Thursday, July 28, 2011

Moskowitz spent about $1,300 on marketing for every new enrollee

Success Charter Network has been just that for Eva Moskowitz but not for public schools

Talk about inflating demand for your product.
The Success Charter Network, a chain of charter schools headed by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, spent an astonishing $1.6million in the 2009-2010 school year just for publicity and recruitment of new students, the group's most recent financial reports show.
The network spent more on publicity and recruitment that year than it did in the previous two years.
In 2009-2010, the seven schools operated by the Success network admitted 1,200 new students. That means Moskowitz spent about $1,300 on marketing for every new enrollee.

The money went to everything you can imagine - bus stop ads, multiple mass mailings of glossy color brochures to tens of the thousands of homes, a small army of part-time workers going door-to-door to sign up applicants, high profile "school choice" fairs.
Community leaders and educators in Harlem and the South Bronx - where those first seven schools were located - say they have never encountered such a relentless and well-financed campaign aimed at convincing parents to desert the public schools.
Many are stunned that the nonprofit Success network is able to spend so lavishly while regular city schools are being forced to cut their budgets.
Moskowitz has left even other charter school networks in the dust. Four Icahn Charter schools in the South Bronx, for example, reported spending less than $5,000 in total on their marketing and recruitment efforts during 2009-2010.
The bulk of the marketing money for the nonprofit Success network came from private hedge fund executives and conservative foundations, many of whom regard Moskowitz as chief organizer and lightning rod for the charter school movement in this city.
Still, all that money hasn't been able to dampen the widespread opposition the Success network generates each time Moskowitz tries to put one of her schools in a pubic school building.
Many neighborhood parents and community leaders say Moskowitz enjoys special treatment from education officials both in Albany and at Tweed.
They say once she sets up in public school, she keeps insisting on more and more space for her programs.
She has repeatedly denied getting any special treatment.
Meanwhile, the Success promotion machine reported spending nearly $1.3million on "outreach programs related to parent choice" in 2009-2010.
"It takes extensive outreach to ensure that all families have access to the schools of their choice," said Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for the network.

"Access to opportunity is incredibly important to us and is integral to ... our mission," Friedman said and much of that money went to assisting other charter schools in their promotion efforts.
The Success network even spent $72,000 last year on a videographer whose duties included filming protests against its schools.
Individual schools in the network spent another $245,000 on recruitment and marketing from money they got from the Department of Education.
"We won't apologize for recruiting students for Success Academy charter schools," Jenny Sedlis, the network's director of external relations told me last year.
"As the quality of our education and test scores prove, we are offering kids from long disadvantaged communities the chance to flourish, go to college and be successful."

None of the expenses mentioned above take into account the cost of her titanic and successful campaign in 2010-2011 to establish a new school on the upper West Side of Manhattan.
"What they've spent on getting Upper West Success will far exceed what they've done previously at all their other schools," said Noah Gotbaum, a member of the District 3 community education council who opposed the new Moskowitz school.

Monday, July 25, 2011

By IMPACT standards, Ms. Frizzle would fizzle

By Valerie Strauss<>

*Correction: The original version unfortunately called Ms. Frizzle a Miss.
Apologies. *

Last week a few hundred teachers were fired
the Washington D.C. school district based on a teacher evaluation system
called IMPACT<>that
was instituted under former chancellor Michelle Rhee.

There have been many complaints about the system, including charges that it
is unfair to teachers who work in high-poverty schools, and that is chief
assessment tool is five 30-minute observations by administrators and master
educators of teachers each year as they work in the classroom. That’s a
total of 2 1/2 hours a year of observation. Some teachers are also evaluated
by the standardized test scores of their students, which many argue is an
invalid and unfair method of evaluating a teacher.

This was written by Marni Barron, an instructional coach in the District of
Columbia Public Schools, and Leigh Dingerson is a community organizer and
writer on public education reform.

By Marni Barron and Leigh Dingerson

Recently, we were reflecting on the portrayal of teachers on screen these
days. There’s the animated “dance of the lemons,” and Michelle Rhee’s
teaching bashing in “*Waiting for Superman*.” Now comes Cameron Diaz in “*The
Bad Teacher*.” What happened to the teacher as guide? Or the teacher as
inspiration? What happened to Ms. Frizzle?

You remember Ms. Frizzle. She was the uber-elementary science teacher of the
public television series *“The Magic School
*.” The show was first broadcast in 1994, based on the books by Joanna Cole.
Miss Frizzle is famous for the amazing field trips that she takes her
students on—a fantastic demonstration of experiential learning where
students don’t just learn about life on Mars or the workings of the heart
and lungs…they go there. Through the extraordinary power of the Magic School
Bus, they shrink to size, and take off on educational adventures.

We remember watching episodes of* The Magic School Bus *with our children,
hoping that our toddlers would someday have teachers as dynamic, quirky,
creative and flamboyant as Ms. Frizzle. But it seems like today’s teachers
are getting all the Ms. Frizzle drilled out of them, both on-screen and off.

Which got us thinking about teacher evaluations and how, like everything
else, what you get depends on what you measure.

We both live in Washington, D.C. The recently ended school year marked the
second under the District of Columbia’s new evaluation system, called
IMPACT. Just last week, the District announced
206* teachers have been fired for flunking IMPACT this year.

IMPACT was launched in the fall of 2009 by former D.C. Chancellor Michelle
Rhee, and was immediately lauded as a model for the rest of the nation.
While much of the focus and reporting on IMPACT has been on its use of test
scores—so-called Value Added
judge teacher effectiveness, the majority of teachers in DC are not subject
to the Value Added components of IMPACT. They teach in grade levels or
subject areas that are not tested (yet). For these teachers, 50% of their
evaluation is dependent on two, thirty-minute unannounced observations
conducted by “Master Educators,” known as “MEs.” Three additional
observations are conducted by the school’s principal.

What are these evaluators looking for? What counts? IMPACT established a
“Teaching and Learning Framework” (TLF)—essentially a checklist of nine
teaching practice areas that each teacher is expected to demonstrate during
the course of their 30-minute, surprise evaluation. Within each practice
area, there are a set of specific skills that must be demonstrated to
qualify for an “effective” grade, and additional skills that must be present
for the teacher to be considered “highly effective.” In all, to receive a
perfect score on their observation, teachers must demonstrate over 60
strategies and skills over the course of 30 minutes.

Marni is an instructional coach in a DC elementary school. As we discussed
teachers in the media, and DC’s Teaching and Learning Framework, she
reflected that her role used to be helping teachers become better educators.
Under IMPACT, her job is now defined as helping teachers pass their IMPACT
observations. We thought about the effect of that change on teachers. And we
thought of Ms.Frizzle.

*Rating Miss Frizzle*

Could Ms. Frizzle teach in D.C.? How would she fare on IMPACT?

We decided to find out, by conducting two formal observations using IMPACT’s
nine-point rubric. Assessing teachers’ preparedness for their IMPACT
observations is Marni’s job. She relished the chance to be an “ME” for the

Our observation found “the Frizz” herding her students on to the Magic
School Bus for a trip into the solar system. As her students traveled from
Mercury to Jupiter to Saturn to Neptune, Ms. Frizzle allowed them to see,
feel, and learn. They determined the gas, oxygen, hydrogen and water levels
of each planet they visited. They collected rocks, and analyzed their
composition. They worked collaboratively, sharing their knowledge with each
other. At one point, the students gently prodded one disengaged student to
rejoin the learning experience. Ms. Frizzle helped guide the students—at one
point by becoming “lost” herself, and forcing her students to figure out
which planet she was on based on scientific clues. They found her.

