Sunday, May 29, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Saturday, May 21, 2011
A Recovery School District official plans to launch a nonprofit charter-management organization aimed at taking over and turning around failing schools. The move represents a national trend toward creating groups that can step in and transform failing campuses; it further signals the latest evolution in a survival-of-the-fittest school landscape in New Orleans. “We want to pluck off weaker schools,” said Gary Robichaux, the district’s director of elementary schools.
His group, tentatively named ReNEW Schools, aims to take control of two struggling schools — either charter or traditional — as soon as the summer of 2010. All of the takeovers would become charter schools, suggesting the number of charters will continue to grow in the city, and that the Recovery School District could morph into more of a support and oversight entity than a direct operator of schools. More than half of the city’s public schools already are charters — schools run by independent nonprofit boards that receive public financing. The growing likelihood that all, or nearly all, of New Orleans’ public schools will become charters during the next few years has elicited mixed responses. “You are really going to see the emergence of a number of new charters that are community driven,” said Recovery School District Superintendent Paul Vallas. “I view charters not only as a vehicle for improving schools, but also improving community representation.” But longtime New Orleans public school teacher Jim Randels, who founded the nationally recognized writing program Students at the Center, said the community will not have true school choice if it can only select from charter schools.
“I support things that give more local control and voice,” he said. But “I think it’s injurious to democracy to say that a charter is the only way to do it.”
During the past few years, a plethora of charter organizations and networks, including Knowledge is Power Program and Edison Schools, have opened schools in New Orleans. But now — with more seats than students at several schools — the focus has shifted from starting new schools to figuring out how to improve existing schools. “Takeovers will be the future for the next three, four years,” Robichaux said. He added that if his group had ramped up earlier, it might have sought to take over the Free Academy, a struggling charter school closed last month by a vote of its board.
As part of a takeover, the group would re-invent the school, putting in a new leader, staff and academic program. At the outset, the organization will focus on takeovers, but Robichaux said he hopes it can ultimately play two other roles: nurturing higher-performing traditional schools that want to convert to charters and supporting charter providers that will focus on special and alternative education. The charters have, on average, taken significantly fewer special education students than the traditional schools during the past three years.
In its first year, ReNEW Schools will receive foundation funding through New Schools for New Orleans, a nonprofit that has supported several new charter schools in the city. The money will pay the salary of Robichaux, who will leave his position with the RSD starting in July, and Colleen Mackay, another Recovery School District staffer.
ReNEW Schools is one of a growing number of so-called “charter management organizations” in the United States that run clusters of charter schools. When the charter model started spreading in the 1990s, most of the schools were independent mom-and-pop shops. But some groups, such as KIPP, began to open more schools. In the past couple of years, some charter management organizations, such as Green Dot in California, have honed in on turning around weak schools. Neerav Kingsland, vice president of school development and human capital at New Schools for New Orleans, said most schools in New Orleans are thriving, but a handful still lag. Those will be candidates for a takeover.
“Hopefully, it won’t be a question of whether they are charter or non-charter but of whether they are performing or not performing,” he said. Louella Givens, a member of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education from New Orleans, said she had not heard about the new effort but worries about the possibility that all, or nearly all, of the public schools in the city might become charters. “That’s not a system that offers school choice,” she said.
Givens and others have also expressed concern that handing over so many RSD schools to charter providers distorts one of the fundamental missions of the district: Turning around schools on its own.
‘Evolution of the district’
Vallas argues that creating the charter management organization represents “the next step in the evolution of the district.” “Gary (Robichaux) could take four, six, eight schools into the CMO in the next few years, and we won’t have many direct-run schools left,” he said. “We want to get out of the business of running schools on a day-to-day basis.”
Vallas said clusters of charter schools will emerge and grow during the next few years, including those in the new charter management organization, those run by KIPP and those in the Algiers Charter Schools Association.
Some other local charter management organizations apart from ReNEW Schools may also expand into the business of takeovers during the next couple of years. While necessary, school takeover and turnaround efforts pose great challenges, said Meghan O’Keefe, the project director for school turnaround strategies at Boston group Mass Insight Education & Research Institute. “It’s a much harder job than starting new schools,” she said.
Sarah Carr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3497
Friday, May 20, 2011
Nine City High Schools to Stay Open, With Private Management
Published: May 12, 2011
There was a sense of relief at nine low-performing city high schools on Thursday as the city’s Department of Education announced they would not be closed next year. The decisions came after months of uncertainty about the schools’ future.
But with the relief came concern and confusion over what exactly would happen to the schools, which instead will go through a federal process known as the restart model, which has not been tried before in New York City.
“I am pleased that they have come to a decision not to close the school,” said Dominick Scarola, the principal of Grover Cleveland High School in Queens, one of the nine, “but I am still a bit apprehensive because I am not sure how it is going to roll out.”
