Friday, January 01, 2010

Some news regarding community pushback to charters, despite powerful connections, in Queens.

Article 1. Community opposition to an all boys charter expansion was enough to get DoE to pull the project.

Article 2. As the article right below indicates, the charter is backed by the all powerful Rupert Murdock, who is also a financial supporter and champion of our own district school, the Shuang Wen Academy.

Article 3. On the for profit charter that made millions for its private management company while teachers and students do without comes under attack from the UFT, parents and City Comptroller (elect and very soon to be) John Liu.

Eagle all-boys program shelved at Jamaica H.S.

by Lisa Fogarty, Editor

Queens Chronicle

December 23, 2009

Weeks before the Panel for Educational Policy votes on the Department of Education's proposal to phase out Jamaica High School and replace it with three smaller learning facilities, one specialty school the city was considering is no longer in the running.

DOE spokesman Will Havemann confirmed last week that, in response to community feedback, the agency will not move forward with its proposal to institute the Eagle Academy, an all-boys school that focuses on young men from minority and
underprivileged communities, at JHS.

"We will continue to work with local elected officials and others to locate a school in the building that will serve students well and that the community supports," Havemann said.

Two weeks ago, Eagle Academy Foundation president David Banks addressed members of the DOE, civic leaders and elected officials about the merits of the program at a closed-door meeting in Jamaica. If selected, Eagle would have been the first of its kind - it has two schools in Brooklyn and the Bronx - in the borough.

The majority of the academy's incoming students require remediation to bring them up to grade standards. Many of the school's programs, including its extended day and mentoring programs, are designed to give the children, many of
whom come from single-parent families, the same opportunity to succeed as students from wealthier school districts.

Despite its value, the program just doesn't suit JHS' diverse community, says Deborah Ayala, president of the Jamaica Hill Community Association.

"It's a very good program and I think it works well in the Bronx and Brooklyn," Ayala said. "I don't think it works here because the population is very diverse. With that kind of a program, you need to have a community that works with it."

Instead, Ayala said, the DOE should focus on collaborating with local colleges and expanding the school's successful Gateway program. "I think that would be beneficial for the community, the students already there and the ones to come."

Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), who with Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) hosted a meeting with the DOE, said there was a general
reluctance among his constituents to any kind of exclusionary program at JHS, which isn't to say Eagle wouldn't work in other parts of Queens.

"I don't think anyone is happy the DOE is phasing out Jamaica High School," Lancman said. "With that said, we've tried to lay out some parameters for what the community wants to see. This is a positive indication that the DOE will work with the community, but it remains to be seen. We'll take it day by day."


Fortune favours the smart (Rupert Murdoch, Boyer Lectures, 23/11/08)

As a child, I attended boarding school outside Melbourne. Bucolic and idyllic it wasn’t. So I made myself a promise. I swore that I would never become one of those fogeys who goes on and on about how his schooldays were the best days of his life.
Today I intend to keep that promise. But I do want to talk about schools. In particular, I would like to talk about why you hear so many business leaders talking about the problems with public education. Far from reminiscing about some glorious and largely mythical past, I want to focus on the challenges we face today—and what they mean for our future.
Let me say at the outset: it is not a pretty picture.
The unvarnished truth is that in countries such as Australia, Britain, and particularly the United States, our public education systems are a disgrace. Despite spending more and more money, our children seem to be learning less and less—especially for those who are most vulnerable in our society. Today the global economy is raising the bar for success. The need is urgent: countries like Finland and Korea and Singapore are leaving us behind when it comes to education. We need to reform our public education system - and make our schools internationally competitive with the best of them. In my view, things will not really improve until we begin setting much higher expectations-for our students, for our teachers, and for our schools. At the very least, setting higher standards means we ought to demand as much quality and performance from those who run our schools as we do from those who provide us with our morning cup of coffee. And then we ought to hold these schools accountable when they fail.
In Australia we pride ourselves on our passion for equality