It was quite a lesson. But IMPACT’s rubric gave no credit to Ms. Frizzle for
the experiential and self-guided nature of this exploration to the solar
system. She failed to announce an objective for the lesson at the beginning.
She did not provide “scaffolded” prompts, or link their learning that day to
previous lessons. While she had allowed her students to experience the solar
system through a variety of senses and learning styles, she missed several
requirements on the IMPACT checklist.

Under IMPACT, a teacher must be evaluated based on the strict rubric. Ms.
Frizzle scored only a 2.2 during our first observation. She was “minimally
effective.” No matter that her students had had the experience of a
lifetime, and demonstrated extensive knowledge of the subject matter at
hand. Under IMPACT a teacher could literally take her students to the moon
and still be minimally effective. We decided to give her another chance.

The next time we randomly popped in on Ms. Frizzle, she had planned an
extraordinary lesson on asteroids. For this, her students were required to
intercept and re-direct an asteroid that was hurtling towards Earth,
threatening a direct impact on the elementary school where she taught. The
students launched into space, where they encountered several
extraterrestrial objects (a comet, space junk). How could they determine
whether each was the ominous asteroid? The kids realized they needed to
analyze the object’s composition, trajectory and speed. When they finally
found the asteroid, they figured out that it was made of iron and therefore
could be thrown off its course by a magnet. Mission accomplished!

Ms. Frizzle had prepared well for the lesson, having all of the appropriate
equipment available on the bus for the student’s discovery process and
eventual success. She did better on this evaluation. But she still fell
short of “highly effective.” For example, the Frizz did not ask the students
any questions. Rather, she provided them with opportunities to determine the
relevant questions and then answer them themselves. This sinks her on

The overall average of our dear teacher’s two scores was 2.6—barely into the
“effective” range. If we were to conduct three more IMPACT evaluations for a
total of 5 (the number of times DCPS teachers are formally observed each
year), the outcome for Ms. Frizzle could be dicey. If she were to drop to
even a 2.59, she would be considered minimally effective, and subject to
dismissal like so many teachers were, just last week.

*Something’s Wrong Here*

A teacher who is able to create a learning environment that is student-led
and teacher facilitated is considered a master of their craft by the
education community. But not by DC’s IMPACT rubric.

Of course, Ms. Frizzle is fictional, and her extraordinary field trips
aren’t really possible in today’s under-resourced classrooms (no funds for
magic school buses in most districts!). But our little exercise of
conducting formal IMPACT observations of Ms. Frizzle helped identify a
troubling aspect of DCPS’ teacher evaluation system. It’s not that the
Teaching and Learning Framework is a bad thing. Particularly for new
teachers, having a framework on good practices (stating objectives, checking
with students for comprehensive throughout the lesson, etc.) is critical. In
a strong professional growth system, teachers would not only be given such a
framework, but would also be given carefully constructed supports and
extensive professional development in the areas where they seemed to be
struggling (IMPACT provides only rudimentary feedback from Master Educators,
and little real professional support).

But for creative and dynamic teachers like Ms. Frizzle, the IMPACT rubric is
a death-knell. Teachers in D.C. now, according to several we have talked to,
are changing their practice to conform to IMPACT’s checklist. Their salaries
and their jobs depend on it. Some are tossing out their most creative lesson
plans, knowing that if a Master Educator walked in on such a lesson, their
job could be put at risk. We’re forcing some of our best teachers to be less
creative, to dumb-down their practice…or even to leave the classroom
altogether. And yes, some of the city’s dynamic and popular teachers have
been fired because their lessons didn’t adhere to the IMPACT rubric.

Evaluation systems should be part of a building process—building great and
creative and effective teachers. They shouldn’t be designed with the
inflexibility of a mousetrap. “Snap! Gotcha!”

We hope that our children will have teachers with the breadth of skills
identified on the IMPACT checklist. But we also hope that our kids will be
in classrooms with the many Ms. Frizzles of Washington, D.C.— those teachers
who don’t just talk about the planets, but take their students to them.
Without revisions, and without recognition that sometimes great teaching
doesn’t conform to a checklist, we worry that Miss Frizzle, and teachers
like her, may be getting thrown under the bus.

**number of teachers fired based on Post reporter Bill Turque’s adjusted

Michelle Rhee and Rupert Murdoch: Thick as Thieves?

uly 23, 2011 08:00 AM 

Michelle Rhee and Rupert Murdoch: Thick as Thieves?

By karoli
When Rupert Murdoch gave his testimony earlier this week in London, former New York City School Chancellor Joel Klein was sitting directly behind him. After a stormy tenure in New York City where he fought teachers unions and closed schools according to the Michelle Rhee School Destruction Model, he left and took what looked to be a cushy job at News Corp helping Murdoch launch his for-profit education products.
Getting in the middle of another public dustup was the last thing on his agenda when he joined Murdoch’s media empire last November as a $2 million-a-year executive vice president, leaving his flap-prone post as chancellor of New York City’s school system to sit on News Corp.’s board of directors and advise the company’s entry into the for-profit education market. Klein is nothing if not savvy in the ways of big media companies; his wife, Nicole Seligman, is chief counsel for the Sony Corp.
But Klein doesn't just have ties to Rupert Murdoch. He's also "like this" with Michelle Rhee from his time in New York., in 2009:
Michelle Rhee touted her red-track/green-track teacher pay proposal last night at Pace University, saying it’s made such a splash that Mayor Bloomberg asked Chancellor Joel Klein if they could bring a similar model to New York. The proposal, which is being negotiated with the D.C. teachers union right now, would award some first-year teachers nearly $40,000 raises in exchange for giving up their tenure rights — while others could choose a “red” path where they retain tenure but are paid less.
Rhee said the model came up in a recent chat with Klein, who she said she speaks to regularly to share “best practices” and to commiserate. Klein told her that Mayor Bloomberg had asked if they could bring the red/green plan to New York.
“Apparently Klein said to him, ‘Not even you have enough money to do all of that in New York City,’” she said. Rhee’s plan, if passed, will be financed by private philanthropy for the first five years, she said.
See that private philanthropy claim there at the bottom? This is a Rhee hallmark. She rides into school districts on promises of private benefactors if only those schools will just clean up their acts and get it together the way she envisions. She doesn't name the private benefactors, so let me name a few who spend millions of dollars on Rhee's enterprises: Devos, Walton, and the Friedman foundations, whose sole goal is to turn public school districts private.
She'll deny that, of course, but as was reported over at Daily Kos, she slipped up and let it out with regard to Tennessee:
In essence, Rhee has been edging out of the closet on this issue, showing her opposition to collective bargaining first and foremost through her actions, but slipping every now and then and letting it come through in her words. That's what happened in Tennessee over the weekend, in which she talked about her support for school vouchers privatization, and:
She also praised the Tennessee legislature for its recent stances on education, calling its work "aggressive and courageous laws."
That would be a clear reference to the Tennessee bill eliminating collective bargaining and preventing teachers' unions from making campaign contributions or lobbying the state legislature; it was passed at the same time as a bill allowing corporations to give direct contributions to political candidates. To this point, Rhee has been working the "Democrat who saw the light" angle as she works overwhelmingly with Republicans. That image has deteriorated to the point where she had to shore up her credentials as a non-Republican by hiring DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan to shill for Students First. But at this point, you have to wonder why she's making the even a halfhearted effort to pretend she's anything but a John Kasich-Rick Scott-Scott Walker Republican when it comes to education issues.
The Nation ties it up in a nice neat package:
But what’s been less well understood is the impact the scandal might have on Murdoch’s attempt to make a profit off the American public sector, most notably through seeking to provide technology services, such as data-tracking systems and video lessons, to public school districts. Last November, shortly after hiring Klein, News Corp. acquiredWireless Generation, an education technology firm that had worked closely with Klein during his tenure as chancellor on two projects: ARIS, a controversial (and buggy) data system that warehouses students’ standardized test scores and demographic profiles; and School of One, a more radical attempt to use technology to personalize instruction, reorganize classrooms, and reduce the size of the teaching force.The acquisition put Klein, who was set to supervise Wireless Generation, in an awkward position vis √† vis city ethics regulations.
Back to those non-profits for a minute. It's no secret that Rhee has set a goal of securing $1 billion in donations for her Students First organization in order to evangelize her message to reform privatize our public school system and destroy unions. Those goals are perfectly in line with Murdoch's business model with regard to his education products too. So do they have a connection, given the common links with Klein? Possibly, as The Nation reports.
But scrutiny on Murdoch’s school agenda is growing. Aware of the media titan’s relationship with former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, education reporter Alexander Russo tried to find out if Murdoch had donated toStudentsFirst, Rhee’s PAC. The group’s goal is to act as a political counterweight to teachers’ unions.“After two days of emails and phone calls—they must have been freaking out behind the scenes trying to figure out what to do—a Rhee spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny the Murdoch money,” Russo wrote.“Our policy doesn't allow me to reveal who our donors are or aren't,” the spokesman said.
Watch this space for more. It would be great if the FBI would look at those ties in addition to what they're already investigating. I'll be watching.

