Monday, July 27, 2009

Charter Schools and Non-unionized Maintenance Workers

The city as far as I am aware is bound to pay union scale for the trades. Guiliani tried to get around this and there were large angry demos about this. Remember the Daily News pix of the carpenter punching a police horse in the jaw when the cops tried to halt their march through mid town?

Anyway, all these renovations that the Charters do to their halls and classrooms, are they performed by unionized labor? Are the contracts for such projects no bid? I wonder how things are run at the UFT's own charter schools?

Phase II of mayoral control is charters and school closings big time. We need all the help we can get. The building trades unions (including the operating engineers which the school custodian belongs to I believe) might see their interests at stake here and take an interest even though Unity caucus thinks charters are just dandy.



You raise good questions re: wages for those maintenance/custodial/repair worker wages. See posts below on recent court ruling. I would think that

Charters will use this ruling to their favor even in a Public School Building housing their charterschool. [highlights are mine.]

Check out basis: "private educational corporations such as charter schools"....But don't they claim to be public!!!!!!!!


Court: NY charter schools not subject to prevailing wage laws

April 02, 2009 3:50 PM

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A New York appeals court says charter schools' contracts for construction, renovation, repair and maintenance are not subject to a state labor law requiring payment of prevailing wage rates.

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court is reversing trial courts and the state Labor Department's 2007 opinion that followed an amendment to the law.

According to the appeals court ruling Thursday, the prevailing wage provisions apply to contracts by public agencies or third parties either acting on their behalf or as beneficiaries.

The five justices ruled the law limits application of the wage rule and does not specifically apply to private educational corporations such as charter schools, which hope to save money by negotiating less costly contracts.

Bela Kiraly

Bela Kiraly


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Béla Király (14 April 1912 - 4 July 2009)

Király, who became the general who commanded the revolutionary forces in the Hungarian uprising of 1956, died at the age of 97. He had been emeritus professor of history at Brooklyn Collage, having taught there from 1964 to 1982.

Major General Király in his various obituaries is not cited as a member of any of the organized religions.

On 23 July 2009, he was buried with military honors in Budapest. Speaking at a ceremony prior to the burial Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai said that Kiraly endorsed clear and fair principles he had followed throughout nine decades and had served the Hungarian cause while living in emigration after the revolution.

Kiraly graduated from the Budapest Military Academy in 1942, and fought in the Second World War. Promoted to general in 1950, he became commander of the Military Academy. A year later, however, he was sentenced to death, later mitigated to life imprisonment, under a trumped-up charge of conspiracy against the state.

After the 1956 uprising he fled to Austria and later emigrated to the United States, where he lectured at universities. He worked as a military historian and wrote several volumes during the decades of emigration.

In 1989 Kiraly returned to Hungary and to become one of the speakers at the reburial ceremony of Imre Nagy, prime minister in 1956, and his associates executed in 1958.

From 1990 to 1994 Kiraly was an independent member of Hungary's first freely elected post-communist Parliament.


Upon his death, the former major general who was considered a folk hero in Hungary received recognition in various worldwide obituaries:

Associated Press

The Economist

The Guardian

The Independent

JTA, Global News Service of the Jewish People

The New York Times

Osa Archivum

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

San Francisco Chronicle

The Telegraph


Students' Comments

Dennis Middlebrooks, Brooklyn, New York

Fellow members of the Civil War forum may have read of the recent passing of Bela Kiraly at age 97 in Hungary. He was the general in command of the Hungarian forces in Budapest during the 1956 uprising against the Soviets. After he fled under a death sentence, he came to the USA, earned his Ph. D. at Columbia University, and taught a course in military history at Brooklyn College for many years before returning to Hungary after the collapse of communism. He was a prominent figure in the Hungarian government right up until his death.
I had the privilege of taking Kiraly's course as an undergraduate at Brooklyn College back in 1972 and as I recall, he was a strong admirer of Lee and Jackson. He used the battle of Chancellorsville as one of his examples of brilliant tactics, and had a map of the battlefield with troop movements hung on the blackboard. Best history course I ever took.

Norm Scott describes a memorable evening with his former history teacher at Brooklyn College

Kiraly's hero was Imre Nagy, the Hungarian leader, who was executed not long after the revolution, and his eyes misted just a bit when talking about Nagy. Kiraly swore he would not set foot in Hungary again until Nagy was given an honored place of burial and so it was done.
I asked him what he thought of the current demos, from what I read, expecting he might offer them some support since the party in power they were criticizing had communist influences. "They are right wing agitators," he said, "not trying to make the situation more democratic. Democracy is what is important." And that was the essence of Bela Kiraly. Neither pro or anti communist, but pro-democracy.

Marvin L. Sussman, Brooklyn College '68

As a science major, history had been a required course for me. Professor Kiraly made history come alive. After I graduated, we remained in contact for many years. Bela Kiraly has had many careers, soldier, general, commander, teacher, writer, and statesman - who better to teach world history of the 20th Century than someone who literally wrote it?

Several Posts re: Obama/Duncan's Race to the Top

Thanks to Joan Seedorf for compiling this list of responses. Not all of the links work.

I found several posts on [nyceducationnews] and copied them to this 1 forward.
I don't think I saw this on Ice-mail, but if they are up already, sorry for the
I started with the earlier ones-the Draft (on Thursday), and then comments on
the plan (from Sat) and finally the Official Press Release from Obama & Duncan
announcing the contest/application for the states to get the education stimulus

From: Leonie Haimson <>
To: nyceducationnews@ yahoogroups. com
Sent: Thursday, July 23, 2009 10:21:23 PM
Subject: [nyceducationnews] Draft Race to the Top regulations would ban New York

Duncan wants to use his $4.3 billion slush fund to reward states that use test
score data in illogical, unreliable and ultimately destructive ways.

And get this: a student achievement is now defined as his or her score on the
state’s standardized tests.

But generously, they leave room for “States that need more time — for example,
to pass legislation, engage stakeholders and secure commitments, or develop
thoughtful plans,” according to the draft regulations.

