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January 17, 2018
What you should know about seven people who could be the next New York City schools chancellor
We’ve sorted through the rumors and political jockeying to handicap several contenders.
May 16, 2016
Push to overhaul tests in New York hits a persistent roadblock: cost
Education officials in New York are hitting a roadblock as they try to introduce project-based assessments.
charter authority figures
February 9, 2015
City’s charter-school oversight again questioned by Regents, who raise eyebrows themselves
For a third straight month, officials raised questions about charter schools under the city’s supervision.
state of tenure
June 24, 2014
City parents plan to join lawsuit against teacher job protections as union vows to fight
Four of the six students whose families have agreed to join the case also go to school in New York City, according to lawyers involved in the case.
December 3, 2013
State policymaker with a city stake wants to keep networks
A state education policy maker whose name has arisen as a possible contender for chancellor said today that while she thinks Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio should move quickly to change some Bloomberg-era school policies, others are worth keeping. Kathleen Cashin, a former Department of Education official who now sits on the state Board of Regents, said the new mayor should preserve city schools' "network" structure of school support while moving quickly to help schools that have many high-need students. She also said the state should be open to changing its approach to teacher evaluation and the Common Core — two initiatives where she has been a dissenting voice in Albany. In an interview today, Cashin said changing course shouldn't be seen as a repeal of the reforms and the purpose behind them. "It's not a sign of weakness," she said. "I think it's a sign of intelligence to revisit some initiatives." The comments, made at a small breakfast gathering for principals at the City College of New York's School of Education this morning, come as New York City prepares for the education policies of the last 12 years to be revised after de Blasio takes over City Hall next month. De Blasio was critical of many of the Bloomberg administration's school policies on the campaign trail.
October 2, 2013
Five people who could be the next chancellor of New York City's schools
When the next mayor takes office on January 1, one of his first acts will likely be to choose a schools chancellor.
June 17, 2013
Education policy makers divided on how to interpret grad rates
State Education Commissioner John King presented new data about the state's high school graduation rate to the Board of Regents today in Albany. ALBANY — After listening to State Education Commissioner John King present the state's latest graduation rate data today, members of the Board of Regents were divided on how to respond. Some grumbled about the rates, pointing in particular to declines that the state's five largest cities experienced. But others said they had expected far worse. Though statewide graduation rates stayed steady at 74 percent, rates in the "Big Five" fell by 2.8 points on average, a dip that was largely weighted by a seven-point decline in Buffalo. In New York City, the four-year graduation rate dropped by half a point, to 60.4 percent. Elsewhere in the state, districts considered "low-need" because many students come from relatively affluent families graduated students on time 94 percent of the time. "Our affluent children do as well as anybody," said Regent Kathleen Cashin, of Brooklyn. "Where we don't do well is with the poor. This concerns me because of the fact that every single large city district has gone down."
August 22, 2012
Test monitoring offers look into city's efforts to preempt cheating
A test security practice that city officials devised to deter cheating before it happens is also being used to preempt schools already suspected of misconduct. Each spring, as part of its test monitoring program, the Department of Education disperses a small team to schools on testing days to scrutinize and enforce security guidelines. Some schools are picked randomly, but others were flagged by the department because allegations were lodged by school staff and test score data showed "anomalous" results in recent years, officials said. During this year's six-day elementary and middle school testing period in April, education department employees paid 41 visits to 37 schools, according to records obtained by GothamSchools in a Freedom of Information Law request. The city would not specify which schools were the subject of a targeted monitoring visit, as opposed to a random one. But an analysis of test score data for the schools that had monitors visit showed that many had large increases in 2011, a year when the citywide pass rate barely budged. When monitors visited the schools for the 2012 tests, some of them saw sharp drops on its scores — even while the citywide average increased. Not all monitored schools saw declines this year and, in fact, some saw large gains. But of the schools that made significant gains on either English or math in 2011, more than half regressed to some degree in 2012. One school's math proficiency rate dropped by more than 40 percentage points. The previously undisclosed details about the monitoring program comes at a time when state and federal education officials are increasingly focused on devising policies to improve the integrity of tests in the wake of cheating scandals that have erupted in other cities. The number of schools listed in the monitoring program also provides a limited glimpse into the scope of cheating allegations that the city education department receives and is able to deal with.
February 10, 2012
Muted response to Regents' call for credit recovery comments
New York State education officials kicked off a statewide information-gathering tour in Brooklyn on Wednesday about a controversial practice: credit recovery. Credit recovery involves a variety of alternative academic programs used in schools to offer students a way to make up credits for incomplete or failed courses. It has been lauded by city officials and principals, who have used it as a way to help both failing students and advanced students earn credits that were otherwise unavailable at schools to them. But critics in New York City have accused Mayor Bloomberg and Department of Education principals of abusing the policy to juke citywide graduation rates, a hallmark accomplishment of his administration. Last year, the city audited about 60 city high schools' data, including how many credits they issued through credit recovery practices, but has not yet released the results. The State Education Department formalized the policy in 2010 with a regulation that allows students to gain credits without meeting "seat time" or attendance requirements in limited circumstances. But Associate Commissioner Ken Slentz said on Wednesday that state officials had grown "concerned" that the policy was "not meeting its original intent." Testimony from two former teachers, and education expert, and anonymous letters from educators read by parent activist Leonie Haimson appeared to confirm Slentz's concerns.