[NOBAMA] Republican Obama removes mask, sells us out

[NOBAMA]   Republican Obama removes mask, sells us out

It's crunch time, and Republican President Obama is delivering to his Wall Street and Corporate Masters.

Elected by fooling liberal and progressive Democrats that he would Change America for them, Republican Obama has always been an advocate of Ronald Reagan's failed trickle-down Economic Theory which was developed at University of Chicago where DINO Obama was born.

Trickle-down fails for ordinary Americans.  It does not fail for millionaires and billionaires: it makes them richer, which is exactly what Republican Obama was put in the White House to do.

There is NO Economic Crisis regarding the Debt Ceiling.  This false Crisis was manufactured in order to drive a hole thru the Middle Class of America which it shall never recover from.  The intention of Wall $treet Banks is that Americans shall be in debt to them now and forever, Amen.  Republican President Obama is their tool to accomplish their goal, by pretending this invented Crisis demands it.

The Debt Ceiling has been raised under all Republican Presidents -- with no problem -- including 7 times under GwB.  Coupling this simple act to other unrelated Economic Goals is a Grand Illusion, intended to obfuscate and confuse, and to fill Corporate Media with a conflict which does not exist.  It is a Monstrous Fraud upon the American people, to take Government by the People, and turn it into Government by Corporations.

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself.  That, in its essence, is Fascism -- ownership of government by an individual, by a group or by any controlling private power."  -- President Franklin Roosevelt

Social Security contributes not one penny to the National Debt.  Obliterating this truth, Republicans, including their surrogate President Obama, are claiming that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and a host of other Social Net programs for the Middle Class must be CUT, in order to pump more money into the pockets of the already filthy rich 1% of criminal Americans.  Once there, it shall NEVER trickle-down, on its way to investment in foreign lands, along with still more lost American jobs, for even more profits, upon which NO taxes shall be paid.

DINO Obama promised Change:  end Wars, healthcare for all, a better economy.  All Lies.  The only Change Republican Obama brought was to kill more Americans, torture more Americans, and send more Americans to live in poverty, all part of his obligation to make his rich Wall $treet Corporate Masters richer.
This is not rocket science, folks.  It's simple smoke and mirrors, told by SuperCons as they strip you of ever attaining any American Dream.  While more of us shall live in poverty for the rest of our lives, Republican Obama as his reward shall join the ranks of multi-millionaires.  He sold his soul to Wall $treet.  The price he paid was your happiness.

Obama Gutting Core Principles of Democratic Party READ MORE

Example to illustrate:  ThinkProgress examined the Republican position in the debt-limit negotiations of blocking any new tax hikes on their millionaires and billionaire campaign contributors – and instead pushing for price hikes on student loans.  Currently – the 400 richest Americans own $1.37 trillion worth of wealth.  At the same time – all the outstanding student loan debt in the country tops out at around $1 trillion.  That means the 400 richest American could pay off every single student loan in the country – an STILL have $370 billion to divvy up amongst themselves – or about $925 million a person.  Would it be too much to ask these billionaires to live off of a mere $925 million?  Perhaps – but the very least we can do is make them pay their fair share and raise their taxes a few percentage points….after all – they’ll still be billionaires.     


Are we seeing the “shock doctrine” at work in the debt-limit debate? Author Naomi Klein wrote the book on the Shock Doctrine – a tactic used by Conservatives throughout history to manufacture or exploit a crisis in order to push through radical right-wing reforms that benefit the super rich and screw over the working class.  She’s now weighing in on the current debt-limit debate saying this in a statement for the website “Using trumped up crisis to raid the public purse and attack the basic rights and benefits is a very old trick - but rarely is the shock doctrine tactic wielded as brazenly as in the pseudo debate about the debt ceiling. This is naked class war, waged by the ultra rich against everyone else, and it's well past time for Americans to draw the line.
She’s right – we have no debt crisis.  Our debt-to-GDP ration is well below what it was after World War 2 – and both Democratic and Republican Presidents spent federal money to grow our economy out of debt.  And as a recent Gallup poll noted – Americans don’t give a damn about the debt – they care about jobs!  But Republicans are using a fake debt crisis to destroy the last remnants of FDR’s New Deal by dismantling social safety nets – downsizing the middle class – and handing over the commons to transnational corporations.  As long as there is a so-called debt crisis – Republicans think they can get away with turning the United States into a banana republic.

Confused?  Here is a just released 45 min Video Edition of Democracy NOW! in which the current fake "Crisis" is laid out quite clearly.  

Pushing Crisis: GOP Cries Wolf on Debt Ceiling in Order to Impose Radical Pro-Rich Agenda

President Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner are allegedly close to a $3 trillion deficit-reduction package as part of a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling before an Aug. 2 deadline. But the deal is coming under fire from both congressional Democrats and Republicans. We’re joined by economist Michael Hudson, president of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends, a Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and author of "Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire." Watch/Listen/Read

Wall $treet money helps Obama campaign coffers grow 
President Barack Obama is relying more on Wall Street money during this election than the last one, according to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. A third of the money Obama’s elite fundraising corps has raised is from the financial sector.
Another lie: the more they tell them, the more they think you might believe them.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) defended the Gang of Six’s deficit-reduction proposal with the promise that only “the people sucking off the program are going to be the ones that lose.”

Gang of Six Plan Would Raise Taxes on Low-Income Workers Read the Article 

INSTITUTE INDEX: Gang of Six takes from poor, gives to rich

THURS 7/21 | Under a deficit reduction plan unveiled this week by a bipartisan group of six U.S. senators, social spending would be slashed while the wealthiest Americans and corporations would enjoy tax breaks.  •>  More...
Matt Taibbi | Where's the Uproar? 

