Dep. Chancellor Chris Cerf will be at tonight's District 24 (western
Queens) CEC meeting to speak and answer questions about the DOE
reorganization and fair funding proposal. All are welcome to attend:
7 p.m. at PS 58, School of Heros (72-50 Grand Ave., Maspeth).
More importantly, I would appreciate input and additions to the
following list of questions we have already compiled for Mr. Cerf.
What is happening to the Regional Operations centers? Isn't this
where personnel, procurement, school food, pupil transportation,
school repairs, new construction etc. are overseen?
How are RISs (instructional specialists) being replaced and who will
perform their oversight duties? (e.g. the Physical Education RIS was
able to report to our CEC on how many schools in our district did not
have a Phys Ed teacher, and he worked with those schools to try to
get them to hire one, he oversaw the CHAMPS programs (middle school
sports program), etc.
Will all schools geographically located in a district report to the
District Supt, including empowerment schools (but not Charter
schools)? Will there still be LISs? Or how will one Supt. supervise
30 or more schools and principals?
What happened to the idea that LISs should oversee elementary, middle
AND high schools so that there would be some continuity in a child's
education? Are high schools now being jettisoned from the community
school district/region and back to a borough command?
Can the DOE require that School Leadership Teams (SLTs) approve the
principal's choice of which of the three networks to which the school
Will the city continue with a uniform curriculum and textbooks or
will each and every school be able to choose their own curriculum and
Special Ed. Questions:
What will happen to the Regional CSE (committee on special Ed)?
What will happen if a school can't approve a service on a child's IEP
and needs services allocated from above which have been previously
provided at the regional offices?
Where will initial evals of children referred to Special education
Where will Special Ed mediations take place (when a school, district
or parent disagree and a parent wants an impartial hearing)? The law
now requires the regions/districts to have a dispute resolution
meeting to try to resolve the issue and to ward off unnecessary
hearings that cost tax payers money.
Where will the RASE, Regional Administrator of Special education, and
the Chairperson be housed. (These people oversee the delivery of
special ed services at the schools and decision of resources and
class placements as well as special education decisions...
schools have what class and what children in the region go to what
Where are records for Special Ed children going to be located and can
parents be provided with a full copy of the entire student file to
ensure that a copy is in existence? (Here is a quote from the Jan 8,
2004 New York Times about the formation of the new regional offices
in the last reorganization: "Special education services and
evaluations have been delayed, parents and educators say, because of
difficulties in finding records that were moved to new regional
offices from the old community school districts.")
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Here is a comment I made on Leonie Haimson's post on her listserve. Her original post is below that.
Over the many years I have been involved with the school system, my take is that giving principals unfettered power is a dangerous thing.
We have heard of too many tyrants, unbalanced egos, etc. that make BloomKlein look like pussycats.
When given extra positions, all too many principals will first use the money to make their administrative lives easier -- more assistant principals, pulling teachers from classroom teaching to do admin work (thus RAISING class size.) Ask teachers to chime in with stories of their schools and you will find lots of this stuff lurking. But I will also say that the ability to manage a school can be so difficult that there is a need for more personnel. No easy answers here other than truly funding schools.
Take the argument for lunch duty for teachers. Principals want this badly. But these activities can actually raise class size because especially in elem schools the teacher has to get lunch and a prep. If they do duty that comes out of a teaching period. Thus the 2005 UFT contract which reinstated duties.
Power corrupts and absolute--- well you know the drill. So shifting power from central to individual principals can also dangerous and difficult to challenge school by school.
That explains one of the reasons the UFT has throughout its history has lined up for centralization in deed (don't listen to what the PR machine says) and will continue to do so when it comes down to mayoral control. The leadership also need an enemy when necessary to rouse up the membership to support it. This is one of the reasons behind the UFT's opposing the reorganization plan.
Not that I am advocating centralized control either. Just as BloomKlein need checks and balances, so do principals. I've always maintained that the teachers in a school have as much a vested interest in the school running well as anyone, even parents. Parents need to play animportant part but in my experience, particularly in poverty areas where there is little parental involvement, it was very easy for principals to control the parents. Almost every PTA pres ended up with relatives on the payroll. Also, parents disappear from a school when their children do.
Teachers are a constant and should be given a major role in the schools. I was in Spain last year do a project at a middle school for a couple of days. The principal is elected for a 3 year term by teachers, parents and even students play a role. Seeing him in action (he still does some teaching -- very important) made it clear they chose wisely. Just one school in rural Spain. Was this a lucky meeting or a common thing?
Apparently, that is fairly common in parts of Europe. In all the governance schemes, we never hear that as a proposal.
With 1500 schools, one would think we could try this method in even just a handful of schools. I have asked my principal friends (yes I actually have some) it they think they would get elected by their staffs. It led to some serious thinking on their part. Of course they said yes. But then again I would hope any principal I would call a friend would be electable.
