Friday, October 30, 2009

Leonie on New Haven and Chicago

Today’s Times editorial delivers faint praise for the New Haven teacher union deal – because “administrators will be able to remove the entire staff at a failing school and require teachers to reapply for their jobs. This should allow the new principals to build stronger teams.”

(Teachers who are not rehired at these so-called turnaround schools will have the right to be placed elsewhere, at least until they are evaluated, which means that New Haven could still end up passing around teachers who should be ushered out of the system.)

Why should any teacher be summarily be fired unless the decision is based on some objective criteria? Again, the stigma of being associated with a failing school is enough for the editors, which will provide a powerful disincentive for any experienced teacher to choose to move to a low-performing school. This is akin to blaming the workers at a GM factory for the conditions that led to the firm’s bankruptcy. Should they be barred from every being employed in the industry again if Toyota set up shop in the factory?

The Times editors also criticize the deal for requiring that evaluations be made on multiple factors – with the factors weighted by a committee including teachers and administrators.

To be taken seriously, the evaluation system must be based on a clear formula in which the student achievement component carries the preponderance of the weight. It must also include a fine-grained analysis that tells teachers where they stand.

The Times, like Michelle Rhee, now implicitly equates “student achievement” with standardized test scores – without openly admitting that these words are being used as an euphemism because of the widespread unpopularity (and unreliability) of using test scores alone.

Indeed, there is no system that can reliably tie teacher performance overall to student test scores; there are too many uncontrolled variables and hidden factors. .

Meanwhile, Sam Dillon covers the report we posted yesterday, showing that most of the students who were transferred out of closing schools in Chicago did no better elsewhere, and the disruption in their lives caused their test scores to dip in the months following their transfer

. Report Questions Duncan's Policy of Closing Failing Schools

… the report’s findings are likely to provoke new debate about Mr. Duncan’s efforts to encourage the use of Chicago’s turnaround strategy nationwide. He has set the goal of closing and overhauling 1,000 failing schools a year nationwide, for five years, and Congress appropriated $3 billion in the stimulus law to finance the effort.

Too bad the Times editors didn’t read this article first.

Now, it’s scary that, according to the NY Post, the model of closing schools and giving them over to charter schools and other management companies like New Visions is coming to NYC – as part of the state’s “Race to the top” application. No mention of the fact that the small schools that already exist and the charters enroll fewer low-performing students in order to get better results.

The difference between the school closure model and the “turn around” model is more semantics than anything else. In both cases, the strategy seems like a blunt instrument: focused on replacing teachers and students with a new crew, rather than actually improving conditions on the ground to allow them to become more successful. I predict that neither New Visions nor the charter schools will be willing to take the bait unless they are given substantial financial subsidies, and/or allowed to pick and choose the students they want, while discharging most of those already in the building to parts unknown.

For more, see State charting new course for old HS's at


The New Haven Model

Published: October 28, 2009

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is right to push the nation’s schools to develop teacher evaluation systems that take student achievement into account. The teachers’ unions, which have long opposed the idea, are beginning to realize that they can either stand on the sidelines or help develop these systems. We hope they will get involved and play a constructive role.

The politically savvy American Federation of Teachers has decided that it is better to get in the game. In New Haven, the union has agreed in its new contract to develop an evaluation system in collaboration with the city. Secretary Duncan praised the agreement lavishly. But the accolades seem premature given that crucial details have yet to be worked out.

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. deserves credit for leading these negotiations and setting ambitious educational goals for the city, including halving the achievement gap between poor and wealthy students.

The new agreement gives the city important new tools, starting with significantly more authority to remake chronically failing schools.

System administrators will be able to remove the entire staff at a failing school and require teachers to reapply for their jobs. This should allow the new principals to build stronger teams.

(Teachers who are not rehired at these so-called turnaround schools will have the right to be placed elsewhere, at least until they are evaluated, which means that New Haven could still end up passing around teachers who should be ushered out of the system.)

School reformers were excited to hear that New Haven planned to take student performance into account in its teacher evaluations. But they uttered a collective “uh-oh” upon hearing that the details — including how much weight would be given to student performance — would be hashed out by a committee that includes teachers and administrators.

To be taken seriously, the evaluation system must be based on a clear formula in which the student achievement component carries the preponderance of the weight. It must also include a fine-grained analysis that tells teachers where they stand.

The New Haven contract represents a promising first step. But there is still a lot of room for politicking and shenanigans. Political leaders, school administrators, parents and everyone else who cares about improving education in this country will have to keep a close eye as this effort moves forward.

Comment on NY Times Article on Teacher Contract

from Marjorie Stamberg

Today's New York Times has news, or at least informed speculation, on the UFT teachers contract which expires tomorrow. It reports what everyone's been saying -- that the 4 percent increases were already negotiated last spring by Randi Weingarten in exchange for support on mayoral control. The DOE is complaining they couldn't get anywhere on what they see as three "roadblocks": seniority, tenure and uniform pay scales.

A key issue that we have to watch like a hawk is what happens to the ATRs. The Times quotes the head of the union-bashing "New Teacher Project" complaining that there appears to be "no savings on how much we spend on these teachers without jobs and no flexibility."

We need to make clear that any attempt to put a time limit on ATRs, such as they have in Chicago with disastrous results, is completely unacceptable.