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone   "We're seriously talking about defaulting on our debt, and cutting Medicare and Social Security, so that Google can keep paying its current 2.4 percent effective tax rate and GE, a company that received a $140 billion bailout en route to worldwide 2010 profits of $14 billion, can not only keep paying no taxes at all, but receive a $3.2 billion tax credit from the federal government. 

And nobody appears to give a shitt. What the hell is wrong with people? Have we all lost our minds?" READ MORE

The Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling is fast approaching, so please join an emergency call-in. Please add your voice by calling BOTH of your 2 Senators, regardless of their Party. Both Dems & Rethugs need to hear from you.

Tell the person who picks up the phone, “Please stand strong against any rotten deal for working families, even if it has bipartisan support.” And tell them:
  • No deal that kills jobs. Your top priority should be creating jobs.
  • No deal that cuts Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. “Chained CPI” or any other change in how cost of living is calculated is a back-door scam to massively slash benefits, and is unacceptable.
  • No "territorial taxation system" that destroys American jobs by giving incentives for corporations to ship jobs overseas and shift profits to overseas tax havens.
  • We cannot solve our long-term fiscal challenges with cuts alone. A deal that makes massive cuts today with vague promises to raise revenue in the future is not acceptable.


President Barack Obama  (202) 456-1111

                                                                         Fax: (202) 456-2461

When you call, make sure you get this message logged, loud and clear:

"This I promise:  Lay a finger on Social Security, 
and NOBAMA shall become your worst nightmare."


Unattributed parts of this Article  © 2011  Gene Messick

Sunday, July 24, 2011

New Orleans schools: A nexus of poverty, high expulsion rates, hyper-security and novice teachers

New Orleans schools: A nexus of poverty, high expulsion rates, hyper-security and novice teachers

Ohanian Comment: As I read this horrific, documented account of how children are treated in New Orleans schools, I find it hard to grasp that this is happening here. These are our children.

Follow the hot links in this well researched article.

Read about the American Independent here and consider making a donation. The American Independent News Network is a non-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions to AINN are tax deductible

The American Independent News Network
Attn: Chelsi Warner
1825 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 625
Washington, D.C. 20009

Learning Matters is mentioned briefly. I couldn't resist posting one of the transcripts on their 'study' of teaching in New Orleans--referred to briefly in the article. Look at who supports them.

NOTE: Produced by Learning Matters Inc. for PBS NewsHour July 7th, 2009
Paul Vallas in New Orleans
Episode 10 - The TFA Effect

Does being bright, young and energetic qualify one to be a good teacher? New Orleans Superintendent Paul Vallas seems to think so.

About 20% of Vallas' teachers are novices from groups like Teach for America and other organizations that recruit top graduates and send them into some of the nation’s toughest schools, with just 8 weeks of training, or less.

Vallas believes that TFA teachers bring the enthusiasm and idealism needed to fix a district plagued by academic failure. But are these teachers prepared to succeed in the most challenging classrooms?