Bijou sent me an interview w/ William Ouchi, the professor of management at UCLA who first came up w/ the decentralized model of school reform that DOE is now proposing.
The interview is from strategy+business, and you can read it here: http://www.strategy
Ouchi claims great improvement in cities like
But one statement he makes which I agree w/ is the following:
Question: Why does giving principals control over the budget make such a difference?
OUCHI: We have a research project under way now in which we’re interviewing 527 principals with local autonomy and visiting their schools. We’re focusing on inner-city high schools, which have proven in the past to be the hardest schools to improve. We’re finding that control over the budget gives principals control over three key school decisions: the staffing mixture, curriculum, and schedule.
The most important single indicator of a school’s quality is a metric you’ve never heard of: total student load. It’s the number of classes a teacher teaches times the number of students per class. In
In October 2005, I visited pilot senior high schools in Roxbury and
Though Ouchi focuses on teaching load, it is clear that he is talking about both class size as well. Both are clearly critical inputs for success. So why won’t his proposal work for NYC? Why must the decision to reduce class size and teaching load be made centrally rather than leaving it up to each principal’s discretion as Klein et.al. would argue?
First, most NYC schools do not have the room to reduce class size and teaching loads – especially our high schools, because 75% of them are overcrowded, and this administration has no plan to create enough room to allow for smaller classes in any grade higher than 3rd.
Second, though Klein, Nadelstern et.al. like to claim that 80% of the principals in the empowerment zone used their discretionary funding last year to hire additional teachers to lower class size, the empowerment team members I spoke to said that after class sizes were reduced, OSEPO (the office of student placement at Tweed) jjust sent their schools more students, which brought class sizes back up to previous levels.
Robert Gordon of DOE admitted that he had heard this as well at the CPAC meeting, and said they were still “looking into it.”
In NYC, the problems of class size and teaching load are systemic, just as they are in many urban school districts – and must be solved systemically.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Saturday, February 24, 2007
All UFT members vote including retirees.
PRESIDENT: Kit Wainer (CC)
SECRETARY: Camille Johnson (D)
ASST SECRETARY: Ellen Schweitzer (CC)
TREASURER: Marilyn Beckford (CC)
ASST TREASURER: Yelena Siwinski (CC)
VICE PRES (ELEM): Lisa North (CC)
VICE PRES (MIDDLE): Josh Kahn (D)
VICE PRES (ACAD HIGH): Arthur Colen (CC)
VICE PRES (VOC HIGH): Gerard Frohnhoefer(CC)
VICE PRES (SPEC ED): Joseph Wisniewski
VICE PRES (AT LARGE): Ellen Fox (retired CC)
EXECUTIVE BOARD (DIVISIONAL SEATS)
These names appear only on the elementary school ballots.
Joan Seedorf (CC)
These names appear only on the middle school ballots.
These names appear only on the high school ballots.
James Eterno (CC)
Jeff Kaufman (CC)
Peter Lamphere (Former D)
Sam Lazarus (CC)
Nick Licari (CC)
Marian Swerdlow (D)
These names appear only on the functional ballots - every category aside from division - including retirees, secretary, paras, social workers, teachers assigned to the region, etc.
Bill Palmer (D)
Ira Goldfine (retired CC)
Deborah Poleshuck (D)
Bob Norman (retired CC)
EXECUTIVE BOARD (AT LARGE SEATS) (42)
All UFT members vote including retirees.
Barbara Kaplan-Halper (CC)
Dave Poleshuck (D)
Jonathan Lessuck (former CC)
Barbara Frazier (former CC)
Carolyn Eubanks (D)
Michael Fiorillo (CC)
Joan Heymont (former D)
Maria Colon (former CC)
Tom Maher (CC)
John Elfrank-Dana (CC)
Megan Behrent (D)
Jeff Brace (CC)
Martin Haber (D)
Norm Scott (retired CC)
Arthur Goldstein (D)
Al Zucker (D)
Marcy Licari (CC)
John Yanno (CC)
Joe Mudgett (D)
Louise Warren (retired CC)
Larry Taylor (CC)
In addition, there are a number of candidates for AFT/NYSUT delegates, voted on at-large by all union members.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Apparently there is an explanation for this, according to the following story:
Mayor Announces Schools/Stadium Initiative
February 23, 2007 (GBN News): Mayor Bloomberg, responding to reports of cost overruns for the city's new stadium projects as well as criticism that this money could be better spent on education, explained today that the cost was planned all along as part of an innovative new reform. The plan would involve combining the small schools initiative with the stadium projects by placing several small high schools within the new stadiums. While the Mayor released few details, he indicated that this project was developed jointly by Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and the consulting firm of Alvarez and Marsal.