Last year's demonstration at Tweed is a key reason why the DOE was forced to step back on its constant teacher-bashing and vilification of ATRs. Action by the ranks was important in getting UFT officialdom to try to deal with the problem they helped created in the first place by giving up seniority transfers and agreeing to principal control of hiring and the phony "open market" -- key elements of the corporate agenda for "education reform."


Thursday, October 29, 2009

State charting new course for old HS's

By YOAV GONEN, Education Reporter, NY Post

State officials are seeking to dismantle as many as a dozen large city high schools and turn many of the newly created smaller schools that will occupy their buildings into charters, The Post has learned.

Officials said they're also looking to partner with outside managers, such as CUNY and New Visions for Public Schools, to help run some of the newly formed schools.

The controversial plan will be included in New York's application for a share of $4.3 billion in federal education aid, known as Race to the Top, which requires states to detail how they'll turn around their lowest-performing schools.

If implemented, the plan would continue a trend started by Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein of breaking up large high schools into a handful of smaller ones that share facilities but operate independently of one another.

But this marks the first time that charter-school managers, who operate less than a handful of high schools in the city, have been asked to get involved in such restructuring.

Officials don't plan to finalize a so-called "replacement list" for another several weeks.

But sources said schools that are likely to make the list include Columbus and Gompers high schools in The Bronx, and Sheepshead Bay HS in Brooklyn -- although the principal at Sheepshead Bay denied her school would be on the list.

Schools on the state's annual list of failing schools -- including Boys and Girls HS in Brooklyn and even a number of middle schools -- are also likely contenders.

"There is not going to be a person in New York state who will be able to defend any of the schools that end up on our replacement list," state Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said at a recent conference. "It's not going to be a controversial list."

Depending on how many schools are turned around as charters, the state's current cap on that number would almost certainly come into play.

New York is 37 schools shy of its 200-charter limit.

Charter school operators said they would need more information about how the replacements would work before they could agree to take over historically failing high schools.

Peter Murphy, policy director of the New York State Charter Schools Association, said there was some concern about being able to maintain the flexibility that charter schools have in making organizational decisions.

"It makes no sense to try to turn around a school [while keeping] all the impediments that got it into trouble in the first place," he said.

The City's Bid to Save Cash Leaves New Teachers Out in the Cold

By Philissa Cramer and Anna Phillips

published: October 27, 2009

· Danny Hellman

Emily Pellman was on the verge of fulfilling her dream of becoming a public school science teacher when the door to getting her own classroom was closed in her face.

Last May, the 24-year-old Pellman was weeks away from graduating from New York University's Steinhardt School of Education, to which the city was paying her tuition in exchange for her promise that she would teach in a city school after graduation. East Side Community High School, where she student-taught, didn't have any vacancies, but she soon landed an interview at Bronx Latin School, a well-regarded middle and high school that opened in 2004. Bronx Latin was looking for a science teacher, and so she prepared a demonstration lesson about neuroscience for her interview, which was scheduled for May 6.

That morning, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein summoned principals to an online conference to tell them that, in an unprecedented response to the city's shrinking budget and escalating costs, the Department of Education was freezing new hiring. The previous year, the city had added nearly 6,000 new teachers, but this year, principals would be restricted to hiring teachers who were already in the system.

"My first thought," says Pellman, "was panic."

The restrictions were more than a response to hard times ahead. They represented a retreat by Klein on a key principle of his school reforms: giving principals more control over who teaches in their classrooms.

Until 2005, senior teachers had the right to "bump" less experienced teachers from their positions, a practice that resulted in a concentration of experienced teachers at high-performing schools in desirable neighborhoods. That year, Mayor Bloomberg negotiated an end to the practice with the United Federation of Teachers, and declared, "We are for the first time giving principals ultimate authority over teacher hiring in their schools. Under this contract, principals will no longer have teachers imposed on them who they do not want."

One consequence of the 2005 contract agreement was the creation of the Absent Teacher Reserve, a holding pen for teachers who had lost their jobs and weren't immediately hired by other schools. Most of the 1,340 teachers currently in the reserve lost their positions when their schools closed, or because budget-shaving principals cut the program in which they taught. Each teacher in the pool is assigned to a school, where some work as substitutes and others do administrative work while they look for new jobs.

The new restrictions don't force principals to hire any particular teacher, but they do constrain their options. Aside from those in charge of charter schools or newly established schools, principals this year were barred from hiring newly minted teachers, or even experienced teachers from other districts. And principals are facing severe consequences if they balk at hiring teachers from the ATR pool: Last month, Klein told them that they would lose any funds budgeted for vacant positions if they didn't fill those positions by the end of October.

For new teachers graduating from the city's highly touted teacher-training programs, meanwhile, the new restrictions were an unforeseen catastrophe. "There was definitely an implicit promise" that students in such programs would get jobs in the city schools, says Jason Blonstein, Pellman's adviser at NYU. In recent years, both the national Teach for America program and the city's own Teaching Fellows program have drawn praise for fast-tracking recent college graduates and career changers into the classroom. These programs try to combat what is known as the "qualification gap" between the teachers at schools in poor neighborhoods and those in wealthier areas by placing very young but highly educated teachers into struggling schools. But this year, graduates of these programs were considered new teachers and were subject to the freeze. Among those locked out of jobs were both brand-new teachers and those with years of experience teaching in other school systems.