JIM LEHRER: Now a plan to use rookie teachers in one of the toughest school districts in
the United States. The NewsHour's special correspondent for education, John Merrow, has
been chronicling the efforts to improve public schools in New Orleans and Washington,
D.C. Tonight, he looks at how some novice teachers fared in New Orleans this year.
TEACHER: Say what you mean. You can do better than that. I know what you're trying to
say, but tell me what you're actually trying to tell me.
JOHN MERROW: Almost everyone agrees that teachers are the single most important
factor in a child's education.
TEACHER: We're seeing some really good ideas, some really interesting ideas.
JOHN MERROW: But good ones can be hard to find. Teach for America, or TFA, believes
it has the solution: recruit top college graduates for a two-year stint in the nation's toughest
public schools.
PAUL VALLAS, New Orleans superintendent: We are rebuilding a public school system
from the ground up.
JOHN MERROW: New Orleans Superintendent Paul Vallas is one of Teach for America's
biggest fans.
PAUL VALLAS: They bring an extraordinary work ethic. They're very innovative. They're
very creative. They're brilliant. They have high expectations for the kids.
JOHN MERROW: Vallas is hoping TFA will help close the achievement gap in his
Recovery School District, where 65 percent of students are at least a year behind. Since his
arrival two years ago, Vallas' district has hired 128 Teach for America members. They and
other so-called fast-tracked teachers now make up 20 percent of his staff.
Although they have only eight weeks of training, Vallas believes their intelligence and
enthusiasm more than compensate for their lack of experience. Can this be true? What
Produced by Learning Matters, Inc. for PBS NewsHour
For questions, comments, or more information, visit Or contact us
via email at
impact do novice teachers have on troubled schools?
Motivation to Teach
DANIEL HOFFMAN, teacher, G.W. Carver High School: I think it's vital for me to
JOHN MERROW: Yale graduate Daniel Hoffman was hired to teach math at George
Washington Carver, one of the district's most challenging high schools.
DANIEL HOFFMAN: In my ordinary life, if I fail, I'm the only one failing. If I fail in this
classroom, all my kids fail. That's what motivates me to succeed.
JOHN MERROW: Princeton graduate Jeylan Erman was also hired to teach math at Carver.
JEYLAN ERMAN, Teacher, G.W. Carver High School: The whole aura of the city is all
about change, all about reform. I never really believed that there could be such an energy
and excitement for change until I came here.
JOHN MERROW: Lindsay Ordower, a graduate of Mount Holyoke, was hired to teach
science at Frederick Douglass, another low-performing high school.
LINDSAY ORDOWER, teacher, Frederick Douglass High School: What I'm looking
forward the most to is actually getting to know my students. I don't want to know them by
their handwriting; I actually want to know who they are.
All right. So science is all about investigation, OK?
JOHN MERROW: From day one, Lindsay seemed to be a natural in the classroom.
LINDSAY ORDOWER: It's really important that we know what's in the water that we're
drinking. We can't just trust someone else's opinion.
I think today went well.
You want to try one? I knew you would.
I did stay on task. I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish. They're on schedule
for where I wanted them to be.
DANIEL HOFFMAN: Everyone has a seat? Start working on your worksheet.
Idealism put to the test
JOHN MERROW: However, Daniel's idealism was put to the test from the start.
DANIEL HOFFMAN: Everyone familiar with a liter? Give me a thumbs-up if you're
familiar with a liter, thumbs-down if you're not. I need everybody to give me either a
thumbs-up or a thumbs-down.
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I have not had as much success as I'd like to have. When I'm in the classroom, I'm
thinking, "Oh, my god, what am I doing?"
JEYLAN ERMAN: Anyone want to share what they wrote in their power-ups?
JOHN MERROW: Jeylan also had trouble connecting with students.
JEYLAN ERMAN: I thought I'd come into teaching being naturally good at it, because I
care so much about students. I automatically thought that, because I care so much, I had to
be really great. It's not like that.
JOHN MERROW: A few months into the year, discipline continued to be Daniel's major
stumbling block.
DANIEL HOFFMAN: Kids getting up, walking around, walking out of class, you name it. I
get things thrown at me all the time. A garbage can was thrown at me once.
I need you to go back in class.
STUDENT: What are you telling me for?
JOHN MERROW: Is this what you expected?
DANIEL HOFFMAN: Yes and no. I knew that I was coming into one of the most difficult
educational situations in the country. A lot of these kids have seen murder, seen Katrina, and
so there's almost nothing that they're scared of. Dealing with that when I am supposed to be
in a position of authority, in some ways, my hands are tied.
JEYLAN ERMAN: I want all of you to pass your homework to the front. Pass your
homework to the front. Anybody else?
Demands of the job
JOHN MERROW: The demands of long hours preparing for and then teaching her classes
had Jeylan hitting the wall.
JEYLAN ERMAN: It's been really, really hard for me to muster up the energy to get up and
go into class with that idealism and optimism that brought me down to New Orleans in the
first place.
JOHN MERROW: Jeylan's low point came when her class started a petition to get
her fired.
JEYLAN ERMAN: I remember sitting at the corner of my room, on my desk, and, like,
literally not yet crying, but, like, on the verge of tears.
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LINDSAY ORDOWER: Kevin? Where's Kevin?
JOHN MERROW: For Lindsay, our most confident teacher, the biggest problem
was attendance.
LINDSAY ORDOWER: Is Walter here today?
I have 26 students on my roster, but on any given day I can expect about 17.
JOHN MERROW: You have 10 right now.
JOHN MERROW: One just came in.
LINDSAY ORDOWER: It slows my teaching down a lot. I feel like I'm always playing
All right. Who was not here yesterday and needs a handout on metals versus non- metals?
JEYLAN ERMAN: So we're not just dealing with negative X. We're dealing with negative
1X, just like we've been trying for the last few days.
JOHN MERROW: By January, Jeylan's class seemed to be turning around, and the
student petition was long forgotten.
JEYLAN ERMAN: I was so adamant that I wasn't going to fail from the beginning, and that
led to many different ideas. And when one wouldn't work, I would try another one. When
that one didn't work, I kept going, going and going, until I finally found what worked for me
and felt natural to me.
I'm going to pass out another worksheet that I need you to finish, good practice for you all.
LINDSAY ORDOWER: What do we see about body color for all three of these groups of
frogs? Are they somewhat the same?
JOHN MERROW: Lindsay continued to improve, and her students seemed to benefit.
WAYNE JONES, senior, Frederick Douglass High School: I can tell she was like a
pretty cool teacher. I had a real problem with science; she made it easy for me. I could
understand it.
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MICHAEL MATTIO, senior, Frederick Douglass High School: Out of all the teachers
I knew in past years, she was the first teacher who ever told me, if I need a recommendation,
come see me, try to help me through college, try to help me find a college. That's the first
teacher who did that.
WAYNE JONES: And she pushed us -- the way she pushed us beyond our natural
bounds, beyond our natural limits.
LINDSAY ORDOWER: Very proud of my kids. I think they're doing very hard work.
Yesterday, all of our re-testers got their test results back. I think at least 80 percent
of my students said they passed.
DANIEL HOFFMAN: All right. Let me take a step back, because I realize that there's
a little bit of confusion about this activity.
JOHN MERROW: However, Daniel never hit his stride. He continued to struggle, and so
did his class.
DANIEL HOFFMAN: Eighteen centimeters. You did that. You divide it into 100 and
you take 18 of those.
The one thing that really gets to me is when my kids tell me I'm a bad teacher, because I
know to a certain extent it's true. It's hard, because you see, you know, something that you
think you've taught a dozen times, the same exact problem, with none of the numbers
changed, I gave it on the test, and a lot of the kids didn't -- still didn't know how to do it.
Learning at the expense of students
JOHN MERROW: At year's end, we invited the teachers to dinner. They brought two other
first-year Teach for America colleagues, Zitsi Mirakhur and Bayoji Akingbola. We asked
them to respond to a common criticism of TFA. Are you learning to teach at the expense of
these kids who actually need experienced teachers?
DANIEL HOFFMAN: The kids are the only reason we're here. We're not here for the
paycheck. We're not here for anything else like that. We're here for the kids, and we're
putting our all into it.
BAYOJI AKINGBOLA, teacher, Frederick Douglass High School: We stay up until like 1, 2
o'clock, stay at school 'til 7 o'clock working on lesson plans, and that energy, which might
not be there if you've been in the system for 10 or 15 years, we use as a tool to make positive
JOHN MERROW: So the energy outweighs your inexperience?
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BAYOJI AKINGBOLA: Yes. Yes. It compensates for it.
JEYLAN ERMAN: Absolutely.
JOHN MERROW: Did you ever find yourself triaging? "Well, I don't have enough
energy to help everyone here, so I'm really going to work on these two"?
TEACHER: Definitely.
TEACHER: Absolutely.
TEACHER: Definitely.
TEACHER: Absolutely.
JEYLAN ERMAN: And if you were to take the entire classroom by storm and try to
tackle all the issues, I mean, I don't think any one of us is capable of that.
LINDSAY ORDOWER: It's not always in your control. Like, I had a student acting up a
few weeks ago that had never really -- he would sleep during class all the time. And I find
out that he's homeless. There's no way that me being nicer or stricter or more motivational is
going to change the fact that he doesn't have a home.
ZITSI MIRAKHUR, teacher, G.W. Carver High School: I think all of us, our collective
society, has to address issues of poverty, very fundamentally, of health care. But we can't just
say that we're going to fix the school system and everything will be OK.
JOHN MERROW: But Vallas is adamant that smart young teachers are the answer,
even if their commitment is short term.
PAUL VALLAS: I want to have a steady flow of the best and the brightest from the
colleges and universities into our teaching corps. And if they stay for two or three or
four years and then move on, so be it.
JOHN MERROW: But Daniel Hoffman won't have a second or a third year. At the end of
his first year, Carver High School dismissed him.
DANIEL HOFFMAN: It's probably the right thing, but I don't know if -- I'm still
wrapping my head around it in a lot of ways.
JOHN MERROW: Daniel is the rare exception. Both Lindsay and Jeylan were asked to stay
for their second year, as are almost all TFA recruits. Sixty percent stay a third year.
Vallas himself originally signed a two-year contract, but buoyed by improved graduation
rates and increases in scores on state tests, he's signed on for a third year and promises to
hire more new teachers for the fall.

Reader Response: Your story today regarding the young Teach for America college students hired in New Orleans shows me that newscasters know as little about education as politicians do. Education would be better if politicians and newscasters stayed out of education. I say that as a retired high school teacher.

Why wasn’t the question ever raised or ever mentioned to these "America's brightest and best" that seasoned teachers spend 15 hour days staying up to 1AM grading papers, grading more papers and doing lesson plans on weekends, grading tests, projects, notebooks, and countless other things over holiday breaks? Everyone acts as if they know the life of an English teacher or a Science teacher in a high school or any age group. Good teachers work their butts off. The job demands it. The lives of the students demand it. All of you, with your lack of understanding and indecent reporting which is too often dishonest, as with dishonest politicians control work to keep our schools down, which in the long run is to the benefit of corporate capitalism.

Have you ever noticed how teachers are never the ones asked to fix the schools? We are always told what to do!

This program [Learning Matters] was made possible by support from the Annenberg, The Eli and Edythe Broad, Bill & Melinda Gates, William and Flora Hewlett and Wallace Foundations.
By Mikhail Zinshteyn

John, an eighth grader at the time, gives another student on school grounds a candy bar. He is spotted by a security guard and told he now faces suspension. Frightened, John runs, getting caught twice and slapped with handcuffs as many times, acquiring bruises along his wrists in the process. A jacket his grandmother purchased is torn during the scuffle with the much larger security personnel.

"Knowing how my dad has been in and out of jail his whole life and always had handcuffs on. . . I promised myself it would never happen to me," John says. "I'm a kid, and kids shouldn't have handcuffs on them. It disgusts me putting kids in handcuffs and jail."