Amid criticism by education advocates and City Council members that this group constituted a domestic "Axis of Evil", schools Chancellor Joel Klein defended the new arrangement. "This will be a true public/private partnership"
The schools/stadium initiative was questioned in several quarters. Yankee Captain Derek Jeter expressed concern that with Alvarez and Marsal involved, players might have to forgo their usual luxurious travel and would instead have to make due with Metro Cards. And Mets Manager Willie Randolph worried that with the ban on cell phones, he might not be able to put in a call to the bullpen when one of his pitchers gets in trouble.
In a related story, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and NBA Commissioner David Stern announced in a joint statement that, in an effort to set a better role model for the nation's school children, all teams, starting in 2014, will be required to finish the season over .500. Dubbed "No Player Left Behind", the policy would allow any player on a team finishing under .500 to transfer to a more successful team.
--- In nyceducationnews@
Nearly a month after Mayor Bloomberg issued his preliminary capital budget, the mystery http://www.villagev
To recap: When the sports troika was approved last year, the city indicated
> that taxpayers would be on the hook for $160 million in land and
> infrastructure costs for the new Yankees stadium (already a last-minute
> lineup substitution for the initial $135 million price tag), $98 million for
> the Mets, and $100 million for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, which
> includes a basketball arena to bring the Nets to Brooklyn. (State spending
> and tax breaks would add at least another half-billion to the overall public
> tab.) In the mayor's new budget, however, Yankees spending is now projected
> at $209 million through 2009, Mets at $172 million, and Nets at $205 million.
The city Independent Budget Office already revealed http://www.villagev
announced. As for city spending on the Yankees project, which will pay for building new parkland to replace that obliterated http://www.villagev
> However, Parks Department spokesperson Warner Johnston recently told the Voice in an e-mail that an additional $35 million has been allocated to the project for "contingency funding and construction-
That gets us to $140 million. But what about the other $14 million for the Yanks, and $74 million for the Mets, that shows up in the mayor's budget? Johnston referred us to the mayor's Office of Management and Budget-whose officials declined to return a series of Voice phone calls and e-mails inquiring into the mystery money.
> City council officials are apparently getting no better treatment: One
> council staffer described OMB as "stonewalling" the council's own finance
> staff on the issue. Staffers for councilmembers Hiram Monserrate and Helen
> Diane Foster, who represent residents around the Mets and Yanks stadium
> sites respectively, said they knew nothing about the increased allocations.
> Lukas Herbert, one of the Bronx Community Board 4 members who'd tried to
> warn that the city would face likely cost overruns on its share of the
> Yankees project, says, "This is almost like an 'I told you so' - it just
> goes to show that once a big corporation like the Yankees gets an approval
> from government, the cost just goes up for the public." Not that, under the
> circumstances, being right is much comfort to Herbert, who lives three
> blocks from the stadium site on the Grand Concourse: "My alarm goes off at 7
> a.m., and within five minutes I start hearing the ping, ping of the pile
> drivers driving in those columns. And last time I checked, the school down
> the street was still falling apart."
> Leonie Haimson
The Department of Education hasn't listed our school in any of its press releases. So here's mine.
For over 17 years, it served as a literal beacon of light for some of New York's most disaffected youth. Now, after having established consistently strong scores on state exams, excellent graduation rates and after having created one of the safest school environments in New York City, the Dept of Education has decided to close the doors of Brooklyn Comprehensive Night High School.
Established as one of the first schools for over-aged and under-credited youth, Brooklyn Comprehensive Night High School has been a safe haven for disadvantaged youth 18-21 years of age. It has provided them with the opportunity to obtain a high school diploma -- not a GED --at night. These students have often attended more than one high school with limited academic achievement. Often they carry enormous adult responsibilities or have experienced profound personal loss. Take Daniel Laguer: early in his high school career, he lost one brother to an untimely death and one to prison. Without what he called, "his blueprints to life" he became despondent and the school he attended had poor control over its students, so he began to cut classes and then school altogether. With a failing average, he came to Brooklyn Comprehensive Night High School looking to re-build an academic career. And he did so far beyond his expectations, becoming an honors student who is now a sophomore at Brooklyn College.
While not all students developed such academic excellence, for many the school served as a place for them to begin to take pride in their studies and to develop the foundation of skills they never had. Students who came from abusive households, some in foster care, some living on their own, found the small school to be their substitute family. Assisting them in this process required patience and extensive individual attention. The school offered students tutoring before and after school, small classes, a safe and quiet environment and the understanding that they would have some of the time they would need to change. After so many years of academic difficulties, the school did not expect students to become instant successes. Nor did it make that success easy. However, the school's culture took it's cue from it's motto "Ad astra per aspera" --- "To the stars despite the difficulties."
The Dept of Education, in its meeting with staff and administration, acknowledged that there was no academic reason for closing the school. They criticized the school, rather, for its attendance. Simply put, the school does good work but for too few students. As the student population which the school has served comes with a history of little or no academic achievement -- most have averages below 60 -- it is difficult to imagine how the Dept. of Education could expect instant and immediate success. Frequently, students take time to build attendance-- often a student will not pass in his/her first term or even year at the school. Many of our students have experienced personal crises which do not stop just because they have signed up at our school. It may take a term or a year for the school to work with the student to help them to build their skills and try to assist them in stabilizing their lives. And as this population is comprised entirely of students who have poor records, it is inevitable that some of them will need more than the school can give. After all, statistically these are the lowest performing students with the least chance of graduation from any academic program.