And Liebman is writing the grant proposal. Talk about the blind leading the

Draft Race to the Top regulations would ban New York State

by Elizabeth Green

The Obama administration’ s proposed regulations on a $4.3 billion federal fund
for schools would block New York State from receiving any of the money,
according to a draft copy of the regulations that I obtained today.

States that block schools from using “data about student achievement” to
evaluate teachers would be banned from applying to the fund, called the Race to
the Top grant, under the proposed regulations. (The ban is written in a tricky
double-negative way, saying that only states that don’t have such a law are
eligible to apply for grants.)

The regulations define “student achievement” as “a student’s score on the
State’s standardized test,” for subjects that are tested. For subjects that
aren’t part of federally required testing regimes, states can propose an
alternative measure, including scores on quizzes known as “interim assessments.”

New York State law prohibits principals from using student test scores when
deciding whether to give a teacher tenure or not. The law was passed last year
after private lobbying by the state teachers’ union, and against loud objections
from the Bloomberg administration.

A spokesman for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Peter Cunningham, confirmed
the language in a brief phone call just now. The draft regulations will be
released publicly at midnight tonight, Cunningham said.

The Race to the Top fund is a tiny slice of the $97.5 billion federal stimulus
package for education, meant to spur innovation. Obama administration officials
have indicated they will use the fund to steer states and local school districts
towards policies federal school officials support. Duncan and members of his
administration have mentioned policies banning the use of student test scores
and caps on charter schools as likely targets.

The proposed regulations would leave a window for states such as New York to
receive the Race to the Top dollars if they revise their education laws in the
next year. The regulations outline two phases of grant-making, one accepting
applications “in late 2009″ and the other in “mid-late Spring 2010.”

The second phase is designed for “States that need more time — for example, to
pass legislation, engage stakeholders and secure commitments, or develop
thoughtful plans,” according to the draft regulations.

The draft regulations would also give preference to states that meet other
policy priorities, such as by agreeing to pursue national curriculum standards
and by not limiting the number of charter schools. But the regulations would not
bar states that do not meet those criteria from applying for Race to the Top

Before warning against applications by states with specifically policies, Duncan
singled out New York State and New York City as good candidates to apply to the
fund. He said the city’s school policies fit into the wider purpose outlined for
the fund, which is outlined in four categories: “standards and assessment,
improving teacher effectiveness and achieving equity in teacher distribution,
improving collection and use of data, and supporting struggling schools.”

A former head of the city’s accountability office, James Liebman, is now tasked
to the special project of writing an application for the grant.

From: Leonie Haimson <>
Subject: [nyceducationnews] Obama's Heavy-handed Education Plan
Date: Saturday, July 25, 2009, 10:02 PM

Diane on point as usual.

Obama's Heavy-handed Education Plan

http://www.politico .com/arena/

On Friday, the Obama administration announced the regulations for its $5 billion
slush fund, er, "Race to the Top" fund. Remember, that part of the $100 billion
stimulus money for education that Congress set aside that was absolutely
positively necessary? Well, it turns out that $95 billion is helping to save
teachers' jobs in the wake of the financial meltdown, and the remainder was left
as play money for the Department of Education. (When I worked at the Department
of Education in 1991, we had $10 million in discretionary funds, not $5

But the $5 billion (or $4 point something billion) is money that Secretary Arne
Duncan is using to push the states and the nation to adopt what he believes is
necessary to reform American education. The key ideas are these: lots more
charter schools; lots more privatization; evaluate teachers based on the test
scores of their students; open more alternate routes into teaching to break the
grip of professionalism.

Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute writes on Gadfly that this
"Race to the Top" program should be called "NCLB 2: The Carrot That Feels Like a
Stick." As a former Bush administration official, he knows what he's talking
about. He likes the Duncan plans, but can't resist shedding a tear for the death
of federalism. Now, says Petrilli, we have entered fully into the age of
"Washington Knows Best at its worst." He writes: "If you found No Child Left
Behind prescriptive, just wait till you take a look at this baby."

The problem here is obvious: What if Washington doesn't know best? What if the
"reform" ideas are wrong? Just a few weeks ago, a respected Stanford
University study reported that 80% or more of charter schools are no better than
or worse than their neighborhood public school. Why replace struggling public
schools with worse charter schools? There is a ton of evidence that evaluating
teachers based on student test scores is a lousy idea (see the work of Jesse
Rothstein at Princeton , for example).

And then there is this nagging question: If Duncan knows so much about how to
reform American education, why didn't he reform Chicago 's schools? A report
came out a couple of weeks ago from the Civic Committee of Chicago ("Still Left
Behind") saying that Chicago's much-touted score gains in the past several years
were phony, that they were generated after the state lowered the passing mark on
the state tests, that the purported gains did not show up on the federal tests,
and that Chicago 's high schools are still failing. On the respected federal
tests (NAEP), Chicago is one of the lowest performing cities in the nation.

Why is Washington pushing "reform" ideas that have so little evidence behind
them, as well as ideas that will positively harm public education in America ?

Diane Ravitch

From: Leonie Haimson <>
Subject: [nyceducationnews] The Race to the Top: The carrot that feels like a
Date: Saturday, July 25, 2009, 10:04 PM

« Race to the Top docs

http://www.edexcell flypaper/ index.php/ 2009/07/the- race-to-the-
top-the-carrot- that-feels- like-a-stick/


The Race to the Top: The carrot that feels like a stick

I’m pleased to announce this summer’s latest blockbuster , from the creators of
No Child Left Behind, it’s: "NCLB 2: The Carrot That Feels Like a Stick."

At least that’s how I suspect the proposed Race to the Top application is going
to seem to the states. If you found No Child Left Behind prescriptive, just wait
till you take a look at this baby. (It’s due out at noon on Friday.)