Inspired by news accounts of Klein's ambitious school reforms, Christopher Timberlake and Katie Walraven, a young couple living and teaching in southern Virginia, decided to relocate to the city. Both had job offers from New York City schools that were retracted when the freeze went into effect. When the city slightly loosened the restrictions over the summer to allow schools to hire new science teachers, Walraven ultimately got a job offer from the All-City Leadership Secondary School in Bushwick. But by then, it was too late—the pair had moved to the D.C. suburbs, where Timberlake had found a job teaching fourth grade.

Even after the freeze went into effect, Eric Nally, 33, then an education student at Fordham University, thought he would be able to find a job. "A recruiter came and told us very encouragingly that [we should] fill out applications online," he says, to build relationships with principals for when the freeze was lifted. "The office of recruiting continued to espouse the idea that we should continue to pursue schools, visit with principals, all of these things." Nally took the advice to heart and sent out 200 résumés. After getting no responses, he started a blog called "Have Chalk, Will Travel" to pitch himself to school districts. A week into the school year, he, too, landed a job in a suburban D.C. school district and left the city.

Lauren Linkowski actually had a job lined up—or thought she did. After earning a master's degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania, Linkowski landed a job teaching English at M.S.324, a top-rated middle school in Washington Heights. A Westchester native, she was counting down the days until she could move closer to her friends and family.

M.S.324's principal, Janet Heller, had told Linkowski not to leave her job in Philadelphia because New York City's hiring system technically wouldn't open for another two months. But with a commitment from Heller, Linkowski was feeling confident about her prospects. Then, at midday on May 6, the same time that Pellman was walking into Bronx Latin for her interview, Linkowski opened an e-mail from Heller with bad news. The hiring freeze was on, and the deal was off.

"I definitely freaked out for a few minutes," Linkowski said. "I called my mom, and then I was immediately on every job website." She's now living with her parents, substitute teaching in the Chappaqua schools, and teaching an English class to adult students at the College of New Rochelle.

When the freeze hit, Heller says, "I was disappointed, but I did not panic." She had started the hiring process early and had four months before the first day of school to figure out how to navigate the restrictions. When a teacher who had planned to leave decided to stay because she could no longer find part-time work in a city school, Heller's vacancy filled itself.

Had that teacher left, Heller had other options: "I had two other people in the wings who were working in another school who wanted to transfer." Hiring one of them would have left another school with a vacancy—one that would be more difficult to fill if that school didn't have M.S.324's stellar reputation. If the hiring freeze continues, as department officials say is possible, underperforming schools could see their best talent drawn away by more established schools forced to hire within the system.

That's what happened at the Brooklyn secondary school where Ariel Sacks teaches English. (She spoke on the condition that her school not be named.) According to Sacks, teachers attracted to her school's small size and progressive vision filled most of the vacancies this year, but her principal couldn't fill three spots, two of them hard-to-staff math positions. Two weeks into the school year, the city sent three ATRs from a shuttered high school to take over the open classes.

"We were basically forced to take on teachers who themselves couldn't find other jobs," Sacks says. "They didn't choose to be at our school, and our school didn't choose them."

The result, she says, was chaos, as the unprepared teachers floundered and the administration, seeing them as a temporary stopgap, didn't invest time in training them. "The classroom was chaotic, in a way that is not usual even with a lot of our subs," says Sacks. The principal ultimately pulled the ATRs from the lead teacher spots. They're now working as substitutes, and other teachers at the school have reshuffled to cover the teacher-less math classes, which are only just now getting under way for the year.

Heller likewise hasn't been impressed by the quality of teachers in the ATR pool. After reaching out to 20 ATRs who were qualified to fill her empty positions, she says, "I interviewed 12 and wouldn't have hired any one of them. Only two did the interview like a real interview. The rest treated it like a joke deliberately."

The DOE's financial woes, meanwhile, is only expected to worsen in 2010. "The budget is not getting any better next year," Department of Education Chief Operating Officer Photeine Anagnostopoulos said flatly outside a recent City Council education hearing. As the state tries to close a $3 billion budget gap, budget cuts appear inevitable. Governor Paterson has already proposed $223 million in mid-year cuts to the city's schools, but even if the legislature refuses to cut school aid in the middle of the year as it did last year, cuts are likely to appear in schools' 2010–2011 budgets.

The people responsible for figuring out how many new teachers the city needs already predict that next year's teacher job market will look about as grim as this year's did. An early snapshot of the city's data on teacher retention shows that more second- and third-year teachers are staying in the system than in previous years, largely because of the recession, leaving even fewer vacancies for new teachers to fill.

"We anticipate at this point that our needs will be more limited than they have been in past years, except for perhaps this year," says Vicki Bernstein, the department's executive director of recruitment and teacher quality.

Bernstein, who oversees the Teaching Fellows program, says the program will likely admit around 700 fellows next year, the same as this year and half as many as in 2008. As was the case this year, most will be trained to teach special education, the area where the city has traditionally had the most acute need.

Jemina Bernard, the director of Teach for America's New York region, says she's waiting to see the outcome of teachers' contract negotiations, as well as how deep the state budget cuts will be, before deciding how many new teachers TFA will send to New York City.