Another student, identified as Chris, is handcuffed to a radiator in the central office of the school after completing an out-of-school suspension. He's shackled for three hours, and not even the protestations of a teacher, and finally his mother, lead to the release of the boy.

"They just kept handcuffing me. Even other students got handcuffed," shares Chris. "One kid was in special-ed and he would holler and cry when they handcuffed him."

Last December, the Southern Poverty Law Center transcribed these stories of Chris and John, students attending New Orleans schools, along with half a dozen other first-person accounts of the increasing penalization on the playgrounds and hallways throughout the city.

Yet the brute force chronicled speaks to a much larger dissonance affecting New Orleans public education, supplying more ammunition to critics of New Orleans schools that bulk up on young, cheap and inexperienced teachers to educate a community particularly blighted by poverty.

Poverty and punishment explained

The intersection of punishment, student poverty and teacher experience begins, strangely enough, with a paper comparing transfer rates and international test scores in over five dozen countries.

In a study published (PDF) July 6, researchers for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) noted countries that hold students back an additional year or shuffle students out of schools for academic or behavioral problems are more likely to support education systems marked by inequity, low student performance and unnecessarily bloated budgets.

In gathering the data, the writers of the brief collected results from the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 65 member and partner countries, representing a wide spectrum of GDP per capita, and principal surveys from participating schools.

The authors conclude that:

PISA 2009 reveals that countries in which more schools transfer students for the abovementioned reasons show poorer overall performance. In fact, over one-third of the variation in student performance across countries can be explained by the rate at which schools transfer students, regardless of the wealth of the country.

School systems that transfer students more frequently also tend to show a stronger relationship between students' socio-economic background and performance, and a wider gap in performance between schools, even after accounting for countries' national income. This suggests that transferring students tends to be associated with socio-economic segregation in school systems, where students from advantaged backgrounds end up in better-performing schools while students from disadvantaged backgrounds end up in poorer-performing schools. However, this does not necessarily mean that if countries abolish their transfer policies, their performance will automatically improve; PISA doesn’t measure cause and effect.

In New Orleans, dismissing students from schools for behavioral infractions or poor academic performance is a common occurrence, and one disproportionately affecting students of color or living in low-income households.

During a conversation with The American Independent, a doctor of education and radio host Raynard Sanders said, “In this city, we have a system where the kids are separated by race and class. Kids that … are expelled are placed into schools that are not close to home, with bad facilities.”

And while the state-managed Recovery School District (RSD) — part of a dramatic deconstruction of the city's school system following Hurricane Katrina that resulted in the majority of the schools being taken over by Baton Rouge and turned over to charter schools -- is often skewered for a chronically underperforming student body, charter schools are guilty of their own quick-triggered dismissal of students.

The Big Easy is rather breezy with its expulsion rates: As previously reported by The American Independent, the rate of expulsion among RSD students in 2008 was ten times the national average. Suspensions were also extremely high, with 29 percent of RSD students losing at least one instructional day — over four times the national average. The punitive landscape is exacerbated further by the number of security personnel in RSD schools. The year before Katrina, the city-wide school district Orleans Parish School Board spent (according to according to a 2010 report from the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative) $46 per student on security. The first full year of RSD in 2006-2007 saw that number soar to $2,100. And though that figure went down in 2008-2009, it was still nearly $700 per student.

The reasons students are dismissed are often egregious and can have a deleterious effect on a child's long-term academic prospects. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported on a U.S. Department of Justice study that found abusive punishment inflicted on a student by school authorities increases the child’s risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder five-fold. The SPLC document continued:

An over-reliance on these disciplinary methods can lead to the loss of valuable learning time, while contributing significantly to dropout rates. The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates that Louisiana loses more than $6.9 billion annually in wages as a result of policies that push students out of school before graduation.

The degree to which race and class factor into disciplinary measures is also highlighted by SPLC:

  • In RSD schools, 98% of students are African American and 79% of students are low income. RSD students are suspended at a rate that is more than three times the rate of suspension in neighboring, mostly white, affluent school districts.

  • In St. Tammany Parish, where only 18.5% of students are African American and 42.5% are low-income, only 8% of students were suspended.

  • In St. Charles Parish, where only 36.4% of students are African American and 45.1% are low-income, only 4.1% of students were suspended from school.

  • Charter schools expel, suspend and fine students for being late or snacking

    Charter schools in the city, motivated by a desire to demonstrate high student-proficiency numbers according to state tests, use both selective admissions processes and implement codes of conduct that allow them to dismiss students not making the academic cut, says Lance Hill, a former professor of cultural studies who now heads the Southern Institute for Education and Research.

    "Most of the charters enroll students by way of lottery to exclude high-needs, high-costs students," he begins. "Yet a lot of the selectivity is after the admissions process -- they use minor excuses for expulsion in case they enroll low-performing students."

    Research on Reforms (ROR), a collection of education scholars critical of the charter movement, and Learning Matters, an education reporting unit regularly featured on PBS, provided the legal justification and details of New Orleans charter school dismissal policies in a report on the ROR website. What follows is a sampling of their findings, along with original reporting by TAI.

    At Lafayette Academy, "Removal of food from cafeteria" "Lying/falsehood," "Sleeping in class" and "Leaving classroom without teacher's permission," along with 48 other infractions are described as risking "an orderly environment for learning" and can lead to suspension or expulsion, according to the school handbook.

    Miller-McCoy Academy for Mathematics and Business also warns students and parents cutting class, school, detention and related mandatory school events can lead to suspension or expulsion. Other offenses that warrant out-of-class dismissal include possession of electronics and printed text deemed vulgar or profane. The handbook also states items confiscated can be held by the school permanently, irrespective of costs and fees.

    According to the 2010 handbook of the New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy, a child with 12 unexcused absences for the year can lead to the school reporting the parent to the Louisiana Department of Social Services. Hill says the school included the 'can' only recently, meaning prior to the switch, the school did report parents to child services.

    KIPP Central City Primary appears to be the most draconian: The handbook explains five or more instances of the student being tardy or absent can result in a $250 fine, an official police report, a summons to perform 25 hours of community service by the parent, guardian or child or permanent removal from the school. If a child is missing from school for twenty consecutive days, even with parental notification, that child is automatically withdrawn from the school.

    Charles Roemer, an RSD committee chair and member of the Louisiana Board of Early and Secondary Education, said in an early-June public meeting that, "The charter school determines what they can and cannot do autonomously. So that is their decision, their discipline policy, their expulsion policy, their attendance policies, which can be determined at a school by school basis for charter schools."

    In a follow-up question that asked if state law permits that type of autonomy, he said: "It is consistent with the Louisiana Charter School Law. That's what it is consistent with. It is. Absolutely."

    If more experienced teachers keep students calm -- do better test scores follow?

    Given the increase in disciplinary punishment meted out in New Orleans schools, what changed after the storm? Some could point to poverty as an excuse for ramping up security in the playgrounds and hallways, but the leading indicator of low-income status in schools, qualifying for reduced lunch programs, hardly changed enough since the antediluvian period to warrant constant surveillance.

    In 2004, before the state put the city's school system through a tectonic shift and wound up with an archipelago comprising dozens of self-governing academies (and the abrupt dissolution of the collective bargaining agreement between teachers and the city, resulting in 8,500 layoffs), 77 percent of Orleans Parish students qualified for the lunch programs; 89 percent of New Orleans public school students are eligible today.

    But while poverty increased, the experience level of teachers took a turn in the opposite direction, and with it, a talent for managing at-risk pupils.

