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January 7, 2009
Under law, DOE not always the decider, state ed official rules
For the second time this school year, state education officials have taken a stand against the city Department of Education. State Education Commissioner Richard Mills ruled last week that the DOE illegally changed a regulation about how schools involve parents and staff members in developing plans and setting their budgets. He also ruled that parents must be involved in setting schools' goals and strategies for meeting those goals. The decision (pdf) was a response to a complaint registered by a Queens parent back in December 2007, just after the DOE issued a revised version of a regulation about School Leadership Teams, required groups that are made up of equal numbers of parents and school staff.
December 22, 2008
Remainders: Concerns about working at Bronx Science
JD2718 adds Bronx Science to his list of schools to which teachers should not apply. He also thinks that this blog gives excessive…
December 19, 2008
DOE's claim that it's outside of city authority is under scrutiny
Caroline Kennedy is the vice chairman of the Fund for Public Schools. The state assembly's decision to study whether the Fund for Public Schools should be exempt from a state law that asks nonprofits for detailed financial disclosure reports is something to watch. That's because the charity group's exemption stems from a claim that has enabled the city Department of Education to opt out of a list of other laws and protocols: the notion that the Department of Education is not legally a city agency, and therefore doesn't have to follow city law. The claim doesn't come from nowhere; the city school system has been a state-authorized entity since it was created in the 1840s, and only briefly became a fully city-run entity, thanks to a power play by Boss Tweed circa 1873. But the claim is important because it's the reason the DOE has given for exempting itself from a laundry list of other city laws and protocols over the years. So if the assembly forces the Fund to disclose its finances, that could produce a ripple effect. Here's a partial list of laws and protocols the DOE has avoided via this claim, compiled largely from a list Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters put together in testimony (Word doc) to a mayoral control panel recently:
December 15, 2008
Despite spending infusion, city is not meeting class size targets
In the battle over whether to make class sizes smaller, the city appears to be scoring a win against the state. That's the picture painted in a report school officials sent to the City Council Friday. The report shows that, two years after the state poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the city with the aim of lowering class sizes, public school classes are on average larger than the target values in most grades. (View all recent class size data reported by the city here.) The figures are a relative win for the Department of Education, which has repeatedly dismissed the goal of reducing class sizes as a pipe dream that will not improve education.
November 26, 2008
Hamptons.com snags an exclusive interview with Joel Klein
Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters, must have the “Joel Klein” Google alert routed permanently to her brain. Here’s a…
November 13, 2008
NYC teachers going public with opposition to Klein as Ed Sec
Teachers are signing up in droves to oppose a promotion for Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. An online petition opposing Klein as Secretary of Education has collected more than 2,000 signatures since it was created Monday by a California education professor, Duane Campbell. The petition has attracted attention from dozens of Web sites, including those of Gotham Gazette and the progressive Nation magazine. Many of the petition's first signers were parents from New York City and educators from across the country, as Leonie Haimson pointed out on the NYC Education News e-mail list. But increasingly, it appears to be people identifying themselves as New York City public school teachers, both active and retired, who are signing on. (There are 80,000 teachers in the city; most, obviously, have not attached their name to the petition.) Below the jump, several teachers' recent comments:
October 30, 2008
Contest: What should we call the Schnur-like "reformers"?
While I’m on the Jon Schnur-Obama education wars subject, let me raise a problem that I have when writing about said wars: How should I…
October 29, 2008
Bloomberg created fewer school seats than Giuliani, report says
In the opening salvo of what's sure to be a pitched battle over the next capital plan, activists today released a report (pdf) concluding that the city added fewer school seats during the first six years of the Bloomberg administration than it did during the six years immediately before. They estimate that the system needs 167,000 extra seats and dramatically accelerated school construction in order to ease crowding and reduce class sizes. The capital plan is a budget outlining all public school construction plans for the next five years. The current plan covered five years and will end in 2009. The School Construction Authority is due to present a first draft of the next capital plan, covering the years 2010 to 2014, in just a few weeks. In the report, released by the Campaign for a Better Capital Plan and written primarily by Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, backers of the campaign call for "a transparent, thorough, and open system of planning" that reflects the system's real space needs.
October 10, 2008
TEP Charter model sparks debate among educators
Posts about The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School — that's the one where teachers will make $125,000 — brought out strong feelings from educators and advocates both at the New York Times Lesson Plans blog and here at GothamSchools. In our comments, Leonie Haimson, a leading advocate for smaller classes in the city's public schools, points out that TEP will save money partly by putting 30 students in a class (the TEP website does say this, although not in the section aimed at educators). She points to comments at the Times where teachers question the priorities of the TEP model. Alex, for example, suggests cutting the salary to $75,000 and drastically reducing class size with the extra funds. GothamSchools commenter Maria Escalan worries that dividing up administrative responsibilities among teachers will end up overburdening them: Our principal who kept experimenting with different reforms on our already successful school had the brillant idea of letting teachers assume lots more responsibility outside of the normal teaching activities. The consequence was that a lot of my colleagues expended a lot of time and energy on activities that were not instructional and the quality of their teaching suffered. I think it's worth noting that the TEP plan is to give each teacher a single clearly-defined "whole school service" role, ranging from dean of discipline to events coordinator to parent and community involvement coordinator. It's not just asking people to step up as needed, which, in my experience, usually results in a few teachers taking on way too much. And, contrary to the belief of at least one Times commenter, custodial duties are not among the listed whole school service jobs. In exchange for the higher salaries, TEP expects teachers to work a longer day,
October 3, 2008
DOE: Relieving overcrowding not just about building more schools
Relieving overcrowding in New York City's schools "is going to require a change of mindset — it's not just about building new schools, it's also about reconfiguring existing schools," said Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott at today's City Council hearing on school capacity and utilization. Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm, testifying with Walcott on behalf of the Department of Education, said that the DOE has made significant progress towards creating 63,000 new school seats, as outlined in the current capital plan; so far, 55,000 seats have been created or are in progress. Grimm and Walcott stressed that while capital investment is one strategy the DOE uses to reduce overcrowding, equally important are using available space more strategically and changing enrollment policies to ease pressure on the most in-demand programs and schools. "We have room in the system... The challenge is making sure we have room in the right places," Walcott said, stating that the overall school utilization rate in the city is 84.5%. The new capital plan, he said, will look not just at city or district level enrollment statistics, but also at individual neighborhoods where "pockets of overcrowding" exist — or pockets of underutilized space. He and Grimm warned that resolving overcrowding on a neighborhood basis might require communities to make tough choices, such as moving one program or school from a crowded building into an underutilized one, or changing zone boundaries, as has been proposed for District 3. The grade configuration of some schools may also have to change, by combining elementary and middle schools or middle and high schools to create mixed-level buildings. Some schools are "victims of their own success," said Grimm, noting that parents understandably want to send their children to the best programs. Part of the solution must be to expand the number of excellent schools, she said, adding that the city will also look at adjusting enrollment policies. While the DOE's testimony emphasized solving localized overcrowding problems, others at the hearing questioned the methodology underlying their school capacity and utilization estimates.
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