Much could depend on the outcome of the UFT's latest contract negotiations, which began last month. Teachers, city officials, and labor experts are speculating that the city will try to negotiate a time limit for how long teachers can remain in the ATR pool. The city says the reserve teachers—who are guaranteed a full salary—are costing the system millions of dollars that otherwise could be used to bring in new teachers who principals want to hire. Already, the DOE is pressuring ATRs harder than ever to find jobs, for the first time requiring them to interview at schools with openings in their field and to attend job fairs. Those who don't are subject to the department's disciplinary process. Chancellor Klein has said repeatedly that he would like to see a time limit placed on the hiring process, giving ATRs nine months to a year to find a new position before being terminated.

"The entire ATR situation is the result of a failed management strategy," says Dick Riley, a UFT spokesman. He insists the union is no happier about the ATR situation than the city is: "The DOE was aware that as it closed schools and cut back programs, veteran teachers would become available for new assignments, yet it continued to recruit new teachers. The result has been that some newcomers did not get the jobs they had been led to expect, and many veteran teachers are now working as substitutes."

For now, the city is proceeding with slimmed-down teacher recruitment. In years past, the city sent recruiters around the country to scout for new talent, while ads for the Teaching Fellows program appeared on subways, in newspapers, and on the Internet. Next year, it's likely that the only Teaching Fellows ads you'll see will be online.

The Teaching Fellows program accepts only as many teachers as the system expects to be able to accommodate, and indeed the number of Teaching Fellows who haven't found positions is just 47 out of 700. (Those unplaced teachers are getting extra training, along with $250 a week and no benefits, until the end of this month, when they'll be dropped from the city's payroll.)

Bernard says TFA will likely send a large percentage of its corps members to charter schools, which control their own hiring and so are not affected by the freeze. "I imagine demand will continue to be high on that side," she says.

To say he's concerned about next year is "putting it mildly," says John Ewing, president of Math for America, an alternative certification program whose teachers undergo a year-long training regimen. Though the majority of the program's fellows suffered through the hiring freeze, the few stragglers who didn't have jobs at the end of summer were placed in the ATR pool, an exception the city made because of the fellows' lengthy training. Ewing expects to have 60 new teachers to place next year, and while he hopes the city will exempt math teachers from the hiring freeze, he's not banking on it.

"We pledged to the fellows that we'll do whatever it takes to make sure they don't get left out," he says. "This is a program that's meant to invest money and time and effort into the New York City public schools. But if we can't find jobs for them for whatever reasons, we will find jobs elsewhere."

"Elsewhere" includes the greater metropolitan area, where Ewing said he's quietly spreading the word about Math for America so that next year, other districts will know about his fellows.

"If New York City really wants to have a first-rate school system, then they have to let the first-rate in," says Ewing. "I don't think we're going backwards yet, but I think there's the potential here for slipping backwards very rapidly. That would be a real shame."

Some principals who are looking ahead to next year don't like what they see on the horizon, either. According to Sacks, her principal interviewed nearly 40 members of the ATR pool for three vacancies at the school, but said the interviews were uniformly terrible. If the hiring freeze persists into next year, she says, "I would think that my principal and other principals in that situation are going to recruit more aggressively from other schools."

For Pellman, there was a glimmer of hope in July, when the city lifted the freeze for most science teachers, though not for biology teachers. Pellman got back in touch with Bronx Latin anyway, but the job had already been filled. And so she spends her days working at a Starbucks in midtown Manhattan, doing the same job she did when she was trying to make ends meet as a student.

She remains ready to take over a city classroom the day she's allowed to. Back at the apartment she shares with her fiancé, she keeps a notebook full of ideas about how to gain control over a classroom where the teacher has left in the middle of the year. She also follows along with the city's new standardized science curriculum, imagining what she would be teaching if she had students. And she is making sure her colleagues at Starbucks know that they might have to cover her shifts, "in case I have to jump up and go start teaching," she says.

"I'm trying to stay optimistic and hope that things brighten up," she says, "because some day, they're going to need new teachers again."

Report Questions Duncan’s Policy of Closing Failing Schools

First is an article in the NY Times, followed by Ed Week

Report Questions Duncan’s Policy of Closing Failing Schools


Secretary of Education Arne Duncan presided over the closing of dozens of failing schools when he was chief executive of the Chicago public schools from 2001 until last December. In his new post, he has drawn on those experiences, putting school turnaround efforts at the center of the nation’s education reform agenda.

Now a study by researchers at the University of Chicago concludes that most students in schools that closed in the first five years of Mr. Duncan’s tenure in Chicago saw little benefit.

“Most students who transferred out of closing schools re-enrolled in schools that were academically weak,” says the report, which was done by the university’s Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Furthermore, the disruptions of routines in schools scheduled to be closed appeared to hurt student learning in the months after the closing was announced, the researchers found.

The reading scores of students in schools designated for closing “showed a loss of about six weeks of learning” on standardized tests in the months after the closing announcement, the report said. Math scores declined somewhat less, it said.

Partly because of the disruption caused by the closings, Mr. Duncan changed strategy after 2006. Instead of closing schools permanently, or for a year, and then reopening with a new staff, he shifted to the turnaround approach, in which the staff of failing schools was replaced over the summer but the same students returned in the fall.