In Australia, we pride ourselves on our passion for equality—we have popularised the word ‘egalitarian’. That passion is an attractive part of the Australian personality. But it is getting harder and harder to square Australian pride in equality with the realities of the Australian system of public education.
Like me, most of you probably went to a decent school. Your children will probably do the same. This means that your family will probably thrive no matter what happens, because you are no doubt primed to succeed. But too many children are socialised to fail.
We can argue over whether our better schools are as focused as they should be on mathematics and science. But it is inarguable that our lesser schools are leaving far too many children innumerate, illiterate, and ignorant of our history. These are the people whose future I am most concerned about. For these boys and girls to rise in society—and have a fair go at the opportunities you and I take for granted—a basic education is essential.
The tragedy today is that in many nations like Australia, the people who need a solid education to lift them out of deprived circumstances are the people who are falling further and further behind. That is unacceptable to me. And it should be unacceptable to all of us.
So I will talk about three things. First, I will discuss how the dividing point between the have and the have-nots is no longer how much money they have. Increasingly, your life chances and your life choices will be defined by your skills and knowledge.
Second, I will talk about why we need to stop making excuses for schools and school systems that are failing the very children they are meant to serve.
Finally, I will talk about the need for corporations to get more involved—especially at the lower school levels. Corporate leaders know better than government officials the skills that people need to get ahead in the 21st century. And businessmen and businesswomen need to take this knowledge and help build school systems that will ensure that all children get at least a basic education.
Let me begin with the growing importance of education in our new economy. At first glance, it might look as though advances in technology are making education less important. After all, thanks to computers and calculators, even people without a good education now have the ability to have their sums done for them by a cheap calculator, to have their faulty spelling corrected by a word processing program, and to have even complex tasks completed for them by a specialised software program.
For example, if you go to a Mcdonald¹s or the milk bar the person behind the counter no longer has to calculate the change. The cash register is now a mini-computer and the barcode does the work.
In industry, computers and automation have reduced much of the need for calculation and repetitive labour. And, as unions in Europe have been quick to notice, that means many enterprises can be more productive with fewer workers. This in turn is one big reason that so many unions—like the luddites before them—are so opposed to new technology.
But ultimately, fighting the new and better technology is a fool’s errand. History clearly demonstrates that a technology that shows itself to be more productive will win out in the end. The reason is simple. Over the long haul, no one is going to pay more than he has to for something that can be done far more cheaply. Even if an individual businessman or two were willing to forego such an improvement, in the end they will be forced to adopt the more productive approach just to keep up with their competitors.
That’s where a good education comes in. New technology is replacing many tedious tasks. That means that there will be fewer and fewer satisfying jobs for people without skills. In the new economy, the people that companies are craving—and are willing to pay for—are people who add value to their enterprises. That means people with talent and skills and judgment.
Talent and skills and judgment are part of what economists call human capital. Human capital is a broad term. It includes formal skills—for example, a degree in computer science or the ability to speak a foreign language. But human capital is much more than this. It also includes such things as good work habits, the judgment that comes from experience, a sense of creativity, a curiosity about the world, and the ability to think for oneself. Free societies succeed because the people who have these skills are free to use them to advance themselves, their enterprises, and society.
It’s true that some people manage to develop these skills on their own. For the most part, these people are highly driven self-starters. They exist in every society. And they are also very rare.
For every Steve Jobs who drops out of college and founds a company like Apple, for every Jim Clark who leaves high school and starts up Netscape, for every Peter Allen who drops out and becomes a successful entertainer, there are tens of thousands of others for whom leaving school early means shutting the door forever on opportunity—and permanent condemnation to an underclass.
For most of us, the best path to success is through an education that will allow us to fulfill our potential. That begins by setting high expectations, adhering to real standards, and ensuring that when you do leave school, you leave with the tools that will help you get ahead in life.
These tools begin with the basics of any education: the ability to read and write, to add, subtract, multiply and divide, and to use these basics to acquire other, more advanced skills.
For those who doubt me, the relationship between education and opportunity is most obvious in the pay cheque. As a general rule, the more education you have, the more you are going to earn over your working career.
That differential can be very large. Two Australian economists found that for each additional year of education a person has, he can expect about 10 per cent a year in increased income. That¹s true even after taking into account the lost earnings from starting work later. And though that figure is for Australia, it roughly tracks with similar findings in the United States.
Even just one year of additional education can make a big difference. Here¹s what these economists found when they applied that 10% figure to two Australian workers. The first is someone who left school at age 15 with nine years of education, and worked until he was 64 years old. The second left school at age 16 with ten years of education, and also retired at age 64.
Over their working life, the first fellow could expect to earn $1,166,003. The second person would earn $1,285,263. In other words, just by staying in school one more year, the second person could expect to improve his earnings by nearly $120,000.
The rewards for higher education are even more dramatic. In the United States, the educational testing service estimates that the economic advantage of a college degree is large—and growing. Today, a young person with a college degree can expect to earn nearly twice what a counterpart with a high school diploma will. Back in 1979, that difference was only 51%.
Another way of putting it is this: it’s not that the poor are getting poorer. It’s that the economic rewards to the skilled are making them much richer. This is clearly understood by the leaders of developing countries. But it seems beyond the comprehension of much of the developed world.
That leads me to my second point: what we ought to do about it.
As the world economy grows more competitive, it is will become even more difficult for people without skills to keep up. Billions of people are now entering the global workforce. And a recent study by Goldman Sachs suggested that 70 million people are joining the new global middle class each year. These people are talented, they are confident, and they are increasingly well-educated.
That means the competition is getting keener. And unless we stop making excuses for our failures, a good many of our own young people will be left behind and bereft of opportunity.
Most of you are well aware of the public debate about education. And you will be well aware that there is a whole industry of pedagogues devoted to explaining why some schools and some students are failing. Some say classrooms are too large. Others complain that not enough public funding is devoted to this or that program. Still others will tell you that the students who come from certain backgrounds just can¹t learn.
The bad schools do not pay for these fundamental failings. Their students pay the price, because they are the victims when our schools fail. And the more people we graduate without basic skills, the more likely Australian society will pay the price in social dysfunction—in welfare, in healthcare, in crime. We must help ourselves by holding schools accountable—and ensuring that they put students on the right track.
As a rule, we spend too much time on avoiding failure. The real answer is to start pursuing success.
Developing countries seem to understand this. When I travel to places like India and China, I do not hear people making lame excuses for mediocre schools. Instead of suggesting that their students cannot learn, they set high standards and expect they will be met. And they have crash programs for more and better schools.
The obstacles they have to overcome are as difficult and challenging as any we face here. Recently, for example, American public television ran a special called Chinese Prep—which followed five students through their final year at an elite high school. These students are competing for slots at the top universities in a system based almost entirely on merit.
The pressure is intense, and most Australians watching would probably think that the time and effort these boys and girls put into their studies is inhumane.
Now, the high school in this film is elite, and it is far from representative of the schools that most Chinese attend. But the interesting thing about this show is the emphasis on competition, on merit, on doing well on standardised tests.
Some of the children who do end up doing well come from very poor backgrounds. The television cameras showed that one of them lived in essentially a hut in the countryside.
But no one makes allowances for them. They compete with the children of high officials. And they succeed. In a sense, the entire school system is taking a lesson from Confucius, who observed sagely, as a sage does:
If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher.
I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.