To be clear, the application is jam-packed with reform ideas that I find
promising, even exciting (the "whole enchilada," as I told USA Today ). Evaluate
teachers in part based on student achievement gains! Replicate excellent charter
schools and ramp up accountability for lackluster ones! Expand high-quality
alternate route programs! If even a few st ates change their policies to be in
alignment with the vision articulated here, our country will be the better for

But while the substance is worth celebrating, I can’t help but feel remorse for
the death of federalism. Granted, as a former Bush Administration official, this
is like me expressing regret that the Obama team is blowing a hole in the
federal budget. They are merely reaping what we sowed.

But the Obama Administration had a choice. It could have asked states for their
best ideas for achieving big objectives, like improving teacher quality or
turning around low-performing schools. Instead, it has published a list of 19 of
its best ideas, few of which are truly "evidence-based," regardless of what
President Obama says , and told states to adopt as many of them as possible if
they want to get the money. It’s as if a bunch of do-gooders sat together at the
NewSchools Venture Fund summit and brainstormed a list of popular reform ideas,
and are now going to force them upon the states. (Wait, I think that is how this
list got developed.)

This is Washington Knows Best at its worst, and runs the risk of seeing states
superficially swear allegiance to these reform ideas but implement them
half-heartedly down the road.

Still, I have to admit to being torn. I like the ideas embedded in=2 0the
application (and yes, I enjoy attending the NewSchools summit too!). And after
seeing what Arne Duncan has been able to accomplish on the charter school cap
front, just by dangling extra money out there, I suspect that this approach
might actually work in terms of moving the needle on state policy.

But get ready for a backlash. States don’t take kindly to Washington pushing
them around, and kicking a dog that’s down isn’t always the smartest strategy.

Arne Duncan has made some promising comments about moving federal policy to be
"tight" on results and "loose" on process. It’s impossible to see how that jibes
with the application released today. He’d better start walking that talk, lest
he lose support from the field before the even bigger No Child Left Behind
debates get underway.

Note: See coverage from the Washington Post , including a transcript of its
interview with President Obama . Also see USA Today , AP , Education Week , the
Wall Street Journal , and the New York Times .

Update : You can view the Race to the Top application for yourself here .

President Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan Announce National
Competition to Advance School Reform
Obama Administration Starts $4.35 Billion "Race to the Top" Competition, Pledges
a Total of $10 Billion for Reforms

July 24, 2009 Contact: Justin Hamilton,
Deputy Press Secretary
(202) 401-1576 or


Race to the Top

Recovery programs

Secretary's remarks

Race to the Top notice
PDF (180K)

State Stabilization notice
PDF (168K)

State Data Systems notice
PDF (40K)

President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today
announced that states leading the way on school reform will be eligible to
compete for $4.35 billion in Race to the Top competitive grants to support
education reform and innovation in classrooms. Between the 2009 budget and the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more than $10 billion in grant
money will be available to states and districts that are driving reform.

"This competition will not be based on politics, ideology, or the preferences of
a particular interest group. Instead, it will be based on a simple
principle—whether a state is ready to do what works. We will use the best data
available to determine whether a state can meet a few key benchmarks for
reform—and states that outperform the rest will be rewarded with a grant. Not
every state will win and not every school district will be happy with the
results. But America's children, America's economy, and America itself will be
better for it," President Obama said in a speech at the U.S. Department of
Education headquarters in Washington.

The centerpiece of the Obama administration's education reform efforts is the
$4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund, a national competition which will highlight
and replicate effective education reform strategies in four significant areas:

Adopting internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare
students for success in college and the workplace;
Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and
Building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and
principals how they can improve their practices; and
Turning around our lowest-performing schools.
"The $4.35 billion Race to the Top program that we are unveiling today is a
challenge to states and districts. We're looking to drive reform, reward
excellence and dramatically improve our nation's schools," Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan said at the event.

In addition to the Race to the Top Fund, over the coming months the Department
plans to award more than $5.6 billion in additional grants through several other
federal programs that support the Administration's reform priorities, making
available dollars that have been allocated by Congress under the FY 2009 budget
and the ARRA. The Department of Education will be publishing draft regulations
on each of the programs in coming weeks. In releasing the documents, Secretary
Duncan is calling on state officials to intentionally prepare to use money from
all of these programs in an integrated way to advance these essential areas of

The additional programs include the $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund.
Like Race to the Top, the Investing in Innovation Fund is part of the ARRA. It
will support local efforts by school districts and partnerships with nonprofits
to start or expand research-based innovative programs that help close the
achievement gap and improve outcomes for students.

With $297 million in the Teacher Incentive Fund, states and districts will
create or expand effective performance pay and teacher advancement models to
reward teachers and principals for increases in student achievement and boost
the number of effective educators working with poor, minority, and disadvantaged
students and teaching hard-to-staff subjects.

With $315 million from the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems program, states
will expand their data systems to track students' achievement from preschool
through college and link their achievement to teachers and principals.
Applications for these funds are being posted today.

With $3.5 billion in Title I School Improvement Grants, the Department will
support states in efforts to reform struggling schools, and focus on
implementing turnaround models in the lowest-performing schools. Secretary
Duncan has set a goal of turning around the bottom 5 percent of schools in the
next five years. In addition, $919 million in State Educational Technology
Grants to help bring technology into the classroom will be made available. These
funds are distributed to states by formula but states must deliver at least half
of the money to districts on a competitive basis. States can make all of the
money competitive.

Within Race to the Top, $350 million has also been set aside to help fund common
assessments for states that adopt common international standards. Draft
guidelines and criteria for the Race to the Top competition as well as the
second round of grants from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund are being
published today.

An application for the state data system grants also is being published today.
In the coming weeks, the Department will release guidance on the Investing in
Innovation Fund, the Teacher Incentive Fund, the Title I School Improvement
Grants, and the State Educational Technology Grants.

The Department will finalize the regulations and start accepting applications
for the Race to the Top competition this fall. The first round of grants will go
out early next year. The second round of applications will likely be due in June
2010 and final awards will be made in September.