The new report focused only on the elementary schools closed permanently from 2001 to 2006, and thus offers no conclusions about the effectiveness of the turnaround strategy.

Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for Mr. Duncan, noted that the report also found that students who ended up in higher-achieving schools showed more gains on standardized tests.

“Clearly, the students who transferred to better schools did better, but the ones who went to similar schools did not,” Mr. Hamilton said. “That’s why we worked in parallel to create more new high-quality learning options.”

Still, the report’s findings are likely to provoke new debate about Mr. Duncan’s efforts to encourage the use of Chicago’s turnaround strategy nationwide. He has set the goal of closing and overhauling 1,000 failing schools a year nationwide, for five years, and Congress appropriated $3 billion in the stimulus law to finance the effort.

A review of the history of school reform efforts, published in the current issue of Education Next, a journal published by Harvard University, argues that school turnaround efforts have failed more often than not.

“This leaves reform advocates in a pickle,” said Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “The Obama administration’s solution is that we’re going to make all the lousy schools better, but that’s harder than the administration has let on. The next most attractive alternative is to shut them down, and let the kids go to other schools, but this Consortium report has found that that brought little benefit to students in Chicago.”


More depressing news about how little gains were made in Chicago schools, due to Arne Duncan’s failed policies, which he has now taken to DC and is imposing nationally.

Though the article claims that the district “moved in 2006 toward more frequent use of a turnaround strategy that keeps students in their current buildings but replaces principals and teachers”, Julie Woestehoff, a Chicago parent advocate who is also quoted in the article, has convincingly shown that the student body enrolled in Chicago’s so-called “turn around” schools also undergoes a dramatic shift, with many of the high-needs students transferring out or pushed out of the school.

Published Online: October 28, 2009

Chicago School Closings Found to Yield Few Gains

John Madigan, from left, his daughter Melanie, and his wife Holly visit a classroom at Polaris Charter Academy last year. The school, located in the former Samuel Morse Elementary School, was launched with a $500,000 contribution from the Madigan Family Foundation.
— John Zich for Education Week

By Dakarai I. Aarons

A majority of Chicago students affected by school closings were sent to schools that were low-performing, just like those they left behind—moves that had no significant impact on performance for most students, a study released todayRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader finds.

The study, by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research, examines the academic effects of the closings on students at 18 elementary schools shut down between 2001 and 2006. To measure the impact, the researchers compared students age 8 and older with their counterparts in schools that had similar characteristics but continued to operate. The schools had a combined enrollment of 5,445 students at the time of their closing.

“Certainly, when schools were closed for academic reasons, the idea was to try to change their educational prospects and what they might obtain. Unfortunately, we didn’t find that,” said Julia Gwynne, a senior research analyst with the consortium and the report’s co-author. “The main reason why that seems not to have occurred was because most students did not attend schools that were substantially better than the ones that were closed.”

A Chicago-style strategy is a feature of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s push for the nation to turn around its lowest-performing schools. Mr. Duncan was the chief executive officer of the Chicago public schools from 2001 until December 2008, when President Barack Obama nominated him as education secretary. School closings are one element of the so-called “turnaround” plans Mr. Duncan has promoted as secretary, which also include measures that would replace principals and teachers in persistently failing schools.

John Washington picks up his great-grandson, Rayshaun Cates, at Samuel Morse Elementary School in Chicago in January 2006. The school was closed and reopened as a charter school during U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s tenure as the city’s schools chief.

—Charles Rex Arbogast/AP-File

The 405,000-student district still closes and consolidates schools, but moved in 2006 toward more frequent use of a turnaround strategy that keeps students in their current buildings but replaces principals and teachers.

Among the students displaced, 40 percent were enrolled in schools that were on probation, and 42 percent were enrolled in schools where Iowa Tests of Basic Skills scores were in the lowest quartile in the city, according to the study. Just 6 percent of displaced students were enrolled in schools with itbs scores in the highest quartile, it says.

“If the findings are correct­—for Chicago, at least—we have to question the value of closing schools and creating the dislocations that would attend those school closings for little or no constructive result,” said Daniel L. Duke, a professor of educational leadership at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville.

Mr. Duke, who runs a university program that prepares leaders to turn around low-performing schools, said placing strong leaders who are supported by teacher-leaders and central-office employees has proved to be an effective strategy for many of the schools the program has worked with.

Payoff Questioned

While students who went from one low-performing school to another did not see achievement gains, the study says, those who transferred to some of the district’s highest-performing schools did show progress.

The announcement that specific schools were closing had a negative impact on student achievement, the study suggests. The announcement was often made in January, a few months before students took standardized tests. In the year that closings were announced, students in schools slated to close fell 1½ months below the expected achievement level in reading and more than a half-month below the expected level in math, based on an analysis of itbs scores.

That negative effect was temporary, however. A year later, the displaced students were achieving again at their expected levels, the study says.

Julie Woestehoff, the executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, a Chicago advocacy group often critical of Mr. Duncan’s initiatives as district chief, said the study’s findings are more evidence that the district’s reform strategies are not working. The group has called for the end of Renaissance 2010, a district program that closes low-performing schools and replaces them with charter and charterlike schools run by private groups.