I am not saying that Chinese education is perfect. It certainly is not. But it is clear that in a system where you are expected to perform, there is less slacking off. Maybe that’s because poor people in China know that doing well on tests and getting a good education is the ticket to personal progress. Or maybe they know that the consequences for failure are much more severe than they are in, say, the more comfortable societies that are America and Australia.
My point is this: the children of poor people always have fewer options than the elite. That’s true whether you live in Sydney or Shanghai or San Francisco. For these people, a solid education is the one hope for rising in society and levelling the playing field. If we have any real sense of fairness, we owe these children school systems that hold them to high standards.
However tough their schools may be, the world is going to be tougher and less forgiving.
That is one reason I have two key criteria for education programs that News Corporation supports: schools must be focused on achievement. And they cannot make excuses for why some students are supposedly poor scholars.
It’s amazing the results that you get when you actually expect your students to learn regardless of race, background, or income. In Manhattan, for example, my wife and I have been involved with a local public school called Shuang Wen.
Shuang Wen is unique. It is the only public school in America offering a mandated bilingual program in Chinese and English for all students. Two-thirds of its students live below the poverty line. Despite this, Shuang Wen is one of New York’s top-ranked schools in terms of performance. It also has the highest daily attendance rate—98%.
What’s the secret? In the morning, its students study in English. Then they stay until 5:30 pm to study Chinese. They come in on weekends too.
Not many American children have a school day or school week that goes as long as Shuang Wen. But instead of repelling students, the school is attracting them. African-American parents are clamouring to get their children into this school. They know that the hard work and sacrifice Shuang Wen demands of its students is their children’s ticket out of poverty and hopelessness.
Another school we support in New York is the Eagle Academy for Young Men.
This is a charter school. Although charters are public schools, charters have more freedom than traditional American public schools. They are also directly accountable to the people who run it. The Eagle Academy for Young Men is boys-only. And it was started up by a group of concerned African-American men who are simply unwilling to allow the next generation of African-American boys to be written off by the country’s public schools.
Let me put this in context. The Eagle Academy has a student body of almost all Latino or African-American boys. It also operates in a part of New York City where three out of four young black men drop out before they receive a high school diploma. So failure is all around them.
But inside the Eagle Academy doors, they don’t talk about failure. The students have long days, often until 6 p.m. They come in on Saturdays. And they are paired with mentors. It’s tough. But the results are impressive.
The fact is, the boys at Eagle Academy are getting the education they would never get from soft-hearted, supposedly well-meaning people who would just make excuses for them. And, like Shuang Wen, the Eagle Academy has a waiting list of parents who are ambitious for their children.
In Australia, our problem is a little different. In America, the children whose futures are being sacrificed tend to be those who are stuck in rotten schools in the inner cities. In Australia, by contrast, the children who suffer the most tend to be those in our rural areas and outer suburbs. But whether urban or rural, no government of any decent society should be effectively writing off whole segments of the population by refusing to confront a failing education bureaucracy.
All this leads me to my last point: corporations have an important role here. As a chief executive, I notice that many companies devote a large part of their giving to higher education. At the very critical levels of primary and secondary education, there is much less corporate participation. We tend to leave that to government.
The government has an important role, of course. It will always be a key provider of money at these levels. At the federal level, Australia needs to set high standards for our schools—and then hold the states accountable for meeting them.
But Australian business has a role too. Companies need to take a more active part in working with government to ensure that the schools are giving people an education. As business leaders, we know how unprepared too many young people are for the working world.
My friend Bill Gates has made it one of his missions to help reform-minded school officials raise the standards at public schools. He is also supporting new models like charter schools that will provide alternatives to the one-size-fits-all model of the 19th century. And other corporate leaders are backing specific kinds of education, such as science and maths and computers.
At News Corp, in addition to the individual schools I mentioned earlier, we support a leadership academy designed to train new principals, the fund for public schools, which allows the private sector to support innovative ways to expand options for schoolchildren, and new visions for public schools, whose goal is to graduate at least 80 per cent of our students in four years so they are prepared for college and work. Yet I believe we have barely scratched the surface.
In nations like Australia, we have always understood that we cannot promise that all outcomes will be equal. But at the heart of the social compact has always been the idea that everyone should have a fair go. For most citizens, we are doing this. Perhaps not as well as we can, but we are trying. But too many of our fellow Australians are being condemned to less-than-satisfying lives by a less-than-satisfactory school system.
Sometimes I think that because we are doing well enough for most people, it’s easier to close our eyes to the tens of thousands of children we are betraying. We have too many people who secretly believe that the gap between those who are getting an education and those who are not is something that cannot be changed. So they blame the difference on demographics or race or utter inevitability.
The truth is this: a public school system that does not serve the least of society betrays its mission. The failure of these schools is more than a waste of human promise, and a drain on our future workforce. It is a moral scandal that no one should tolerate. A basic education—and the hope for a better life that it brings—ought to be the first civil right of any decent society.
Not all children will become neurosurgeons or computer wizards or entrepreneurs. But Australia’s children are growing up in an increasingly competitive world, and they need their schools to be just as competitive. With caring adults setting high standards and insisting on accountability, all boys and girls are capable of a basic education. The need is urgent. For that is the only way they can take advantage of the tremendous opportunities this world offers, look to the future with hope, and build lives of dignity and independence.
We Australians have far to go before all will have a fair go.


