education reform commission

New York

With less fanfare, Cuomo's education commission revisits NYC

David Steiner, Dean of Hunter College's School of Education, answers a question from state Senator John Flanagan, a member of Cuomo's education commission. For the second summer in a row, the body that's helping Gov. Andrew Cuomo form his education agenda visited New York City. But unlike last year, which drew a crowd and Campbell Brown, Tuesday's meeting happened with little fanfare and much more focus. It's been a little more than a year since Cuomo assembled the Education Reform Commission, a 25-member body made up of businessmen, government officials, union leaders, researchers, lawmakers and nonprofit executives. The commission was created to recommend wholesale reforms to improve the state's expensive school system. It's too soon to measure the commission's impact, but the handful of first-year recommendations that Cuomo adopted — the commission recommended 12 — will only affect a small percentage of schools. Cuomo used an allocated $75 million in the budget to create competitive grants, available by design to limited number of districts, to launch longer school days, expand prekindergarten and create schools that offer more nonacademic services to low-income students. Cuomo also allocated $11 million in stipends for "master teachers," to fulfill another recommendation, which aims to recruit and retain top teachers for in-demand subjects. Cuomo announced that teachers can begin applying for the program this week. It's unclear what the commission will recommend in its second year, but the possibilities seem more narrow. Last summer's meeting resembled more of a City Council hearing, with 17 speaker testimonies and a public comment period that covered a spectrum of education policies. It was also the place where Campbell Brown first launched her cause célèbre, to make it easier to fire teachers who've acted inappropriately in school. By contrast, Tuesday's event, held in a dimly lit performance arts theater inside the Borough of Manhattan Community College, featured lengthy PowerPoint presentations from five people who honed in on a few issues.
New York

Cuomo floats competitive grants to urge more learning time

The state will underwrite costs for schools that keep students in class an extra 300 hours per year, according to a top proposal floated today in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's third "State of the State" address. Extended learning time was one of several proposals Cuomo mentioned during the education section of his speech, which lasted more than an hour and covered a variety of non-education issues, including a strict ban on assault weapons, decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, raising the minimum wage and a new plan to build casinos in upstate New York (the revenue of which will mostly go toward state school aid). The proposals were part of a "more and better" approach to education reform that Cuomo is crafting for 2013, a year after he targeted education "lobbyists" and school bureaucratic inefficiencies. Cuomo said he also wants to invest in expanding early education programs and creating schools that provide health and social services for poor communities. Cuomo is making the funds available in the form of competitive grants, which he has used in the past in an attempt to fast-track education reforms. The grants would only be eligible to districts and schools that craft plans that adhere to best practices prescribed by Cuomo. The previous grants have encountered resistance, both from union officials, the Board of Regents and State Education Commissioner John King. They all agreed that a $250 million mini-Race to the Top grant would be be better used if it were redistributed into the state's general school aid formula.
New York

Campbell Brown's abusive-teachers war preceded Twitter spat

Campbell Brown testified before the state's Education Reform Commission on the issue of teachers found to have abused children last week. Campbell Brown says she's done using Twitter to provoke union leaders into a debate. After a furious 48-hour exchange this week with AFT President Randi Weingarten, in which the 140-character messages quickly elevated into charges of sexism and conflicted interests, Brown said she wants the next showdown to be face-to-face. "I'd love to sit down with Randi and have a real debate," Brown said this morning in a phone interview. But she added a caveat. "There's nothing to debate." In less than a week, Brown, a former NBC White House correspondent and CNN anchor, has gone from largely unknown in education advocacy to the center of a heated war of words with union leaders over how to handle teachers suspected of — and found guilty of — sexual misconduct with students. She outlined her case in a provocatively headlined column in Sunday's Wall Street Journal. But the op/ed wasn't Brown's first public statement about the issue of sexual predators in schools. A week ago, she delivered a surprising testimony on the issue before Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Education Reform Commission during its New York City meeting. Not everyone who asked to speak was given a chance to. But Brown had been given the top speaking slot on the "teacher quality" panel with testimony that coupled concern about sex abuse with statistics about low student test scores and college-readiness rates. The speech she delivered was significantly different.
New York

StudentsFirstNY adds an educator in time for Cuomo task force

Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky taught a class at Bronx Academy of Letters in May. The school's principal has joined an education advocacy group, StudentsFirstNY. When New York City faced a budget shortfall three years ago, Bronx Academy of Letters principal Anna Hall faced a crisis at her school. Because state law requires that layoffs start with the newest teachers, threatened cuts meant more than 50 percent of Hall's strongest teachers would be cut loose: They had logged relatively few years in the school system. "That was the most harrowing, horrible experience," Hall said. The layoffs never materialized. But the scare cemented Hall's belief that teachers shouldn't be protected from layoffs based solely on their experience. The experience was one of many that Hall said drew her to her new job: as director of education for StudentsFirstNY, the state's spinoff of Michelle Rhee's national education advocacy group. StudentsFirstNY has kept a low profile in the three months since its splashy entrance onto the education advocacy scene. It spent about $10,000 on a mailer to support Hakeem Jeffries in his successful Congressional primary campaign against Charles Barron last month, according to federal election filings. But the group has steered clear of some more heated education debates, including the city's now-failed effort to close two dozen schools through a federal turnaround model, and it has not yet fully articulated its policy agenda for the next year. That seems poised to change today. Hall is set to share her personal hopes for policy change at a public meeting in the Bronx of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's education reform commission.
New York

At first meeting, Cuomo's ed reform commission maps road trip

Who's who: John King, Randi Weingarten and Geoffrey Canada (in background), were among the top education officials who attended today's inaugural meeting. In foreground from left are Mary Anne Schmitt Carey, of Say Yes to Education, CUNY's Eduardo Marti, and Chair Dick Parsons, a former executive at Citigroup and Time Warner. At their first official meeting today, members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's blue-ribbon education reform commission stayed away from specifics. But their two-hour discussion, held in a Midtown conference room, previewed some of the issues they will tackle as they travel the state to learn about problems facing local school districts. The 25-member commission, announced more than six months ago, is tasked with coming up with recommendations aimed at reducing costs while improving the overall quality of the state's schools. A report is due in late 2012. New York State's 3.4 million student school system is diverse and complex. It boasts the country's largest school district — New York City — but it also includes six districts that employ fewer than eight teachers. At more than $18,000 per pupil, spending in the state is the highest in the country, 70 percent higher than the U.S. average, according to an analysis by Cuomo's office. Spending has increased dramatically in the last 15 years, outpacing inflation, but student performance has barely budged. The state ranks 39th in graduation rates (73.5 percent) and no higher than 19th on any of the four NAEP test scores. Cuomo has argued that the state's school funds should be used more efficiently. The commission — which  includes many of the state's and country's top education officials, including union leader Randi Weingarten and state education chief John King —  is supposed to figure out how to make that happen.