    "There is a saying in teaching if you cannot manage your classroom, there's no way you can transfer your knowledge," begins Davina Allen, a Teach For America alumna in New Orleans currently earning a post secondary degree in educational leadership. "If you're struggling with behavioral issues, then there's a very good chance you're not teaching well."

    TAI spoke to Allen about the tandem force of keeping teachers in schools over a longer period of time and how a high turnover of labor in education hobbles the community.

    "No one is saying all old teachers are better, but the new paradigm is that you don't want veteran teachers around" is flawed, she said.

    According to an internal document from the American Federation of Teachers obtained by TAI that uses 2008-2009 Times Picayune teacher experience data in New Orleans, experience matters. For RSD schools, which tend to perform poorly, 42 percent of teachers in K-8 classrooms have less than two years of experience. One in six eighth-grade students are proficient in math. At Orleans Parish, which was spared a handful of schools following the state takeover of schools in the city, thirteen percent of teachers had less than two years of experience and two out of three eighth-graders were proficient in math.

    The class and race criticisms Dr. Sanders imputed for the region's schools are likely fueled by these findings, also from AFT:

  • A typical White high school student attends a school in which 17 percent of the teachers are in their first or second year, but a typical African-American high school student attends a school in which 37 percent of teachers are in their first or second year.

  • For a typical African-American student in a state-run RSD high school, the vast majority of teachers (64 percent) are in their first or second year.

  • A typical White student in grades K-8 eligible for free lunch attends a school in which only 15 percent of teachers are in their first or second year, but a typical free lunch-eligible African-American student attends a school in which double that percentage of teachers (29 percent) are similarly inexperienced.

  • An African-American student who is ineligible for free lunch is more likely to have a first- or second-year teacher (21 percent) than a White student who is eligible for free lunch (12 percent).

  • Part of the blame for the disparity in performance falls squarely on the shoulders of the Recovery School District at large. As a report on education strategies in New Orleans and other large cities from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform states, "Many respondents [New Orleans educators, school officials] felt that, with the possible exception of some charter and [Orleans Parish School District] schools, teachers and leaders overall are not getting the level of support they need either from administrators or the system at large."

    But RSD appears satisfied with its human resources model. This year alone, 250 experienced teachers will lose their jobs, with a cadre of Teach for America fellows filing through in replacement to help educate the some 40,000 students in New Orleans. That decision continues a trend of favoring younger educators.

    An education scholar who requested not to be named offered a moral vignette: "Knowing how to manage behaviors with kids who watched their parents drown in Katrina is not something a French Literature major from Long Island can learn overnight." [Why can't this scholar put his name behind his statement?]

    Information on student test scores and teacher experience levels in other cities buoys the data mining at AFT. A 2009 study out of the University of Virginia observed that teacher effectiveness continues to slope upward at a steep incline into the 21st year of being on the job. And while the instructor's performance begins to sag in the subsequent decade of experience, the 30th year on the job posts higher levels of effectiveness than was achieved after ten years of teaching.

    Is it fair to draw conclusions from low socio-economic status and high transfer rates among affected students? The writers of the OECD study do little to betray that notion, putting some of the onus on educators:

    These results suggest that, in general, school systems that seek to cater to different students' needs by having struggling students repeat grades or by transferring them to other schools do not succeed in producing superior overall results and, in some cases, reinforce socio-economic inequities. Teachers in these systems may have fewer incentives to work with struggling students if they know there is an option of transferring those students to other schools.

    — Mikhail Zinshteyn
    American Independent


    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Michael Winerip on Harlem Success Academy/Moskowitz Pushouts

    July 10, 2011

    Message From a Charter School: Thrive or Transfer

    In 2008, when Katherine Sprowal’s son, Matthew, was selected in a lottery to attend the Harlem Success Academy 3 charter school, she was thrilled. “I felt like we were getting the best private school, and we didn’t have to pay for it,” she recalled.
    And so, when Eva S. Moskowitz, the former city councilwoman who operates seven Success charter schools in Harlem and the Bronx, asked Ms. Sprowal to be in a promotional video, she was happy to be included.
    Matthew is bright but can be disruptive and easily distracted. It was not a natural fit for the Success charters, which are known for discipline and long school days. From Day 1 of kindergarten, Ms. Sprowal said, he was punished for acting out.
    “They kept him after school to practice walking in the hallway,” she said.
    Several times, she was called to pick him up early, she said, and in his third week he was suspended three days for bothering other children.
    In Matthew’s three years of preschool, Ms. Sprowal said, he had never missed time for behavior problems. “After only 12 days in your school,” she wrote the principal, “you have assessed and concluded that our son is defective and will not meet your school criteria.”
    Five days later, Ms. Sprowal got an e-mail from Ms. Moskowitz that she took as a veiled message to leave. “Am not familiar with the issue,” Ms. Moskowitz wrote, “but it is extremely important that children feel successful and a nine-hour day with more than 23 children (and that’s our small class size!) where they are constantly being asked to focus and concentrate can overwhelm children and be a bad environment.”
    The next week, the school psychologist evaluated Matthew and concluded he would be better suited elsewhere: “He may need a smaller classroom than his current school has available.”
    By then, Matthew was throwing up most mornings and asking his mother if he was going to be fired from school. Worn down, Ms. Sprowal requested help finding her son another school, and Success officials were delighted to refer him to Public School 75 on the Upper West Side.
    At that point, Ms. Sprowal had come to believe her son was so difficult that she was lucky anyone would take him. She wrote several e-mails thanking Ms. Moskowitz, saying she hoped that Matthew would someday be well-behaved enough to return to her “phenomenal” school.
    Three years later, looking back, Ms. Sprowal said she felt her son had been done an injustice. Matthew, who has had a diagnosis of an attention disorder, has thrived at P.S. 75. His second-grade teachers, Johanny Lopez and Chant√© Martindale, have taught him many ways to calm himself, including stepping into the hallway for an exercise break. His report card last month was all 3s and 4s, the top marks; the teachers commented, “Matthew is a sweet boy who is a joy to have in the classroom.”
    Matthew’s story raises perhaps the most critical question in the debate about charter schools: do they cherry-pick students, if not by gaming the admissions process, then by counseling out children who might be more expensive or difficult to educate — and who could bring down their test scores, graduation rates and safety records?
    Kim Sweet, director of Advocates for Children of New York, said she had heard many such stories. “When we look at our cases where children are sent away from schools because of disabilities,” she said, “there are a disproportionate number of calls about charter schools.”
    There is no more tenacious champion of charters than Ms. Moskowitz, whose students earn top test scores and who has plans to build a chain of 40 schools. She saw Matthew’s experience in a far different light, as her spokeswoman, Jenny Sedlis, explained in two voluminous e-mails totaling 5,701 words.
    “We helped place him in a school that would better suit his needs,” Ms. Sedlis wrote. “His success today confirms the correctness of his placement. I believe that 100 percent of the time we were acting in Matthew’s best interest and that the end result benefited him and benefited P.S. 75, which now has a child excelling.”
    Ms. Sedlis denied that Matthew had been suspended, and said he was not disciplined when he was kept after school.
    “Practicing walking through the halls is the opposite of a punishment,” she wrote. “Just as in math, when a child does not get a concept, we re-teach. We don’t let the child fail. We ensure he gets it. We take the same approach with behavior. If a child is struggling, we re-teach. This is an example of when the school went out of its way to help Matthew be successful.”
    Ms. Sedlis noted that two Success board members were leaders of well-respected special-education schools, Donna Kennedy of Gillen Brewer and Scott Gaynor of the Stephen Gaynor School.
    She also offered counterexamples, like Iris Ayala, whose 6-year-old son, Alexander, has an attention disorder and speech problem but has thrived at a Success school.
    Ms. Ayala said Alexander often acted up, running out of the classroom. But the school gave him special-education help, she said, and now he is reading above grade level. “I love the school,” Ms. Ayala said.
    Alex or Matthew — whose experience is more emblematic? You would think data could help shed light here.
    Indeed, Ms. Sedlis cited figures from the city Education Department’s Web site showing that the attrition rate is lower at the Harlem Success schools than at traditional public schools in the same district.
    On the other hand, every traditional public school that is housed with a Success charter has more special-education children as well as students for whom English is the second language, according to numbers posted on city and state Web sites. At Success 3, the school Matthew attended, 10 percent are in special education and 2 percent are English language learners, according to the publicly available data; Mosaic Prep Academy, a district school that shares its building, has 23 percent in special education and 13 percent learning English as a second language.
    But Ms. Sedlis said that the Web sites were wrong, and that 7.6 percent of students at Success 3 had limited English. “It is imperative that you not use incorrect data,” she wrote. “It is a complex system and I will walk you through it and produce voluminous documentation.”
    Even if not a single number on the Education Department’s Web sites can be trusted, there is one indisputable fact: The traditional public schools handle the most severely disabled children, which Success charters do not serve. At Mosaic Prep, 58 percent of the special-education students — 46 children — are those requiring the “most restrictive environment” and are in classrooms of their own. At Success charters, the special-education children are classified as needing the “least restrictive environment” and are mainstreamed, though two of the charters will add classes strictly for special-education students in September.
    Ms. Moskowitz has enormous political clout, and without my asking, Laura Rodriguez, a deputy chancellor, sent an e-mail saying the Success charters were getting better about special education. “Harlem Success has made a real commitment to improving services for students with disabilities,” she wrote, “and we’ll continue working with them to enroll and serve even more of these students moving forward.”
    Serving children with special needs lowers test scores. At P.S. 75, Matthew’s new school, 17 percent are in special education, and for 17 percent, English is a second language. In 2009, 76 percent of the school’s general education students were proficient in language arts. But when special-education scores were factored in, proficiency dropped to 69 percent.
    Still, Robert O’Brien, who has been principal there for 14 years, says the most gratifying part of his work is with the children who lower his test scores.
    E-mail: oneducation