Parents join UFTers in contract fight rally at Merrick Academy


December 23, 2009

Frustrated but unified UFT members who have been engaged in a two-year fight for
a contract at the Merrick Academy Charter School in Queens Village staged a
protest outside the building during rush hour on Dec. 22, then took their
demands inside to the school cafeteria where they confronted a disrespectful
board of directors.

Chanting "For kids, not for profit," the 50 teachers were joined by more than
100 parents, who said that they were fed up with a lack of voice at the school
where many of their children have had to learn without textbooks, in oversized
classes due to staffing cuts, and in a building in disrepair.

Wages of many of the teachers are frozen at 2005 Department of Education rates
while the school's for-profit operator, Victory Schools, has hired Jackson
Lewis, the nation's premier union-busting law firm, to advise it.

"We're proud of this school, we're proud of the students, but we're not proud of
what's going on behind the scenes," Chapter Leader Jonathan Carrington said.
"We're here for the kids to make this learning environment the best it can be."

City Councilman John Liu, the New York City comptroller-elect, also was on hand
to encourage the teachers and parents.


Anonymous said...

but is community opposition to the eagle academy the real reason it won't be going to jamaica or do those affiliated with the school really prefer to have it replace one of the other closing schools in queens? sounds like spin to make people think the community is getting input, if you ask me...

Anonymous said...

I would agree. Has anyone researched Institute for Student Achievement, New Visions, and New Century Schools as developers of new small schools?

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