“When Arne Duncan announced this program, he said it was going to lead to dramatically better education for the children. We were hoping that would be true,” Ms. Woestehoff said. “There hasn’t really been any payoff from all the money that has been spent and all the disruption that has been caused to communities and especially to students.”

Chicago’s school closings returned to the spotlight this fall after a high school student was brutally beaten and killed in a fight near a South Side high school. Local activists have contended that the school closings created a dangerous mixture of students from rival neighborhoods. Mr. Duncan said earlier this month that blaming school closings for the uptick in violence was “absolutely ridiculous.” ("Outcry Against Violence," Oct. 14, 2009.)

Chicago school spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment about the study.

Can They Be Fixed?

The displacement of students after school closings also had an impact on student-mobility rates and participation in the district’s summer school programs, according to the study.

Students were more likely to switch schools again not only in the summer after that first year in the new school, the researchers found, but also during the school year. Third, 6th, and 8th graders were less likely than their peers in similar schools to attend summer school in the summer after their schools had closed.

Rebecca Herman, a managing research analyst for the Washington-based American Institutes for Research, said policymakers should especially focus on making sure that students affected by closings are being placed in higher-performing schools, and ensuring that those schools are equipped with supports to help them take on the new students while maintaining quality.

Particular attention should also be paid to the transition period after announcements of school closings are made, she said.

Ms. Herman, who was the lead author of a federal guide on school turnarounds, said the Chicago study leaves some questions unanswered. For example, were there “differences in [students’] motivation and support for excelling in school that would help explain these findings?” she said.

“If you wanted to apply this policy broadly,” she added, “how would you motivate those 94 percent of students [who did not enroll in top-scoring schools] to go to a school farther away and provide support for them?”

Andy Smarick, a distinguished visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, both in Washington, said the study shows the complexities of school turnaround efforts.

“What really jumps out is what school you go to after the school closes is extraordinarily important. The important lesson here is that closures are only one piece of a broader strategy that a city has to develop,” he said.

School administrators must take into account student-transfer policies, geographical considerations, and the impact on the grade levels affected, he said. Successful school administrators are able to show parents and the larger communities the closings are part of a bigger improvement plan, Mr. Smarick said.

“I think a lot of people mistakenly think turnarounds are easy or that turnarounds often succeed. Sometimes there are institutions, whether they are schools, businesses, or nonprofits, that are just broken, low-performing, and they can’t be fixed,” Mr. Smarick said. “That is unsettling for people to think about when we are talking about schools.”

Vol. 29, Issue 10

Monday, October 26, 2009

Protesters storm big bankers meet (in Chicago), chant ‘we’ll be back’ as police escort them out

piggybank Protesters storm big bankers meet, chant well be back as police escort them outThe annual American Bankers Association meeting in Chicago is not going as planned.

Besieged by activists from the Service Employees International Union, the AFL-CIO and Americans for Financial Reform, the leaders of America's financial sector were interrupted Sunday night as a throng of protesters poured into the conference area and began to chant.

The meeting, scheduled to continue through Tuesday, will feature "[exceptional] speakers like FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair, Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and political commentator George Will," the ABA's site announced.

"All we wanted to do was deliver a letter to the Wall Street bankers to let them know how much they've hurt our communities - and what they need to do to clean up their act," the SEIU's blog declared. "They wouldn't listen to us. They kicked us out. But, the bad news for them is that we'll be back. We're not going to leave after tonight. In fact, more and more people are coming to Chicago in the next 48 hours. What started as a thousand people tonight will continue to grow up until Tuesday when more than 5,000 taxpayers march on the ABA and demand an end to Wall Street greed."

Instead of delivering a letter, they shouted their message. "Bust up big banks!" activists chanted. When police confronted a senior who was damning the ABA over a loudspeaker, the crowd shifted into cries of "Shame on you! Shame on you!"

Educator: 'Race to the Top's' 10 false assumptions

Excerpt: While it’s true teachers can’t choose their students, textbooks, working conditions, curricula, tests, or the bureaucracies that circumscribe and limit their autonomy, they should be held fully accountable for poor student test scores.

Educator: 'Race to the Top's' 10 false assumptions

My guest today is Marion Brady, veteran teacher, administrator, curriculum designer and author. He writes about Education Secretary's Arne Duncan's "Race to the Top" initiative, which is intended to be the successor to "No Child Left Behind."

By Marion Brady

"Race to the Top? National standards for math, science, and other school subjects? The high-powered push to put them in place makes it clear that the politicians, business leaders, and wealthy philanthropists who’ve run America’s education show for the last two decades are as clueless about educating as they’ve always been.

If they weren’t, they’d know that adopting national standards will be counterproductive, and that the "Race to the Top" will fail for the same reason "No Child Left Behind" failed—because it’s based on false assumptions.

False Assumption 1:
America’s teachers deserve most of the blame for decades of flat school performance. Other factors affecting learning—language problems, hunger, stress, mass media exposure, transience, cultural differences, a sense of hopelessness, and so on and on—are minor and can be overcome by well-qualified teachers. To teacher protests that they’re scapegoats taking the blame for broader social ills, the proper response is, "No excuses!" While it’s true teachers can’t choose their students, textbooks, working conditions, curricula, tests, or the bureaucracies that circumscribe and limit their autonomy, they should be held fully accountable for poor student test scores.