Brooklyn Comprehensive, however, had a policy of trying to work with students even if they did not immediately make significant changes. In giving them the time to try to adjust, it risked having attendance records which reflected their absences. In its very premise, the school was betting against what their previous records seemed to indicate. A majority of the students presented undiagnosed learning disabilities and/or had missed significant portions of their schooling --their need for remediation was intensified by years of neglect. Often these students were also extremely intelligent and dedicated to the effort to change their lives -- a dedication which increased as they improved. For Brooklyn Comprehensive, therefore, the students' potential was worth the risk. The efforts of the school were rewarded by a student body which achieved more and more each year. Sadly, the Department of Education is unwilling to see that taking such a risk provides opportunities for students like Daniel to get the time they need to excel beyond what any statistics might have predicted.
Contact Floraine Kay
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Interesting reading in EdWeek, particularly on way US Dept. of Ed. tried to lean on Klein to adopt phonics-based curricula – to little avail. See sections esp. in bold below.
Published: February 20, 2007
E-Mails Reveal Federal Reach Over
Communications show pattern of meddling in ‘Reading First.’
The Reading First initiative’s rigorous requirements have earned it a reputation as the most prescriptive federal grant program in education. Now, an Education Week review of hundreds of e-mail exchanges details a pattern of federal interference that skirted legal prohibitions.
In the midst of carrying out the $1 billion-a-year program, which is part of the No Child Left Behind Act, federal officials:
• Worked to undermine the literacy plan of the nation’s largest school system;
• Pressured several states to reject certain reading programs and assessments that were initially approved under their Reading First plans;
• Rallied influential politicians, political advisers, and appointees to ensure that state schools chiefs stayed on track with program mandates; and
• Pressed one state superintendent to withdraw grant funding from a district that demoted a principal in a participating school.
In regular e-mail discussions, Christopher J. Doherty, the Reading First director at the U.S. Department of Education until last September, and G. Reid Lyon, a branch chief at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development until June 2005 and an influential adviser to the initiative, closely monitored states’ progress in applying for Reading First money, in issuing subgrants to districts, and in complying with the law’s provisions for scientifically based instruction. They also worked out strategies for intervening where they deemed more federal control was warranted.
“We ding people all the time in Reading First,” Mr. Doherty wrote in March 2005, after he pressured
Some former federal officials and supporters of the program argue that such oversight was essential to its success, but a number of state and local officials took offense and questioned whether Reading First staff members exceeded their authority. Some policy experts say they came close to doing so.
“That’s an unprecedented level of interference,” said Christopher T. Cross, a policy consultant for Cross & Joftus LLC in
The language was left in when the law was reauthorized as the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. It states that federal employees are prohibited from exercising “any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system.”
“The intention when that language was put into the statute,” Mr. Cross said, “was that these were decisions that had to be made at the local level in connection with local standards. I think there’s no question what went on [in Reading First] is right on the border of crossing the line on that provision.”
A highly critical report issued by the Education Department’s inspector general last fall concluded that federal officials may have overstepped their authority in crafting the strict requirements. Inspector General John P. Higgins Jr. also said those officials seemed to favor a particular instructional method while discrediting others. ("Scathing Report Casts Cloud Over ‘Reading First’," Oct. 4, 2006.)
The crass and sometimes vulgar e-mail exchanges that underpinned the inspector general’s findings stunned many educators and policymakers. The findings led to a shakeup in the department’s Reading First office.
But advocates of the program, and allies of Mr. Doherty, protested that the report was overblown and had unfairly selected sensational e-mails to paint a dedicated and effective employee as a rogue operator within the department. The e-mail record, however, shows Mr. Doherty’s aggressive and arrogant tone repeated in messages to Mr. Lyon and other colleagues.
The e-mails were obtained by Education Week and a complainant in a case against the Department of Education through the Freedom of Information Act.
I am going to review all my [
—Reading First Director Christopher J. Doherty to G. Reid Lyon, a branch chief for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, citing concerns that
Monitoring will be key as usual. They will game the system if they can. They think they have already done everything and are getting the RF bucks to shine shit. How strong should I be with respect to guidance at the highest state level. I will meet with Gov. [Kathleen] Sebelius in the morning. How detailed should I be with respect to the shortcomings.