Each of the nine schools is eligible to receive up to $6 million over three years to transform its lower-than-average graduation rate into an educational success story. But to qualify for the money, the city has to contract with outside organizations to see if they can do a better job managing the school than the city did.
That raises a host of questions about how much authority these organizations, nonprofit groups that will be called educational partnership organizations, will have to lead the schools.
Principals were told on Thursday that there would be no staff or leadership changes “at this time” — and parents were told in a letter that all the children would remain in place — as the administration and the educational partnership organization “work together to determine how to strengthen the curriculum, develop academic supports for students, and help teachers improve practice.”
The city has not chosen the partner groups, but they would most likely be management companies like New Visions for Public Schools, Urban Assembly and Generation Schools, which already work in the school system.
One principal, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to criticize a program that would be working with his school, said, “Restart is the wrong word, because they are not changing anything.”
But according to state law, the new organizations will have the power to make recommendations about the hiring and dismissal of principals and teachers, just as a district superintendent would. They will answer to the chancellor, who will make the final decisions. That sets up a potentially fraught situation in schools receiving support.
The city is due to make decisions about 31 other low-achieving schools on Friday. They will either join the restart program, or forgo the federal money. There are two other possible blueprints for the grant, but they require agreement from the teachers’ union, and negotiations have stalled over how teachers would be evaluated within them.
The schools that were announced on Thursday for restart include Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx; John Dewey High School in Brooklyn; and Richmond Hill High School, John Adams High School and Newtown High School in Queens.
Michael Mulgrew, the president of the teachers’ union, said he was pleased that the schools would be improved and not closed, and said he understood that the partner organization “runs the school.”
“We are looking forward to working with some of these partners,” he said. “They have to come up with an educational plan and actually support it, and this is something that the Department of Education has not been able to do.”
Thursday, May 19, 2011
By selliott | Tuesday, May 16, 2006, 04:28 PM
Remember our old friend James Williams? The former Dayton superintendent was forced out in 1999 after a tumultuous eight years when the state auditor uncovered a multi-million dollar deficit. Williams is also remembered for tough talk with the teacher’s union here soon after ascending to the district’s top job, which culminated in a 16-day strike in 1993.
Well, Williams is now superintendent in Buffalo and guess what? He’s stirring up a some angst by talking tough with the union there. (I spotted this through the Chalkboard blog, written by author and former education reporter Joe Williams â€” no relation.)
Back in 1993, Williams was proposing what were then radical ideas â€” merit pay for teachers based on the test gain of their students, hiring based on a school committee’s recommendation instead of seniority and rewarding or penalizing teachers based on the total performance of the schools where they teach.
Williams also took on the teachers over health care, claiming in 1993 that Dayton teachers were among the very few anywhere who still had 100 percent health care coverage.
Interestingly, Buffalo apparently held out more than a decade longer than Dayton. Their teachers STILL have 100 percent health care coverage â€” so it’s not surprising that Williams says this must change. He’s also asking for other union givebacks, saying without concessions any new money the district receives from the city will not reach the kids in the classroom.
It will be interesting to see if this goes better for Williams in Buffalo. The 1993 strike here led to replacement teachers, classroom chaos and ultimately a school board cave-in that ended up giving the teachers most of what they wanted (they did begin paying 5 percent of their health care costs).
In the end, Williams took a beating from the union.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Hunger, Homelessness, Poverty Have Been Declared "No Excuse." How About Lead?<http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2011/05/hunger-homelessness-poverty-have-been.html>
The unethical and self-serving hucksters of corporate ed reform have ignored every social factor that science and common sense have ever shown to contribute to and maintain the test score achievement gaps that are routinely blamed on teachers, parents, and public schools. The media, meanwhile, have remained faithful to the Business Roundtable's agenda for maintaining the status quo stupidity of impossible testing targets for the poor, even while the teaching profession and public school are dismantled in favor of corporate charter solutions that contain and segregate the poor and brown, while applying psychological and behavioral neutering techniques to our most vulnerable children.
Even our President has declared there are No Excuses. Not zip code, hunger, poverty, homelessness, sickness, fear, insecurity, or anything else. Nothing can stop the testing, the punishing, the shutting down of public schools, and the lifelong labeling of children as failures. What kind of country have we become? What happened to compassion, concern, care, and help. When did we stop being human?
One must wonder how the Oligarchs' teams of dissemblers and lawyers will choose to ignore or deny this latest bit of evidence that poor children suffer environmental effects that make all the wishful thinking by the cheerful idiots (to use C. Wright Mills's term) at Education Trust and the Fordham Insitute irrelevant and dangerously myopic.
From the AP<http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-ap-ct-leadexposure-educmay18,0,3577412,print.story>:
Children who ingested even small amounts of lead performed poorly later on school tests compared to students who were never exposed to the substance, according to a new study of Connecticut students.