False Assumption 2:
Professional educators are responsible for bringing education to crisis, so they can’t be trusted. School systems should instead be headed by business CEOs, mayors, ex-military officers, and others accustomed to running a "tight ship." Their managerial expertise more than compensates for how little they know about educating.

False Assumption 3:
"Rigor"—doing longer and harder what we’ve always done—will cure education’s ills. If the young can’t clear arbitrary statistical bars put in place by politicians, it makes good sense to raise those bars. Because learning is neither natural nor a source of joy, externally imposed discipline and "tough love" are necessary.

False Assumption 4:
Teaching is just a matter of distributing information. Indeed, the process is so simple that recent college graduates, fresh from "covering" that information, should be encouraged to join "Teach For America" for a couple of years before moving on to more intellectually demanding professions. Experienced teachers may argue that, as Socrates demonstrated, nothing is more intellectually demanding than figuring out what’s going on in another person’s head, then getting that person herself or himself to examine and change it, but they’re just blowing smoke.

False Assumption 5:
Notwithstanding the failure of vast experiments such as those conducted in eastern Europe under Communism, and the evidence from ordinary experience, history proves that top-down reforms such as No Child Left Behind work well. Centralized control doesn’t stifle creativity, imply teacher incompetence, limit strategy options, discourage innovation, or block the flow of information and insight to policymakers from those actually doing the work.

False Assumption 6:
Standardized tests are free of cultural, social class, language, experiential, and other biases, so test-taker ability to infer, hypothesize, generalize, relate, synthesize, and engage in all other "higher order" thought processes can be precisely measured and meaningful numbers attached. It’s also a fact that test-prep programs don’t unfairly advantage those who can afford them, that strategies to improve the reliability of guessing correct answers can’t be taught, and that test results can’t be manipulated to support political or ideological agendas. For these reasons, test scores are reliable, and should be the primary drivers of education policy.

False Assumption 7:
Notwithstanding the evidence from research and decades of failed efforts, forcing merit pay schemes on teachers will revitalize America’s schools. This is because the desire to compete is the most powerful of all human drives (more powerful even than the satisfactions of doing work one loves). The effectiveness of, say, band directors and biology teachers, or of history teachers and math teachers, can be easily measured and dollar amounts attached to their relative skill. Merit pay also has no adverse effect on collegiality, teacher-team dynamics, morale, or school politics.

False Assumption 8:
Required courses, course distribution requirements, Carnegie Units, and other bureaucratic demands and devices that standardize the curriculum and limit teacher and learner options are products of America’s best thinkers about what the young need to know. Those requirements should, then, override individual learner interests, talents, abilities, and all other factors affecting freedom of choice.

False Assumption 9:
Notwithstanding charter schools’ present high rates of teacher turnover, their growing standardization by profit-seeking corporations, or their failure to demonstrate that they can do things all public schools couldn’t do if freed from bureaucratic constraints, charters attract the most highly qualified and experienced teachers and are hotbeds of innovation.

False Assumption 10:
The familiar, traditional "core curriculum" in near-universal use in America’s classrooms since 1893 is the best-possible tool for preparing the young for an unknown, unpredictable, increasingly complex and dangerous future.

"Human history," said H.G. Wells, "is a race between education and catastrophe."

If amateurs continue to control American education policy, put your money on catastrophe. It’s a sure thing.

Do you agree or disagree with Marion Brady's views of federal education policy?

Leonie Haimson
Class Size Matters

Email #7 From JW

Hello, good evening.

Much of this email I learned from a meeting at the district office. But, I just wanted to say that I hope you enjoyed the small brochure the DoE just handed out to everyone called "Respect for All." he gall of these people to put an inset on the inside front cover defining RESPECT as:

Esteem for or sense of worth or excellence of a person;
proper acceptance or courtesy; regards for the dignity of another's charater;
acknowledgement; the condition of being esteemed or honored;
to show regard or consideration for another."

Now check off how much of this school administrators even comprehend.




The UFT is trying various ways to stop the overload, which eats into our personal time (prep and lunch) and is thus in violation of the contract. Using the form letter below or something like it, the chapter leader or anyone else, actually, can ask the principal for instructions as to when and where. Once you get an answer, you're closer to substantiating a grievance or defending against any disciplinary action that many ensue.

Principal Paper Pusher
Borough, New York, 10000

Dear Principal Pusher:

I have read your memo/letter of [DATE] in which you instruct the teachers
of City HS to input into the school's database weekly, monthly and annual
instructional goals for every student we teach.

As always, I will do my best to comply with your instructions. However, to
complete this task, I need to know:
1. What time during the school day I should use to complete these tasks.
2. Where I will be able to access a computer connected to the school's
database during that time.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

I.M. Overworked



A hint about the post-observation discussion with your supervisor. If after the lesson they've just observed they ask: "So, how do you feel about the lesson?", it's not a good idea to list your faults. They could easiliy end up using your very words. According to "Teaching in the 21st Century," the principal has to tell you what they thought, not the other way around.