—Mr. Lyon to Mr. Doherty regarding
I have been in good, regular touch with
—Mr. Doherty to Mr. Lyon, referring to a review of
Confidentially: …Well, I spoke to [a
—Mr. Doherty to Mr. Lyon, in reference to the rejection of reading textbooks that they viewed as not meeting federal requirements, Sept. 5, 2003
Just got off the phone (again) with Randy Dunn. He confirms that [
—Mr. Doherty to Mr. Lyon, Feb. 15, 2005
SOURCE: National Institutes of Health
Some state and local officials said they felt bullied by Mr. Doherty. One such case played out in
The principal received help from a local supporter of the National Right to Read Foundation, which promotes phonics instruction. Robert W. Sweet Jr., then an influential senior analyst with the education committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and the founder of the NRRF, asked Mr. Lyon to look into the matter. Mr. Lyon corresponded with Mr. Doherty, a direct-instruction advocate, about the need to apply pressure to state leaders in
In March of 2005, after numerous telephone discussions and a meeting with state schools Superintendent Randy Dunn, Mr. Doherty sent a letter to the state, expressing his dissatisfaction with
“Clearly, there were issues of program compliance in
Mr. Thompson, the district chief, said the issue was a personnel matter, unrelated to Reading First. He said he wasn’t even aware that federal officials were involved and kept apprised of the situation in
Mr. Doherty and Mr. Lyon e-mailed each other repeatedly about the situation, sometimes in response to Mr. Sweet’s queries. They expressed outrage at what appeared to them to be mistreatment of the principal and district officials’ undermining of the direct-instruction program with “their ill-fated wrong turn to balanced literacy.”
Although “balanced literacy” is viewed by many educators as an approach incorporating a variety of skills- and literature-based reading methods, it is considered code for “whole language” by Mr. Doherty and others pushing more explicit and systematic instruction.
The field of reading instruction has been marked for decades by disputes over the best approach to teaching reading—generally speaking, a phonics-based vs. a literature-based approach. Over the past decade, a consensus has emerged that a combination of approaches is best, although there is still considerable debate over how much skills instruction is needed.
In response to Mr. Doherty’s demands,
The principal at Lewis Lemon Elementary sued the district. District officials said a settlement was reached in the case, but could not discuss the details.
“They made all these judgments about us when they knew absolutely nothing about what we were doing,” said Mr. Thompson, who added that he was perplexed how the revisions to the reading plan could be perceived as whole language. “We ended up getting into a war of labels.”
Mr. Doherty would not comment for this story. Sandi Jacobs, who helped administer Reading First as a senior program specialist with the Education Department, said she and Mr. Doherty believed that the Rockford district was “severely and significantly out of compliance.” They then pressed state officials to deal with the matter.
Story New York
Rod Paige, the
“New York City was a big concern, and legitimately so,” Mr. Lyon said in an interview this month. “If you put in place a new program that changes the rules, and you have a city like
After district officials added a stronger phonics text, one of the researchers involved in the review told Education Week she considered it a sound instructional approach. ("N.Y.C. Hangs Tough Over Maverick Curriculum," Oct. 15, 2003.)
Balanced Literacy Rebuffed
But later in 2003, as
In the interview, Mr. Lyon said state officials requested guidance on how
Mr. Lyon helped arrange for those researchers to meet with Chancellor Klein to outline their findings and discuss how the city’s schools could benefit from a commercial core program for reading, instead of the customized framework the city had crafted.
A federal contractor for Reading First oversaw the review and recommended that a task force, consisting of Ms. Shaywitz and other key researchers, be appointed to help the district choose an appropriate program.
Mr. Lyon regularly checked in with Mr. Doherty of Reading First to ask, “Can you brief me on the status of the NYC RF application as I am getting Qs from higher.” The request continued: “Did they do the right thing?” Later, Mr. Lyon indicated that there was “WH interest.”
The former NICHD branch chief, who managed the $120 million grant program for reading research at the National Institutes of Health in
Mr. Lyon also acknowledges in the e-mail that the text was just one of the essential components, “teachers and implementation being as important.”
In e-mails to Margaret Spellings, who was President Bush’s chief domestic-policy adviser before becoming education secretary, Mr. Lyon discusses “NY City,” according to the subject line. All but one line was redacted under an exemption in the federal freedom-of-informat
In sharing the message with Mr. Doherty, Mr. Lyon commented: “Gees – this never stops – we have to win this one.”
When the Education Department inspector general’s report was released, now-Secretary Spellings said that the problems cited “reflected individual mistakes.” But at least one former Education Department official has suggested that Ms. Spellings was deeply involved in the program while working at the White House.
“She micromanaged the implementation of Reading First from her West Wing office,” Michael J. Petrilli, who worked in the department from 2001 to 2005, under Secretary Paige and Secretary Spellings, wrote in the National Review Online last fall. “She was the leading cheerleader for an aggressive approach.”
Mr. Petrilli, now a vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a
Ms. Spellings has not responded to the allegations about her role. The Education Department did not respond to a request for comment last week.
The 1.1 million-student district’s Reading First funding is considered vulnerable because the inspector general found its grant application should not have been approved, and recommended that the state take back its $107 million grant.