"States will have two chances to win," Duncan said. "They have plenty of time to
learn from the first-round winners, change laws where necessary, build
partnerships with all key stakeholders, and advance bold and creative reforms."



Back to July 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Paul Moore: Business Roundtable Hands Off To Obama Administration

The Business Roundtable, which has directed the attack on public education is now deeply enmeshed in an existential struggle to save itself and its crumbling global economy. So the CEO's have turned their school privatization campaign over to the US government and Obama's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Duncan soldiers on with the dead-end corporate catechism. Charter schools are good, public school teachers are bad, and their unions need to stop their resistance to merit pay. Duncan has pledged to use billions of taxpayers money to close inner-city public schools and make sure those really bad teachers in those schools finally get their comeuppance.

But Duncan will fail just as the Business Roundtable, Gates, Broad, and the Waltons have failed because these forces have tried to hold back the tide of history. Ultimately, teachers will takeover the public schools and dictate educational policy in the US. Those teachers will have to work through their faux-unions like the AFT and WTU where figurehead George Parker simply carries out policies handed down by labor aristocrats in the national office. But teachers will achieve that in time.

Ironically, when the teachers do run the schools, the "bad teachers" will be gone the next day. It'll take a crowbar because their lips will have to be detached from administrators backsides across the country. But they'll exit the classroom along with the standarized tests the bad teachers love so. Those outside the schools should know, the worst teachers love standardized testing and mindless data collection, they crave to be told what to do minute-by-minute in the classroom, they beg for rules to follow and rules to enforce. The worst teachers seek refuge from the classroom and usually find it in administration.

The best teachers are in the classroom by choice. They care for their students and want them to learn skills that will serve them in the real world not test taking skills. And concern for these children causes good teachers to guide them away from becoming cannon fodder in wars for oil in Iraq or Afghanistan. And concern for these children compels good teachers to guide them away from competition with Chinese children and Indian children and other children of the world to see who can work for less in sweatshops and farm fields. And good teachers do not lie to them about success and a wonderful job in a failed global economy if they will just do well on some meaningless test. Good teachers don't lie to children, like they are lied to everyday now!

What a disappointment you, President Obama, have chosen to join the bashers of our most vulnerable children and their teachers. They had such high hopes and trust in you after the hell George W. Bush put them through. But if that's the way it's going to be, bring it on.

Paul A. Moore

A $4 Billion Push for Better Schools
Obama Hopes Funding Will Be Powerful Incentive in 'Race to the Top'

By Michael D. Shear and Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, July 24, 2009

President Obama is leaning hard on the nation's schools, using the promise of more than $4 billion in federal aid -- and the threat of withholding it -- to strong-arm the education establishment to accept more charter schools and performance pay for teachers.

The pressure campaign has been underway for months as Education Secretary Arne Duncan travels the country delivering a blunt message to state officials who have resisted change for decades: Embrace reform or risk being shut out.

"What we're saying here is, if you can't decide to change these practices, we're not going to use precious dollars that we want to see creating better results; we're not going to send those dollars there," Obama said in an Oval Office interview Wednesday. "And we're counting on the fact that, ultimately, this is an incentive, this is a challenge for people who do want to change."

On Friday, Obama will officially announce the "Race to the Top," a competition for $4.35 billion in grants. He wants states to use funds to ease limits on charter schools, tie teacher pay to student achievement and move for the first time toward common academic standards. It is part of a broader effort to improve school achievement with a $100 billion increase in education funding, more money for community colleges and an increase in Pell Grants for college students.

Duncan has used the Race to the Top fund, created through the economic stimulus law, as leverage to drive the president's education agenda in Rhode Island, Tennessee, Colorado and elsewhere. Never has an education secretary been given so much money by Congress with such open-ended authority, according to current and former federal education officials. Margaret Spellings, Duncan's predecessor under George W. Bush, had a tiny fraction of that amount at her disposal.

Obama says stagnating student achievement is part of a "slow-rolling crisis" and represents a threat to the country's economic future. Stark achievement gaps remain for minority and low-income students. In some big cities, fewer than half of high school students graduate on time. The United States trails international competitors in math and science.

In trying to reverse those trends, he faces the same decentralized educational system and resistance to change that hampered Bush's No Child Left Behind law, which required annual testing to hold schools accountable for closing achievement gaps. Like his predecessor, Obama is using the federal treasury to power through the obstacles.

Unlike Bush, Obama must try to carefully bring along the teachers unions, a key Democratic constituency that so far has praised the president's goals but remains wary of the threat to members' paychecks and the promise of tenure.

"There are going to be elements within the teachers union where they're just resistant to change, because people inherently are resistant to change," Obama said during the 20-minute interview. "Teachers aren't any different from any politicians or corporate CEOs. There are going to be certain habits that have been built up that they don't want to change."

Already, some legislatures, eager for a share of the massive federal money pot, have begun clearing the way for more charter schools and taking other steps to show they are pro-reform.

The effort has helped Obama enlarge the federal role in an arena dominated by state and local governments, but there is deep skepticism about his approach. Congressional Republicans say the initiative, coupled with another $650 million for school reform under Duncan's control, is wasteful.

"We just took a big old checkbook with a $5 billion total behind it and handed it to the secretary and said, 'Write a whole bunch of checks,' " said Rep. John Kline (Minn.), the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee. "I'm uncomfortable that we're doing that."

Obama says the money will be distributed to states that can demonstrate results backed by data that show student scores and teacher performance are improving.

"It's not based on politics, it's not based on who's got more clout, it's not based on what certain constituency groups are looking for, but it's based on what works," he said. "Now, what we're also doing, though, is we're saying this is voluntary. If there are states that just don't want to go in this direction, that's their prerogative."

Leaders of the two largest teachers unions praise Obama's intentions to lift standards, raise teacher quality and turn around low-performing schools. But they acknowledge concerns about specifics.