The Duke University study also found that black children were much more likely to have experienced lead poisoning from paint residue, dust or other sources by age 7 than the state's white children. Educators worry that factor might be among many contributing to Connecticut's status as the state with the largest achievement gap between the races.
Education and public health officials called the Duke study a stark reminder that although lead poisoning cases have dropped sharply nationwide in recent years, even very low levels of exposure can irreversibly influence children's development.
"It's compelling evidence. I think it provides even greater awareness to parents, medical providers and advocates that lead poisoning is a serious issue and prevention is key," said Francesca Provenzano, health program supervisor for the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
Duke researchers reviewed the cases of 35,000 Connecticut children whose blood tests showed lead exposure before age 7, then linked them to their fourth-grade reading and math scores on the 2008 and 2009 standardized Connecticut Mastery Tests.
They concluded that the greater their exposure, the lower the children tended to score -- but that even those whose lead levels were lower than the established danger threshold were doing worse than peers who'd never been exposed.
The Children's Environmental Health Initiative at Duke conducted the same study in 2009 of North Carolina students, finding a similar association between lead exposure and problems later in academics. The federally funded Connecticut study, which state education offcials asked Duke to conduct, was completed in February and presented this month to the Connecticut State Board of Education.
Several other government and university research studies nationwide over the years have found links between lead poisoning and delays in academic and cognitive growth, although the Duke study is Connecticut's first research linking individual students to their test results.
Lead was banned in house paint, cookware and products marketed to children in the U.S. in 1978. However, it can sometimes still be found in many older homes, which are prevalent in the Northeast.
It's also found in some soil and household piping, though aggressive remediation efforts have been in place in Connecticut and nationwide for several years. When young children swallow lead in paint chips or inhale it in dust, it can lead to delays in physical and mental development, lower intelligence, shorter attention spans and behavioral problems.
Connecticut also started screening all children in 2009 for lead exposure, helping pinpoint families, neighborhoods and regions where more intervention is needed to remove lead hazards and more early intervention education services.
The Duke study of Connecticut students found that black children were notably overrepresented among those whose blood tests showed they were exposed to lead, which some officials say may reflect the older housing in urban centers.
The researchers also removed records for all students who had limited English proficiency to ensure the test scores, particularly in reading, had not been skewed by that factor.
They also looked at whether students' family income qualified them for free or reduced-price lunches, and concluded that even poor children exposed to lead performed worse than poor children who were not exposed.
Connecticut educators worry the lead exposure among black students could be one of many factors in the achievement gap between white and minority students, and between wealthy and poor students.
The National Assessment of Education Progress, an annual review mandated by Congress and overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, says Connecticut's poorest students -- many of whom are black -- are about three grade levels behind their peers in reading and math. That gap is the largest among all states.
Thank You Sir. May I Have Another?<http://nyceducator.com/2011/05/thank-you-sir-may-i-have-another.html
Over and over, we lie down with dogs, and marvel at the ensuing fleas. We invite Bill Gates to investigate what makes teachers "effective." He comes in and tests cameras in classrooms, because everyone knows those foul teachers cannot be trusted unless you monitor them every second. We invite him to speak at our convention, and the following week he attacks the wastefulness of those bloated teacher pensions, wondering aloud why we can't eat cat food like other elderly folk who aren't Bill Gates.
We endorse mayoral control, because who knows how bad it can be, and besides this Bloomberg fellow goes to baseball games with Randi Weingarten. He must be OK. Then after it turns out to be an unmitigated disaster, we make a list of improvements we'd like before we'll accept its renewal. When we don't get them, we support its renewal anyway.
We allow them to get rid of seniority transfers, and give power to principals to have absolute veto over incoming teachers. We design an open market that allows anyone to transfer anywhere, as long as principals think it's OK. Who woulda thunk that principals preferred malleable new teachers at half salary to grizzled old opinionated veterans? After all, just because those are the only people that get hired in the suburbs, why should it apply to us? And when thousands of teachers end up rotting in the Absent Teacher Reserve, demoralized and demonized, we are shocked, and state because more teachers transferred in the new program than the old, it is an unmitigated success.
We make a deal to reduce class size. The deal is so full of holes a tank could drive through it, but we declare victory anyway. When class sizes go up anyway, despite our deal and almost a billion dollars in CFE funds, we wonder how it could've happened.
Finally, we make a deal to allow value-added be part of teacher evaluations. Sure, it has no validity, but everybody's doing it, so where's the problem? We cleverly allow it to be only 20% of our evaluation, while other states are making it 50, and declare victory yet again. When the state passes a law allowing it to be double, we say, gee, how the heck did that happen? And Governor Cuomo, our good bud, is gonna do a Race to the Top and withhold money if we choose to exercise our option to negotiate, and turn down whatever abysmal offer Tweed comes up with.
Gee, how could this be happening? I thought we'd had it all taken care of.