Chancellor Klein would not comment for this article. But in a August 2003 interview with The New York Times, he said: “I think it’s a ‘less filling/tastes great’ debate. I don’t believe curriculums are the key to education. I believe teachers are.”
Many other Reading First details large and small came to the attention of Mr. Lyon and Mr. Doherty between 2003 and 2005, which they discussed by e-mail. Mr. Lyon also visited states to provide guidance on Reading First.
In March 2003, for example, he agreed to meet with a handful of
After meeting with officials in
Local educators, researchers, community leaders, or parents alerted them to some issues.
“As you may remember, RF got Maine to UNDO its already made decision to have Rigby be one of their two approved core programs (Ha, ha – Rigby as a CORE program? When pigs fly!) We also as you may recall, got NJ to stop its districts from using Rigby (and the Wright Group, btw) and are doing the same in
In May 2005, Harcourt Achieve Inc., which owns the Rigby Literacy program, issued a press release outlining changes it made to the program to ensure it aligned more closely with research. The changes were prompted, the company said, by deficiencies that were brought to light by the Reading First grant reviews.
And when a Texas consultant informed Mr. Lyon and Mr. Doherty of breaches in that state’s Reading First program by the interim state commissioner of education, they debated in a series of e-mail exchanges with a researcher how best to get state officials back in line. They discussed getting influential advisers to the Bush administration, and federal officials with
By many accounts, Mr. Doherty, a former director of a Baltimore-based organization that oversees direct-instruction reading, was a tireless leader for the program. Reading First, which has the support of many educators, was intended to bring research-based instruction to the nation’s underperforming schools. Mr. Doherty and Ms. Jacobs were essentially the only staff members assigned full time to the program.
Many state officials rallied to his defense when the inspector general’s report was released last fall. Reading First recently received the highest performance rating of all NCLB programs from the White House Office of Management and Budget.
“It’s not that Reading First was over the top,” Ms. Jacobs said. “It’s much more that many programs [administered by the Education Department] are severely undermonitored.”
Sol Stern, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and an outspoken critic of
“If Doherty’s sin was to lean on a state education agency or two to promote a reading program backed by science over one that wasn’t, well, that’s just what the Reading First legislation intended,” Mr. Stern, wrote in the Winter 2007 edition of City Journal, the institute’s magazine.
Mr. Lyon, who is designing a teacher-preparation program for the Dallas-based Best Associates, said this month that the “hypervigilant monitoring” was necessary, but that he did not anticipate how the Reading First mandates would be complicated by the issue of local control.
“Here you have local control, which historically has always been there, and then you have Reading First being very prescriptive,” he said.
“In my mind, Reading First has to carry the day,” he added.
Critics, other observers, and some stakeholders alike, however, say the results do not necessarily justify the heavy-handed management. Some vendors claim their reading programs were not given a fair shake. The nonprofit Success for All program, for example, has lost business under the federal initiative, according to founder Robert E. Slavin, despite its extensive research and documented results. Many of the e-mail documents were obtained recently by Mr. Slavin from the National Institutes of Health, more than 18 months after he submitted the request.
Some of the commercial programs that have been widely adopted by Reading First schools did not have any more evidence of effectiveness than others that were not as successful.
“The law said nothing about picking specific programs, it just indicated scientifically based programs. But when we looked at the other programs that were being approved, we saw very little evidence that those were more scientific than the ones we were trying to use,” said Gene Wilhoit, who as state superintendent in
Mr. Wilhoit, now the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said, “We didn’t feel like [the federal oversight] was just an attempt to hold onto the integrity of the program.”
Susan B. Neuman, who helped roll out the program as the Education Department’s assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, agrees. Some of the e-mails were also shared with Ms. Neuman, and in a few of the exchanges, Mr. Doherty indicated he was relaying Ms. Neuman’s views on how the program should be carried out.
But in one e-mail to her, Mr. Doherty suggests that she should not be involved in the talks over state applications and implementation. Ms. Neuman, who left the department in January 2003, has said that she was left out of many discussions with state officials.
“They far exceeded their mandate,” she said in an interview, referring to Mr. Doherty and other federal officials. “We wanted to figure out ways that we could make Reading First a more powerful intervention [than previous federal programs], but certainly not in micromanaging school districts.”
“In the beginning,” Ms. Neuman added, “this was an honest effort to make something better, … but this is shameful behavior.”
Vol. 26, Issue 24, Pages 1,18
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Testimony on the small schools initiative
Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters
February 16, 2007
The Department of Education and New Visions have been boasting about the success of their small school initiative, and the results of the first crop of small schools in the
But let us take a step back, to the independent evaluation of these same schools, completed in March 2005 by Policy Studies Associates, which New Visions attempted to suppress, until it was leaked to the NY Times nine months later. 