"We're absolutely in sync with where they're going," said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. Van Roekel said performance pay, charter schools and links between student and teacher data raise difficult issues for his union. On the data issue, Van Roekel said he told Duncan: "This is going to be a tough one for us."

"The devil really is in the details," American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said. Many teachers fear they will be fired if they are judged unfairly on student test scores, Weingarten said. "You want to be respectful of an administration that believes in public education. And on the issues where you have differences, you try to work those out."

For Duncan, the stimulus law has provided an opportunity to steer billions of dollars to school reform on his own terms. Duncan has broad control over the Race to the Top fund and the $650 million to spur innovation through local school systems and nonprofit groups.

Since the law's enactment in February, states have inundated the department with queries about how to share in the bonanza. Duncan has dispensed plenty of tips: Lift restrictions on the growth of charter schools; build data systems that show individual student progress under specific teachers and principals; seek out new ways to turn around perennially struggling schools; and sign on to efforts to develop common academic standards that are tough enough to withstand international scrutiny.

Today, the department will formally unveil its criteria for the competition. Applications will be accepted starting late this year for states that want to be first in line, or next spring, for those needing more time. (The District is also eligible.) Money will be awarded in two waves next year. Up to $350 million from the fund will be carved out to support a recently announced effort by 46 states to develop common academic standards.

But even before applications begin, Duncan has scored several policy victories around the country by making carefully worded statements designed to send signals to lawmakers and school officials.

As the Rhode Island legislature debated $1.5 million in spending for two charter schools, Duncan said June 22 at a charter school conference in Washington: "We are fighting this on a state-by-state battle, that's the battleground. And places like Rhode Island that are thinking of underfunding charters are obviously going to put themselves at a huge competitive disadvantage going forward. So we don't think that's a smart thing for them to do, and we're going to make that very, very clear."

The money was restored.

In similar ways, Duncan has stepped into legislative debates in Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee and Massachusetts to advance or defend charter schools, though he points out that he wants to shut failing charter schools as much as he wants to open new ones.

In Tennessee, a law was enacted in June to expand the pool of students eligible to attend charter schools. Tennessee Education Commissioner Tim Webb said Duncan's advocacy helped move the bill through a divided legislature. Without the intervention, Webb said, "I don't think it would have passed."

Some are wary of the long arm from Washington. A Tennessee newspaper editorial railed against an "inappropriate threat" from federal officials. California officials are pushing back against suggestions that a state law on teacher evaluations could disqualify them from receiving funds.

"Don't count California out," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said in a telephone interview. "We plan on vigorously attempting to secure this funding."

Other states are maneuvering for advantage, too. The Colorado legislature passed three laws this year aimed at aligning state and federal goals on turning around low-performing schools, linking teacher and student data and helping students at risk of dropping out, according to Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien (D). One of the state laws "lifted language" verbatim from a federal education document, she said.

"I have read every speech that Arne Duncan and President Obama have given on education like a literary critic," she said. O'Brien has noted it all on a spreadsheet, and she is aggressively reviewing policies and developing coalitions to maximize the state's chances.

"We all know Colorado needs this money," she said. "Nobody wanted to be the group that threw up the roadblock that would kick us out of the competition."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stop Hijacking the Education System with Hijinks by Frank McCourt

Teachers looking for respect from politicians need to run for office themselves

City Hall

January 14th, 2008

By Frank McCourt

At what point in American history did politicians hijack public education? They think nothing of barging into classrooms across the country, shunting teachers aside and reading to children who wonder who they are in the first place, wonder who is this person boring us to death with his prose drone?

We all remember former Vice President Dan Quayle’s foray into spelling when, campaigning for a second term, he told a class of elementary school kids that potato was spelled potatoe. We remember how President George W. Bush read a story about a goat to children in Florida while the World Trade Center burned. Imagine a politician daring to enter the professional space of doctors, lawyers, engineers, dentists, interior decorators. Imagine.

The kids are primed well in advance, told this person coming here tomorrow is very, very important, that they better behave themselves and show respect to this very important person who will be reading to them, this person taking time out from a hectic schedule to show his/her interest in education.

But teachers are fair game. Here come the press people, the camera operators, the advance men or women and, hold it right there outside the classroom for the big smile and the apt comment on the state of the schools, the solon himself, today’s captivating reader, the one who will show the teacher how it’s done.

Politician enters room, acknowledges existence of teacher, limp handshake, faint smile, head nod.

Some teachers are flattered, of course. They’ll be right up there on TV tonight, and tomorrow the kids will rush in all excited after seeing themselves and their teacher on the news.

Oh, wow!

There’s Joey. There’s Sandra. Yeah, and there’s a glimpse of teacher being recognized by politician. (Teacher has the sickly smile of one aware she is being used. But don’t be like that, Teacher Lady. After all, you were singled out, checked out, background looked into, political affiliation determined before this politician was invited to invade your domain. You are going to be on TV, recognized, however briefly, before politician sits warily on three-legged stool to bore your kids to death with a story he never heard of before today.)

So, there’s the teacher, there’s the politician, there are the children. And we know where the power is. We know that whatever happens in the classroom, however effective the teacher, however accomplished or failing the kids are, it is the politician who controls the purse strings of education. We know when you sit on the pot of gold you can dictate what should be taught, how it should be taught, and who should teach it.

We are talking, of course, about the United States of America. It may be different in other countries where there is respect for teachers, where, in the matter of teaching and learning, they are heeded.

What do we hear in public education about the pursuit of wisdom? Nothing. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, we have decided the way to improve the schools is through testing, testing, testing. Unless they test well we don’t like our children. We brag to neighbors and other parents that our Jonathan scored way up there on that No Child Left Behind test and if all the children scored way up there we’d get more money from Washington. And what right-minded citizen wouldn’t want that? Politicians from different states and localities are over the moon when “their” kids score high on this test and that test.

Then there are the teachers. Oh, well. Those silly people in public schools went into the profession thinking they’d teach, you know, excite the kids. Forget the test, the quiz, the exam.

Politicians bark: Hold it right there, Teacher Lady. We don’t care what you do in the classroom as long as it can be measured and tested. We want results. Understand? Results. I mean, you’re not Socrates blathering away under a tree. If we’re doling out funds, we wanna know what you people are up to in the classroom.

So … back to the drawing board, teacher. Think results. Teach to the test because if you don’t, your representatives downtown, upstate and in D.C. will sit on the pot of gold ’til you come to your senses. Principals and bureaucrats in general will question your professionalism and you know what that means, teacher. To have your professionalism questioned by people who long ago fled the classroom is a serious matter. You might lose your good job, teacher. What would happen to the children?

Oh, the children. Don’t worry about them. Teachers will soon be replaced with robots capable of administering tests. Everything will be multiple choice and robots certainly know how to handle that. Curiosity will be discouraged and there will be no departure from the test-driven curriculum.

And you, teacher? What will you do with yourself?

Try politics. That way you can re-enter the classroom and, get this: you’ll be respected. You can read to the kids a story about a woman who wanted to be a teacher but was replaced by a robot because politicians wanted results and the politicians got their way because they know more about education than the teacher in the classroom, don’t they?

Frank McCourt won the Pulitzer Prize for “Angela’s Ashes.” The author and memoirist is a former New York City teacher.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Charter School Public Hearing: Staten Island,Aug. 3, 2009

Notice of Public Hearing
A public hearing is being held about two newly proposed charter school applications submitted to the Department of Education (DOE). The applicants hope to serve Community School District 31.
(NOTE: This hearing will be incorporated into the CEC 31 Calendar Meeting of August 3rd.)
Date: MONDAY, AUGUST 3, 2009
Time: 7:00-7:30 PM
Hearing Time: 7:30-8:30 PM (as part of the CEC Calendar Meeting)
Location: Petrides Complex
715 Ocean Terrace, Room 118A
Staten Island, New York 10301
Details: This public hearing is open to anyone interested in learning about the proposed charter school application for Barack Obama Community Charter School and New Worlds Preparatory Charter School.
Written comments will be collected on the day of the hearing and can be submitted via email to:
Pursuant to Education Law 2857(1), the New York City Department of Education is required to hold a public hearing to solicit comment from the community in connection with any proposal for a charter school.
Office of Charter Schools

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harlem Success Academy founder Eva Moskowitz in school rumble with Manhattan borough president

Maybe I'm a "UFT hack" (I'm not - I'm just a mother of two public school children!) but I don't see anything wrong with teachers having a lounge - isn't that a place they can go on their prep periods to put together lesson plans? In fact, every new school is also required to have a PTA room, though many old, overcrowded schools probably don't have them. It's one thing if a lounge or PTA room has to be sacrificed because a zoned school is overcrowded - it's quite another when such amenities are lost because a school is forced to accommodate a charter school.
I will continue to argue that charter schools should find their own space and the DOE - which is supposed to be concerned with regular DOE schools - shouldn't be incubating charters. I believe that charter schools should arise organically from the community or from educators who have a particular vision... and they shouldn't be created so former elected officials can pay themselves $370K a year as Eva Moskowitz does.
Marge Kolb
P.S. Accusing parents of being UFT drones seems to be the new tactic of those who don't think parents should express a point of view... In D24, those of us parents who supported a new high school in Maspeth were also accused of blindly following our UFT masters (and the UFT was accused of wanting a new HS to create jobs - as if the teaching jobs don't already exist in the overcrowded, split-session high schools nearby). It seems that the opinons of older, retired folks with no kids are the only ones which should count in some of these matters...

--- On Mon, 7/13/09, Leonie Haimson <> wrote:

From: Leonie Haimson <>
Subject: [nyceducationnews] Harlem Success Academy founder Eva Moskowitz in school rumble with Manhattan borough president
Date: Monday, July 13, 2009, 1:34 PM

Harlem Success Academy founder Eva Moskowitz in school rumble with Manhattan borough president

Saturday, July 11th 2009, 4:00 AM

http://www.nydailyn local/education/ 2009/07/11/ 2009-07-11_ expol_in_ school_rumble_ with_beep. html


Natasha Shannon with her daughters, students at the Harlem Success Academy , a charter school.

Related News


Harlem Success Academy founder Eva Moskowitz swapped scathing verbal blows Friday with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer after he toured a public school her charter plans to share space with.
In an incendiary press release, Moskowitz branded Stringer a teachers union "hack," while Stringer accused the former city councilwoman of using "thug tactics."
Parents and teachers at PS 123 have been fighting this fall's plan for a Success charter to expand the space it already shares with the school.
"The United Federation of Teachers isn't comfortable defending the indefensible, so they enlist UFT hacks like Stringer and ACORN to do their dirty work for them," said Moskowitz in the press release, titled "No Lounge Chair Left Behind."
The conflict over space - which includes the fate of the teachers' lounge - erupted anew last week after Moskowitz sent movers in, as reported exclusively by columnist Juan Gonzalez in the Daily News.
Locks on former PS 123 classroom doors were removed, police were called to stop the packing, and movers left the boxes of teachers' materials in the hallways and in the gym.
Department of Education officials said they hadn't approved the move yet and cited communication mistakes.
Moskowitz's unexpected move was "thug tactics" from "a failed politician," Stringer charged. He defeated her for the beep slot in 2005.
"This is a political real estate grab from someone who wants to create a political situation," added Stringer, who has called for a probe into the debacle.
UFT Chief Operating Officer Michael Mulgrew offered Moskowitz lessons in "civility and decorum" should she choose to accept them, noting the union had been approached by parents for help.
Moskowitz also called PS 123 a "failure" because only 57% of third-graders are reading at grade level.
But the city Department of Education has given PS 123 two consecutive B's on school report cards.

http://www.nydailyn local/education/ 2009/07/11/ 2009-07-11_ expol_in_ school_rumble_ with_beep. html#ixzz0LA66vR R1&D

Monday, July 13, 2009

Credit Recovery

Comments on NY Times piece on credit recovery:

Subject: [nyceducationnews] NYtime article on credit recovery.

The only issues i have about this article - is it doesn't question the improvement showing that less city college students need remediation courses. The reason for that is the high prices of state colleges. Many higher level students who would have previously attened state colleges are now attending the cheaper city colleges. This is not due to mayoral control.

The other problem is that it should have mentioned that the state edcation department were recently looking to make recovery courses even more lax. They proposed to get rid of seat time requirements for students, to allow the school to determine what is and is not credit recovery, and to hide the source of credits on students transcripts so no outside observer could discern a regular credit from recovery.

Plus, they did not mention that regents standards are so low, that it is not a measure of anything anymore. Only 33% and 46% respectively on the Algebra and Biology regents is needed for a scaled score of 65.

Otherwise, I think this article is very good at exposing all the loopholes klein and bloomberg are allowing to happen for their own stats. I'm not hopeful that they will reign this practice however, because improvement in statistics is the bedrock of their argument to voters to keep in control of DOE.
Seung Ok

Another point to make – just as credit recovery should be authenticated by officials independent from the school involved – since principals and teachers have so much riding on the graduation rates of the students at their own schools, with the legitimate fear of the school being shut down and losing their jobs if the rates don’t increase, and the promise of getting huge bonuses if the rates go up, so should their Regents exams be marked by outsiders.

That staff at schools continue to mark the Regents exams of their own students is really ridiculous, given the high stakes involved. It is an open invitation to corruption.
Leonie Haimson

Yes, and if anyone knows, can they relate to us the symbiotic relationships that go on between the New York State Education Department and whoever is pressuring them to lower standards on everything from regents test scoring and recovery credits?

Is it a self selecting pressure to maintain their jobs, that are beholden to appointed higher ups that lead to the governor? Call me naive, but can anyone connect the dots for me?
Seung Ok

More from Seung to the NYCEducation News Listserve:

Hi all,

Thanks to everyone who has been a part of exposing the inequalities and injustices happening now in public education.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of the public are unaware of this, and believes the mayor has been a positive force in this matter.

The key reason for this misconception seems to be the fraudulent rise in stats that the public is always told about. We can rally and shout till our faces turn blue, but we will never be able to convince the average citizen unless those statistics are exposed for the fraud they are.

Here are recent examples of how bad it's gotten in terms of the watering down of education:

- The june Algebra regents exam = Only 30 questions out of 87 are needed in raw score to get a "scaled" score of 65.

- Living Environment (biology) regents = only 39 out of 85 questions are needed...

- Summer school, after school, and "holiday" school courses, no longer substitute for 1 course credit to make up, but the equivalent of 3, 10 , up to 16 classes of failed courses. And the students sit and do pages of handouts that no one actually goes over or corrects.

- The NYSED is also complicit, and they are attempting to pass a resolution, where seat time is not even a requirement for students to get credit, and any project or paper can be subsituted for class time and credit. They want to change the transcripts as well, so no one can tell whether the credits were obtained in this manner.

I don't know if i ever told you, but the reason I became recently active after 11 years of teaching is because of a certain student in my Living Environment class. He is a senior, and can not read or write a line of text. I found out he received a majority of his credits from these recovery courses the mayor and kline turn a blind eye to. The fact that this student has reached the 12th grade without receiving attention sadly points to these practices ocurring at every grade level. Javier Hernandez of the NYtimes will mention this student in an upcoming article on credit recovery.

Maybe what is needed, along the lines of Brown vs the Board of Education, is a class action suit by parents that argues that these practives have a disparate impact on black and brown kids in the inner city. The lowering of standards does not impact affluent and middle class students (hence the lack of uproar in the general public) because those schools will continute to teach above and beyond the minimal standards. But these practices will essentially produce generations of black and brown students in the inner city , who will be inadequately prepared to survive in college and beyond.

I'm not sure how much the NYCLU, or parents, or community groups may perceive this as a legitimate strategy, but I'm concerned that if the landslide of fraudulent practices continues, - whatever gains that have been made in education in the inner city will be brought back decades.

Seung Ok

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Accountability for Performance – How Do Other Sectors Do It?

Date Published: July 3, 2009

[Richard Rothstein is a Research Associate of the Economic Policy Institute. This article is excerpted from his book, Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right (Teachers College Press and the Economic Policy Institute, 2008). For more detail on private sector experience with "pay for performance", see also Teachers, Performance Pay, and Accountability — What Education Should Learn From Other Sectors, by Scott J. Adams, John S. Heywood & Richard Rothstein (Economic Policy Institute, 2009)].

It is conventional to say that holding educators accountable and paying for higher test scores will improve performance. Eli Broad, whose foundation promotes incentive pay for teachers, states, "Virtually every o ther industry compensates employees based on how well they perform. … We know from experience across other industries and sectors that linking performance and pay is a powerful incentive."

Yet in reality, private sector pay is almost never based primarily on quantitative performance measures.

It is not hard to see why. Under No Child Left Behind, reliance on math and reading scores to evaluate performance has corrupted schooling. Educators have responded rationally to incentives that, to devote more time to math and reading, spur reductions in social studies, science, art, music, physical education, cooperative learning and other character-building activities. Reductions have been most severe for disadvantaged students who are most in need of a balanced curriculum. In math and reading themselves, drills leading to limited long-term learning have become commonplace. Some schools manipulate data -- for example, by opportunistic assignment of students to sub-groups where they do the least harm to ratings.
Such corruption could have been foreseen. There are many commonplace illustrations of harm from quantitative accountability.

For example, U.S. News and World Report ranks colleges, based partly on their selectivity - determined by the percentage of admitted applicants (more selective colleges admit a smaller percentage of applicants).

This would be reasonable if the measurement were low stakes. Colleges accepting fewer applicants are likely of higher qu ality, but once this indicator became an accountability measure, colleges had incentives to boost their rejection rates. Some send promotional mailings or drop application fees for unqualified applicants. The acceptance indicator has thus lost much of its value.

Other public sectors have had similar experiences. The government has held local job training agencies accountable for placing unemployed workers in jobs that last at least 90 days. Some agencies then provided child care and transportation to newly hired workers, terminating these services on the 91st day. Other agencies refused to enroll the most difficult-to-place unemployed workers. Others cut back on educational activities designed to train workers for higher-paying and longer-lasting jobs because only short-term employment counted for accountability purposes.

Medicare has issued report cards on health providers. One has been based on mortality rates of open heart surgery patients. Some hospitals and physicians responded by refusing to operate on the sickest patients. Because the accountability system attempted "risk adjustment," statistically controlling for patient characteristics, other providers simply claimed the patients were sicker than they were.

The U.S. General Accounting Office reviewed health care report cards, concluding: "[A]dministrators will place all their organizations' resources in areas that are being measured. Areas that are not highlighted in report cards will be ignored."

Most private-sector jobs, like teaching, include a com posite of easily measured and less-easily measured responsibilities. Because of the ease with which employees game purely quantitative incentives, most private-sector accountability systems blend quantitative and qualitative measures with emphasis on the latter. Certainly, supervisory evaluations of employees may be tainted by favoritism, bias, inflation and even kickbacks or other forms of corruption. That subjective evaluations are so widely used, despite these flaws, suggests that most employers consider quantitative judgment even worse.

Bain and Company, the management consulting firm, advises clients to focus on long-term, not short-term (and more easily quantifiable), goals. A company director estimated that at Bain itself, each manager devotes about 100 hours a year to evaluating five employees for purposes of its incentive pay system. "When I try to imagine a school principal doing 30 reviews, I have trouble," he observed.

Curiously, the federal government administers a balanced approach, simultaneously with its test score-based NCLB. Since 1988, the Commerce Department has made Baldrige National Quality Awards for exemplary businesses. Numerical performance indicators play only a small role. For the private sector, 450 out of 1,000 points are for "results," although even here, some results, such as ethical behavior, social responsibility, trust in senior leadership, workforce capability and customer satisfaction are impossible to quantify.

The Baldrige program was extended to health and education institutions in 1999 . For school districts, 100 of 1,000 points are for student learning outcomes, with other points awarded for subjectively evaluated measures, such as "how senior leaders' personal actions reflect a commitment to the organization's values."

The most recent Baldrige school district award was given in 2005 to the Jenks, Okla., school district. The Commerce Department cited the district's test scores, as well as low teacher turnover and innovative programs, such as an exchange relationship with schools in China and the enlistment of residents of a long-term care facility to mentor kindergartners and pre-kindergartners. Yet in 2006, the Jenks district was deemed by NCLB to be sub-standard because students had failed to make adequate yearly progress in reading test scores.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Teachers Unite Activist Course Aug 24-27

Register today for Teachers Unite?s Teacher Activist Course! You can
sign up for any combination of Sessions 1, 2, 3 and 4 being held
August 24-27.

Some feedback from participants in our spring course:

"Terrific energy in the room. Thank you for the intellectual
stimulation and overall nurturing!"

"The walking tour was a tremendous way to introduce the idea of
schools and community. The conversations surrounding Ocean
Hill-Brownsville have enlightened my understanding of control in NYC

"I have a new understanding of the nature of power relations and
organizing strategies, plus the tactics and the 'how to' of parent

"I loved hearing about the history of privatization of public
education, and getting together with other teachers to brainstorm.
I've decided today that I'm going to run for Chapter Leader thanks to
the conversations I've had today in this session."

"Keep feeding me information and inspiration!



Details at

Course session descriptions:

Monday, August 24 - Session 1: ?

Understanding Power and Oppression

How does oppression play out in public education? What is power? Can
teachers be powerful enough to transform public education? Through
group discussions and activities, we will examine what roles race,
class, and gender play in teachers' work and personal lives. We will
explore various types of oppression and power and discuss how they
manifest in schools. Teachers will have an opportunity to begin
exploring their own ideas for transforming public education.

Tuesday, August 25 - Session 2: ?

Effective Community Organizing

How can teachers build enough power to transform public education?
What does community organizing mean? How can we create sustainable and
successful campaigns that improve teachers' and students' daily lives?
Whether it?s organizing your colleagues around a school problem or a
community concern, participants in this session will learn strategies
and techniques for framing an issue, engaging others, and developing
an effective organizing campaign. There will be opportunities to
identify and plan campaigns around key educational issues.

Wednesday, August 26 - Session 3: ?

Who Controls Public Schools in New York City?: A History of the City's Schools

New York City schools have always been ?contested terrain,? places
where many disparate interests have come together. This session will
focus on two key points in 20th century history (1908 and 1968) in
which those interests have come together and have clashed. We will
explore those conflicts in depth to understand what they reveal about
whom the schools serve and what role parents, teachers, and
politicians have played in the schools. We will also hear from experts
who will contextualize the city?s recent history of schooling and what
can be done to bring the city schools under the control of the people
working in and being served by them.

Thursday, August 27 - Session 4:

Education Reform, Social Justice and Teachers Unions

Too often teachers unions have failed to adequately address the
attacks on public education. As a result, many committed social
justice activists question whether unions can be mobilized to fight
for education reform and justice for our students ? or even, whether
they are part of the problem. In this workshop we will discuss what
all teachers should know about their unions, the role they could and
do play in the fight for education reform and strategies to mobilize
our unions to more fully represent the interests of the teachers they
serve. We will also focus on some nuts and bolts about the UFT, our
contract, and how to organize union chapters and campaigns in one's

Visit for more information about
the sessions and how to register.


Think Teachers Unite is doing great work? We need your support! Please
visit to become a member or to make a donation.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Obama's Public Education Policy: Privatization, Charters, Mass Firings, Neighborhood Destabilization

Obama's Public Education Policy: Privatization, Charters, Mass Firings, Neighborhood Destabilization