Kim Sweet

New York

Group launches ed research site to guide mayoral candidates

Mayoral candidates have only just started outlining their education policy agendas as campaign season heats up. But one advocacy group is stepping in to help them figure out what those platforms look like. A+NYC, a new coalition formed earlier this year to shape policy in time for the 2013 mayoral election, launched an online "policy hub" today that includes research briefs on 20 education issues that the group wants to be the focus of debates in months to come. The coalition will eventually make policy recommendations once it is done hosting more than 60 local community meetings. A+ NYC is made up of many of the same organizers who are behind New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, a union-backed coalition of advocacy organizations. Both groups are trying to influence what education policies the mayoral candidates implement, but while New Yorkers for Great Public Schools has held rallies and criticized its opponents, A+ NYC is seeking a quieter strategy. That strategy began by recruiting 11 education non-profits to look at research topics of expertise and compile summary briefs on each one. Though the coalition was formed in the spirit of changing many policies established in the last 12 years, the summaries highlight research that occasionally supports Bloomberg initiatives, including special education reforms and the city's wish to use student surveys on teacher evaluations. In some instances, the briefs initially left out well-known research. The charter schools research brief omits findings from Macke Raymond's 2010 CREDO report on New York City's charter sector, which showed charter students scored higher on reading and math tests than district school peers. The brief instead highlights a 2009 study by Caroline Hoxby, which found similar gains made by charter school students, and notes that those findings were contested.
New York

DOE will spend $78.6m in next 5 years on new database

The Department of Education is signing a $54.9 million contract with a firm called MAXIMUS to streamline the way it tracks services for students with disabilities. Right now, a paper system tracks the process of diagnosing and giving services to special education students, with results that both special education advocates and the department say are poor. The new system will allow administrators and teachers to track these documents in a single place online. It will also be costly: The five-year contract is for $54.9, and the DOE expects extra attached costs like internal training programs so that principals can use the database will cost an additional $23.7 million over five years. The DOE press release that went out on this earlier today includes unusually glowing remarks from the special education advocate Kim Sweet, who as the executive director of Advocates for Children has often criticized the DOE for failing to serve special education students adequately Sweet's statement: "The Department of Education desperately needs a new system for tracking special education data. Under the current system they are unable to track their performance in providing essential services ot students with disabilities with any kind of accuracy. A new data system is essential to helping the Departmetn of Education improve its delivery of special education services and, we hope, will be a key step to holding the Department of Education accountable for the education of this vulnerable population." The contract was not a no-bid but was competitively bid. A law firm helped the department negotiate it pro bono. Here's the full press release, below the jump: