopefully they'll follow suit," Duncan said about the city.
June 5, 2012
Only division during ed officials' pitch is teacher ratings' release
New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott (left) joined State Education Commissioner John King (center) and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on a Philanthropy New York panel. Speaking to philanthropists and foundation leaders on Monday, the city, state, and national schools chiefs presented a united front — except when it came to the sticky issue of whether to release teachers' ratings to the public. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, State Education Commissioner John King, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan offered up tips on financing school reform at Philanthropy New York's 33rd annual meeting. The meeting drew representatives from major education organizations used to making and receiving philanthropic gifts, including the Harlem Children's Zone and The After-School Corporation. It also attracted education policy neophytes from large private foundations: Many in the audience didn't know how many of New York State's 250,000 ninth graders typically make it to 12th grade without dropping out (Duncan furnished the answer: 188,000). The trio of education policy heavyweights together urged attendees to think about how their contributions could support their priorities, such as implementing new learning standards, known as the Common Core, and overhauling the country's lowest-performing schools. Walcott told the audience that private donations have fueled some of the city's most innovative reform efforts, including the Common Core Library and the technology-infused iZone. “I’m actually not coming here to ask you to give a lot more, although that would be great too, but to be really smarter in what you’re giving,” Duncan said. But they were divided when moderator Beth Fertig, WNYC's education report, asked whether they thought districts and states should make teacher evaluations available to the public, as New York City did in February in response to requests from several news organizations. It's a question that state lawmakers could tackle this month.
May 22, 2012
Proposed rules for new Race to the Top pose issues for NYC
In the beginning, there were charter schools, data systems, and teacher evaluations. Then, there was early childhood education. And now, the Obama administration wants to reward individual school districts for tailoring their offerings to individual students. "Personalized education" is the emphasis for the U.S. Department of Education's third iteration of Race to the Top, a competitive grants program that launched in 2009. New York State won $700 million in the first year after legislators approved new teacher evaluation requirements and allowed more charter schools to open. It's an approach the city has embraced for years, providing data tools for schools to zoom in on each student's weaknesses and creating an "Innovation Zone" that allows schools to restructure their space and time in a bid for stronger scores. The principal of Olympus Academy, an Innovation Zone school that allows students to progress at their own pace, appeared in Washington, D.C., today as part of the competition announcement. But some of the federal government's proposed eligibility criteria — including a requirement that school board members undergo formal evaluations — could make it tough for the city to qualify for the grants. Large cities could receive up to $25 million, or about .1 percent of the city Department of Education's annual operating budget. Perhaps most crucially, the city and its teachers union have spectacularly failed to adopt new teacher evaluations, despite commitments set out in the state's first Race to the Top bid and in an application for a different federal program, School Improvement Grants. The latest competition requires that districts commit to having new evaluations in place by the 2014-2015 school year.
February 16, 2012
Arne Duncan: NY overcame "stumbling block" with evals deal
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised the agreement between the State Education Department and NYSUT. Just hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a deal about the structure of a new teacher evaluation system, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he was no longer concerned about the state's eligibility for federal Race to the Top funds. New York won $700 million in Race to the Top funds in large part by agreeing to adopt a new teacher evaluation system. But after passing an evaluation law in the spring of 2010, implementation was slow, and relations between the state and its teachers union, NYSUT, had deteriorated over the implementation. Last month, charging that the state was "backtracking on reform commitments," Duncan warned that New York was at risk of losing its Race to the Top funds. Today, Duncan said he was no longer worried. He struck a tone of unreserved optimism this afternoon while speaking to reporters on a Midtown sidewalk as he dashed between a meeting with the New York Times editorial board and a taping of the Daily Show. "This was a major roadblock, a major stumbling block, and I think they are over that in a great way," he said. There's a whole body of work going forward that New York has to do, but this was a major issue, a major concern of ours and I think they've addressed it in an extraordinary way."
January 10, 2012
Feds caution New York State on Race to the Top implementation
The Obama administration is warning New York State that it could lose hundreds of millions of federal dollars if it doesn't stick to its Race to the Top promises. The stern warning comes in conjunction with a set of U.S. Department of Education progress reports summarizing implementation successes and setbacks in each of the states that won federal Race to the Top funds in 2010. Eleven states and Washington, D.C., shared a $4.3 billion pot of prize money. Department officials said New York was doing better than Hawaii, which last month was deemed as being at "high risk" of losing its Race to the Top funding. But they said the state was falling behind after making progress in Race to the Top's first year. "New York has a chance to be a national leader or a laggard and we are only interested in supporting real courage and bold leadership," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. "Backtracking on reform commitments could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars for improving New York schools."
September 19, 2011
Monitors are missing piece from proposal to boost test security
When Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged the country's education commissioners this summer to ensure their standardized tests were as secure and reliable as possible, he specifically recommended four measures that would help them do so. Here in New York State, officials for the most part heeded his advice. Last week, Commissioner John King's proposal to upgrade testing and scoring procedures included three of the four measures. But state officials ignored one Duncan recommendation: to conduct “unannounced, on-site visits during test administration." That raised a red flag for Kathleen Cashin, a member of the Board of Regents who supervised schools in Brooklyn and Queens for many years. “That is a preventive way, if someone is thinking of cheating, they might think twice if they knew someone was in the building touring,” Cashin said at last week's Board of Regents meeting. Principals and teachers report they rarely or never see test monitors in their schools, but it wasn't always that way.
September 9, 2011
This week's teaching & learning tidbits
District 6 seeks community members for Citizens Academy - Schools chief Arne Duncan says teachers 'desperately underpaid' - Troubled schools try mimicking the charters - Colorado State using grant to boost math teachers
March 15, 2011
Hick, Bennet join NCLB reform push
Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet Tuesday enlisted in the Obama administration’s campaign to reform the No Child Left Behind law.
October 21, 2010
Arne Duncan sides with city in debate over teacher ratings
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is throwing his support behind Chancellor Joel Klein's decision to release individual teacher's effectiveness ratings to the press. Just before the city and union agreed to postpone any release of teachers' ratings that included their names, Duncan sent a statement to reporters in which he seemed to take the city's side. "I give New York credit for sharing this information with teachers so they can improve and get better," he said. Duncan was more elliptical in suggesting whether other school districts should follow New York's lead and release teacher effectiveness data.
September 3, 2010
City schools to act as pilot sites for new national standard tests
Students at 100 New York City schools will be among the first to take early versions of the new standardized tests being built with federal dollars. The schools will test early versions of new third- through eleventh-grade exams that a consortium of 26 states — New York included — is creating. The same schools will get extra funding this year to pilot the new common core standards in their classrooms. Because New York is a "governing state" in the consortium, its education officials have already agreed to begin using the new tests by the 2014 school year. It also means that New York officials, including city Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky, are helping design the new tests. The PARCC group — Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — won a $170 million federal grant yesterday, which it will use to build the tests. The new exams will complement the new national education standards that New York has also agreed to take on. They will also completely overhaul the form that state standardized exams take, and when they're given, Suransky said today.
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