I took the opportunity during the meeting to ask about the policy in many schools where you're not given a specific date and time for an observation, but an entire week. For some teachers it could fall on any of 3 or 4 different preps, levels, or subjects, not to mention where you are in the sequence of lessons during that week. Nevertheless, without logic, this practice exists.
The union tries to solve everything by telling teachers to ask for a pre-observation conference. It's easy enough to do, but it doesn't really solve the problem, because it doesn't stop the whimsical observation from happening. It can only help you in substantiating a grievance.
But should you grieve? It's hard to know. If you grieve when you get the notice, i.e., BEFORE the observation week, you might anger the principal. If you grieve AFTER the conference is over, two things. If it was an "S" observation, why mess things up for yourself with a grievance? If a "U," with or without pre-obs. conference, the union's position is that the principal is still wrong because the observation could not have been lesson specific and a grievance will solve things . . . this time. Of course, if the lesson you happened to discuss in the pre-obs. is the very one they happened to walk in on, you're stuck. The pieces all fit, and you can't grieve anything, even though they were wrong to make the timing so vague.
My point is that it seems as if the only way to get this practice stopped is to wait for someone to get a U-obs. and encourage them to grieve it on everyone's behalf. That's stupid, though, since it's been going on for years and the union has done nothing about it.
I asked the DR if they knew of any grievance citywide now in process waiting for arbitration on this, and failing that, is the union planning to take action on it themselves? She said she would look into it, but I'm not holding my breath. This is one of those things that the UFT just plain tolerates as far as I can see. I told the DR that when it's 3 mos. before I retire, I'll do that grievance myself. It got a laugh, but we shouldn't be having to fight this particular thing as individuals. The union got us into it (by loose wording), let them get us out of it.

Here is the wording of a letter you can use to ask for a pre-obs. conference, but it's simple enough to compose your own:

Dear Principal Ambush:

I would like to formally request an individual pre-observation conference for
all my observations this year, consistent with Article 8J of the Collective
Bargaining Agreement and the document "Teaching for the 21st Century."
Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Yours truly,

I.C. Thruyou
Cc: Chapter Leader



Let's say you're charged with verbal abuse (A420) or corporal punishment (A421) and the investigation they've done finds the charges substantiated. It is very possible in today's ed world that the investigative process itself was flawed. For example, the witness statements (let's say by students who can't manage the language yet), cannot be typed by a third person. If they give you copies of the statements, you have the choice of signing for them (in which case you'll get to see the names of the witnesses) or not signing (the names of witnesses are redacted). They may also round up a bunch of witnesses at the same time and take their statements all at the same time, which is a no-no.

We were warned that everyone should really be careful about ratting out another teacher or staff member. They might treat a casual or remark as a statement in an investigation, and you won't even know they're doing it.

If the substantiated charges result in a Letter to the File, the district office has a Step I Grievance Appeal letter you can use so they can help you get that LIF removed. Here's the text of it:

Step 1 Grievance Appeal:
"Corporal Punishment/Verbal Abuse"

Dear _______________ :
I would like to set up a meeting with you at the earliest mutually convenient
time to discuss the following:

On _________________ , you found that I committed an act of corporal
punishment/verbal abuse. This charge is unsubstantiated. Impropoer procedures
were followed during the investigation, thereby denying me due process.

This is in violation of Special Circular "A420/421", Article 20 and Article 22A.

As a remedy, I request that I be exonerated from the corporal punishment/verbal
abuse findings.


Name ____________________________________
File # ____________________________________
School/District/ ____________________________
Phone no. _________________________________
Email address _____________________________



IEPs are goals developed by groups of teachers and support staff for special ed students.
The individual goals certain principals are asking for are goals that only you set for each of your students. I personally have never been asked for these, but would serioiusly rebel if I were.

Integrated co-teaching is the later name for CTT classes (two teachers in same room, one reg ed, the other spec. ed). It's new to me, but I see documents on the net where the term was used back in 2007.

Save Room: Each school has to have one, period. And it can't be the dean's office.

Signing up on the UFT website: Click on and fill out everything they ask for.
Once you get an account and verify it, there's a link on the top left sidebar below "Logout" called "My Account." Use it to change password and whether you want to get emails from the UFT.

Blog items you might want to know about:

PIP+ - Arbitrator throws out charges on someone who refused to take the program Chaz

Why it's important to have a 3020a hearing Chaz again

Bloomberg's choices (from the Parents' blog):

Mr. Bloomberg added: “I don’t yet know the numbers, whether you could justify
stadiums at this time. Clearly we’re going into very difficult economic times,
and we’re going to have to make some choices.”

About 50,000 seats have been created in schools over the last seven years,
with more than twice that number in the heavily subsidized Yankees and
Mets stadiums. I guess he made his choices after all.


The following is a public service announcement — nothing to do with teaching

I guess only retirees would be able to get to the press conference they're talking about, but the person who sent me this says it would be very helpful if you believe in Councilmember Helen Foster's resolution to keep the Lever Voting Machines (because the computerized ones and paper ballots are not worked out yet) that you give her a thank-you call.

Lever voting machines, supplemented by our accessible
ballot marking devices ("BMDs") for voters with disabilities,
are the ONLY AFFORDABLE and MOST SECURE equipment for our future elections.

PRESS CONFERENCE on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan
Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009 12:45 - 1:30 PM Promptly

City Councilmember Helen Foster is introducing a new Resolution to Keep Our Lever Voting Machines!

Teresa Hommel, 212 228-3803
Chair, Task Force on Election Integrity, Community Church of New York