By gaining access to records for the entering high school class for which this new WestEd study examines outcomes, the PSA analysis substantiated what DOE officials to this day continue to deny: that these schools enrolled students with better scores, attendance, and grades than the students in the large schools who were left behind.
The students at the small schools had eighth grade math and reading scores significantly higher than their peers in the comparison schools; Only 10% of NCHS students scored below basic in their 8th grade ELA exams, compared with 35% at their host schools -- with a similar disparity in seen in math. Moreover, 97% had been promoted in the prior year, compared with only 59% of the students at the comparison schools.
They had better attendance records (91% compared to 81%), and were less likely to have been suspended. They were much less likely to need special education services. Only 6% of Bronx NCHS students had IEPs, compared with 25% at the comparison schools; and none of the NCHS students had the most serious disabilities. Indeed, teachers at the new small schools praised their principals for "recruiting more high-performing students".
Moreover, since that study was released, more attention has been drawn to the fact that these schools are exempt from enrolling any special education or ELL students for the first two years of their existence. This led to a civil rights complaint by the Citywide Council on High schools, as well as recent reports by the Immigration Coalition, Advocates for Children, and the New York Lawyers for Public Interest, showing the discrimination against these students continues to this day .
Our main concern, however, is the issue of class size, and that all students in NYC public schools receive the smaller classes they need to have a better opportunity to learn.
While class sizes at the larger high schools averaged 30 students or more, class sizes at most of the new small schools were between 13 and 20 students, as the first year PSA evaluation noted. As a result, according to observers, students were on task 82% of the time in any given time. 
The fact that these schools provided much smaller classes was observed by students to be their most valuable aspect: students “said that they liked the small class sizes, the willingness of teachers to provide extra help…” Another student said, “I like the close thing with teachers and that you can discuss your problems with them.” According to another, “I like that it’s small, and we each get attention. There’s not one person who doesn’t get attention from our teachers. And they treat us all the same. In a normal high school, they don’t talk to you when you have a problem. They don’t care.” 
This contrasted with the dreary picture of conditions at the large high schools. As a student interviewed for the second year evaluation pointed out, "the teachers I have had at other schools never knew me." Another: “My friends are in larger schools and have problems I don’t have, including the problem of teachers who are never available to give extra help.” Indeed, without smaller classes it's hard to see how these small schools could have succeeded in their mission at all. 
We now have official DOE class size data to confirm that class sizes are smaller at many of the new small schools than the large schools in which they sit. At Pelham Prep, for example, a school with an openly selective admissions process, most classes average 22-24 students per class, as compared to 27-28 at Columbus HS, in which it is located and has many more high-needs students.
The High school for Teaching and Professions provides classes that range from 20-25 students, as compared to its host school, Walton, which has classes of 29 in most subjects, even though it has been failing for many years.
Yet the small classes as well as the administrative and cluster spaces required by every new school put increased pressure on their host schools, as well as the system as a whole, already severely overcrowded. As noted by the PSA study, many of the host and neighboring schools began operating at 150% capacity as a result, since the “number of 9th graders entering the new schools did not match the number of nine graders being turned away from schools that were being phased out.”
In the PSA report, both teachers and principals noted the hostility from staff and students at the host schools that followed: "According to them, the tension stemmed from host schools being overcrowded and resenting having to give up resources and space to the small schools...Another [teacher] said..."Our students fight with the students from the other schools --- that's the extent of [our relationship with them.]”  Clearly, the fact that most of the schools with smaller schools placed within them subsequently became Impact schools was not coincidental.
Many others noted the negative effects of the small schools initiative not only on their "host" schools but on nearby high schools as well -- as a huge influx of transfers, including many "at risk" and special education students who were being excluded from these schools flooded other schools nearby.
See for example, the comments of Robert Leder, principal of Lehman High school, who wrote that "one of the most serious negative results ”of the small schools initiative “ ....has been to transfer thousands of displaced students, often the most at-risk to other, already overcrowded schools."
He reported an increase in 50% of the number of special education students at Lehman, "because of the system's failure to include these students proportionately in the new school registers...
Clearly, the smaller schools appear to have better graduation rates, though the actual figures cited in the WestEd report appear to be significantly inflated, just as DOE’s figures are. But why should this be surprising? If, as we have seen, if the smaller schools enrolled stronger students and provided them with smaller classes, it should be obvious that their outcomes would be more successful than those of other schools.
The more meaningful questions one should ask are the following: is this initiative equitable, has it led to systemwide improvements, and is it sustainable?
I think we can now safely conclude that it is not equitable, if lower-achieving, special education and ELL students are unfairly excluded, and facing even more overcrowded conditions as a result.
Has it led to systemwide improvements? The evidence is not clear. Though the DOE claims graduation rates of 58%, the highest in 20 years, the State Education Department reports that the actual NYC graduation rate is closer to 43%. In addition, high school attendance continues to fall, and discharge and suspension rates have increased sharply over the last four years.