January 24, 2012
Citing NCLB changes, transfer school seeks overhaul exemption
A transfer school that the city is planning to close is desperately trying to escape an accountability dragnet planted by No Child Left Behind. Its plight could reshape how other transfer schools are assessed under a new accountability system the state is working to devise. Bushwick Community High School is one of 33 schools that Mayor Bloomberg has said he wants to shut down and reopen after replacing half of the teachers. It landed on the list after its low graduation rate triggered penalties under city, state, and federal accountability systems. BCHS teachers say the school is being penalized because it enrolls only students who have been unsuccessful in other high schools, making it unlikely for them to graduate on time. This week, the staff submitted a letter to Bloomberg arguing that he should remove BCHS from the list schools that the city is planning to “turn around.” "BCHS’s placement on the PLA list is the illogical conclusion of a crude, one-size-fits all accountability system,” they wrote. “As a transfer school, BCHS is designed to be part of the solution for struggling students in the city, but the current accountability metrics punish us for working with our students while allowing the source of their failures to go undetected.” It’s a position that state officials support and are even trying to turn into policy.
November 14, 2011
Mandate relief approved despite opposition from NYC Regents
The State Education Department's proposal to relax some special education rules met resistance today from two New York City-based members of the Board of Regents. The Bronx’s Betty Rosa and Brooklyn’s Kathleen Cashin were the only two members of a Board of Regents subcommittee to vote against the proposals, which would significantly reduce or eliminate the roles of people that are currently required to serve on a committee that supports student with disabilities. Both Rosa and Cashin said they were concerned that scaling back services would hurt children who require individual education plans. Cashin questioned whether the proposals, which are meant to cut costs, would result in any kind of real savings. "The whole mandate relief is not that expensive, relatively speaking, compared to the trauma that could be caused the family," Cashin said. Cashin was particularly concerned with the decision to eliminate the "parent member" role on the committee. The role, an unpaid position, is meant to provide additional support for parents whose students have disabilities. But SED Deputy Commissioner Becky Cort, who presented the recommendations to the Regents, said the "parent member" role was duplicated by the school psychologist and other school staff who sit in on the meetings. In addition, she said, because the parent member wasn't always available for meetings, finding a time when the entire committee could meet was frequently tricky.
November 11, 2011
Regents to vote on relaxing some special ed requirements
The State Education Department is considering relaxing some requirements for how students with special needs are served, a cost-cutting bid that has advocates worried. The state has asked the Board of Regents to approve a slate of "mandate relief" measures at its monthly meeting next week. The measures that SED wants lifted include the requirement that a psychologist weigh in every time disabled students' individualized education plans are changed and the prescription of specific tests when a student who is suspected of having a disability is first evaluated. Currently, school psychologists are full-time members of special education committees that make all decisions related to a student's IEP, but the new regulation would only require them to consult on initial IEP meetings. In addition, the new regulations would no longer require psychological evaluations, speech and language tests and assessments from therapists, all of which are currently conducted when a student is first diagnosed. Such services are costly and districts complain that the mandates go above and beyond what is required for many of their students. New York, the country's top-spending state in per-pupil special education services, has about 200 more special education mandates in place than the federal government requires, and SED argues that the extra requirements are restrictive for local districts.
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 12, 2011
Regents endorse first steps in state's test security overhaul
ALBANY — Members of the Board of Regents today endorsed an independent review of the state's procedures for investigating cheating. The independent review is a first step in a complete overhaul of the state's test security procedures that a State Education Department task force recommended last week. The Regents are reviewing the recommendations at their monthly meeting today and tomorrow. Today's vote to pursue the independent review came from the P-12 Committee, which supervises education from preschool through high school. With the committee's endorsement, the measure is expected to pass easily when the entire board votes on it tomorrow. Approval will trigger an "immediate" review, just as soon as the state finds an entity to conduct it. Education Commissioner John King said the state would look for entities to participate in the review at low or no cost to the state. That review is likely to generate ideas for how SED can expand its investigative arm, which officials characterized as muddled.
May 16, 2011
Regents give districts choice of tougher teacher evaluation
Deputy Commissioner John King, who will soon become commissioner, said that for a teacher to earn a rating of developing, effective, or highly effective, there should be some evidence of student progress on state tests. Introducing a new option for how to change teacher evaluation, the Board of Regents voted today to allow districts and unions to increase the weight of student test scores on those evaluations to 40 percent. According to the law passed last summer, which changed how teachers in New York State are evaluated and introduced their students' test scores as an element for consideration, state tests would count for 20 out of 100 points. Another 20 points would come from local assessments, which school districts could devise on their own. Yet the set of regulations approved in a vote this evening will allow school districts, with the approval of teachers unions, to count students' progress on state tests for 40 points of a teacher's evaluation score. The board voted 14 to 3 to approve the regulations. Regents Betty Rosa, Roger Tilles, and the board's newest member Kathleen Cashin, voted against the proposal. The increased emphasis on students' progress on standardized tests turned up in the final draft of regulations after Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped into the discussions last week. In a letter to Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, the governor said he believed that students' scores on the annual math and reading tests should carry more weight in the evaluation of their teachers. Mayor Bloomberg agreed, saying that an earlier draft of the regulations did not place enough importance on the tests. Yesterday, a group of 10 prominent education researchers sent the Regents a letter asking them not to place more weight on value-added scores, which measure students' progress on tests against that of similar types of students.
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