Is it sustainable? Indeed at this point, there is not even an explicit plan on the part of the administration to ensure that the smaller classes provided by these new small schools will survive. As a national evaluation of the Gates-funded schools observed, budget pressures and a lack of sufficient planning led to a sharp increase in class size at two thirds of the schools they studied nationwide in their second and third years, which severely undermined their chance of success.
According to this study, “In school designs dependent on close teacher-student relationships that enable personalized learning, these [class size] increases have a pronounced effect. Teachers frequently cited their ability to spend time one-on-one with students as what makes these schooling environments possible; with more students in each class, such personalized attention became much more difficult to deliver.”
The DOE official class size data reveals that currently, in many of the new small schools, 9th grade classes are significantly larger than 12th grade classes, suggesting that the trend towards increasing class sizes may be occurring in NYC as well.
And what about the majority of
In a New Visions interim report, there is a timeline in which by 2010, "innovative educational methods from NYC's small high schools" are supposed to "improve teaching and learning at the city's traditional high schools."  This is critical, since even if its ambitious goal is achieved of 200 new smaller schools, fully two thirds of NYC students will continue to attend larger high schools.
As the class sizes of the small schools appear to be their most successful elements, without a plan to eventually provide smaller classes and more individualized instruction to all high school students, it is difficult to see how this will occur. And yet the administration has no plan to reduce average class size in any grade higher than third – even with more than $5 billion in additional funding. If there is no attempt to reduce class sizes in our large high schools, which average 30 students or more, the small schools initiative will continue to be a zero-sum game, with worse conditions for all of those students locked out and left behind.
I would be remiss if I were not to mention the fact that in the New York State legislature, a bill is about to be introduced by Assembly Members Nolan and Lancman, requiring that a minimum of 25% of the additional state funds our schools will receive over the next four years be used to phase in smaller classes in all grades to levels that exist in the rest of the state.
I hope that this committee, and the Council as a whole, supports this legislation, so that all our children, not just those who attend small schools, will eventually receive the smaller classes they need and deserve.
Thank you for your time.
Rethinking High School: Inaugural Graduations at ’s New High Schools, http://www.wested. New York City org/online_ pubs/gf-07- 01.pdf
 Michael C. Rubenstein, Elizabeth R. Reisner et.al., “New Century High Schools: Evaluation Findings from the Second Year,” March 16, 2005.
David M. Herszenhorn, Study Raises Issues on Small High Schools
New York Times, November 4, 2005; http://www.nytimes.
 None of the small school students had the most serious special education diagnoses (autistic, deaf, emotionally disturbed, or brain impaired) while 3% of them did in the comparison schools.
 “Small Schools, Few Choices,”
 Elizabeth R. Reisner, et.al., “Evaluation of the New Century High Schools Initiative: Report on Program Implementation in the First Year,” December 15, 2003;
“Two classroom features emerging from the classroom observations offer promise for the schools’ future development, however. These are small classes and generally high levels of time on task. The English language arts classes observed for the evaluation averaged 16 students present per class, with most classes serving 13 to 20 students. The largest class we observed numbered 25 students and the smallest class served only one student. During the 249 instructional segments for which data were recorded, an average of 82 percent of students were on task in any given 10-minute segment.” (44)
 Ibid, 1st year report, p. 59. More comments from students about the class size at small schools: “Teachers listen to you and get your opinion.” “In a normal high school, they don’t talk to you when you have a problem. They don’t care.” Another student said, “Slipping through the cracks? Not at this school!”
 Second Year Evaluation, p.34 .
 Ibid., p.4.
 Second year evaluation, p. 44. There was good reason for the students at the large schools to feel resentful. Despite the claim made by Robert Hughes in his City Council testimony that there were many unused or underutilized spaces at
 See letter from Robert Leder, principal of Lehman HS, to Marlene Filewich, Local Instructional Superintendent, dated March 3, 2005. Deteriorating conditions were observed at many high schools throughout the city as a result of the way in in which the small schools initiative was implemented. See related article by David C. Bloomfield, Professor at
 In the WestEd report, there are many confusing and contradictory statements about the methods used to calculate the graduation rates of the small schools. At one point, the authors claim that “the calculations reported are for a four-year cohort as defined by NY State.” Yet according to the testimony of Robert Hughes of New Visions at the NY City Council hearings on February 16 , students discharged to GED programs were not counted in the cohort, which is contrary to the methods used by NY State, the US Dept. of Education, as well as every independent agency, and inflates the results.
 These researchers suggested that instead of continuing to establish more new schools, without a plan to sustain the features that make them successful, the Gates foundation and its grantees should instead “focus more of their energy and resources on protecting the schools that have already been started.” American Institutes for Research and SRI International, “Creating Cultures for Learning: Supportive Relationships in New and
 The other possible explanation is that large numbers of students are dropping out or have been transferred out of these schools before 12th grade, putting into question their reported graduation rates.
 New Visions, “New Century high schools and the small schools movement in