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Tweed Now More Corrupt than Tweed Himself: Carmine says parents should run our schools

    By Carmine Santa Maria
    for The Brooklyn Paper
    I’m more upset than a school kid whose dog ate his homework over what I think is Mayor Bloomberg’s covert plan to take parents out of education — an leave all decisions up to his expert know-nothings at the Tweed Courthouse and those mercenary-like leaders of charter schools.
    And in my opinion, I think that our school system is now more corrupt than old Boss Tweed himself — you know, the guy who Boss Hogg from “The Dukes of Hazard” was based upon. But I digress.
    Look, you all know that I have dedicated a darned good portion of my 75 years on this earth doing two things: eating, playing Santa Claus at Christmas parties, eating some more at those Christmas parties, and working to make our schools the best they can be the rest of the time.
    I was involved with the old Community School District 21 for 30 years before the mayor kept his campaign promise and abolished the Board of Education! I served as a board member for 18 years, and was the sitting president of that board when Bloomy pulled the plug!
    In my not-so-humble opinion, that’s when he began his covert operation — by creating powerless “Community Education Councils” to replace the boards that worked so well in so many neighborhoods for years.
    And I know it, because I’m an insider! I sat on the new board (well, in a figurative sense) for two terms before I was term-limited out — unlike our mayor, who’s high-priced lawyers figured out a way to keep him in office.
    Now, I know what your thinking: Carmine, clearly any problem you have with the mayor’s plan is just sour grapes.
    To that I say: Ha!
    Because you know something? This isn’t about me hiring my pals over at the law firm of Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe to get yours truly back on the board. This is about last week’s so-called election of panel members, which I think was as crooked as, well, as the boys at that aforementioned law firm.
    Look, I’m not going to bore you with the details, so I’ll get right down to the nitty gritty: the entire election should be invalidated an a new election called posthaste!
    Why, you ask?
    Because it appears to me that the Department of Education pulled out every trick in the book to make sure some favored candidates made it onto the board, and those it didn’t want got the boot.
    That’s because election rules seemed to have been changing — unbeknownst to candidates — every step of the way!
    And why did all this happen? Because the mayor thinks charter schools are the cure the education system that he made sick. And you know something else? They’re not! The mayor thinks that he knows better than the parents whose kids actually go to the schools, and you know another thing? He’s wrong about that, too!
    You want proof! Find me a charter school that has a parents association or a PTA. Most of them don’t! That’s because just like the mayor, charter schools don’t want parents involved — except to attend public hearings, fight district parents for space in our school buildings, go to Albany and ask legislators for more money, and, as this “election” proves, get charter parents to infiltrate the local school councils themselves.
    I think the charter school schemers will circumvent the law and takeover the councils by having charter parents whose kids were in a district school less than two years ago run for a seat, and then lobby the borough president to appoint more charter parents.
    And I think all this conniving is sanctioned by the Big Cheese himself who, if I’m reading these tea leaves correctly, will eventually do away with the councils, too.
    So I ask you, how can we trust the mayor’s Department of Education to teach our kids to read, write and do right, when it cannot run a fair election? Some role models for our kids, HA! All answers to questions about the election and its convoluted, manipulated runaway calendar now have to go through its legal team. I smell a rat!
    Screech at you next week!
    ©2011 Community Newspaper Group

    Friday, July 08, 2011

    Articles on DOE from The Chief: Liu on DOE Contract With NTP, NYSUT Sues on Teacher Evals, More Cheating Scandals


    DOE, Liu Clash Over Payments on
    Contracts He Previously Vetoed

    JOHN C. LIU: DOE violating state law.

    Posted: Friday, July 1, 2011
    5:00 pm | Updated: 11:45 am, Wed Jul 6, 2011.

    By DAVID SIMS | 0 comments

    The Department of Education is continuing to pay money to controversial contractors
    in defiance of rulings by his office, City Comptroller John C. Liu has charged,
    with DOE countering that the deals were legal and Mr. Liu was acting improperly
    by putting holds on the payouts.

    The agency succeeded in paying $287,000 to the New Teacher Project, a
    Teacher recruitment company, and tried to pay $1.3 million to Wireless
    Generation, a technology company, but that payment was halted by the
    Comptroller’s Office.

    Questioned Legality of

    Both contracts were rejected by Mr. Liu earlier this year, but Assistant
    Corporation Counsel Steven Stein Cushman argued in a letter that the rejections
    had not been legal under the Education Law and thus were not accepted by DOE.

    Mr. Liu in March vetoed the DOE’s contract with The New Teacher Project,
    which manages the NYC Teaching Fellows program for the city, on the grounds
    that it had failed to specify certain information on its VENDEX form, which
    monitors conflicts of interest.

    Publicly, he criticized DOE for spending money on Teacher recruitment with
    layoffs proposed in the budget; those layoffs have now been rescinded, but the
    school system will still lose 2,600 Teachers through attrition. DOE responded
    that recruitment was necessary in areas where hiring is legally required like
    English Language Leaners and special education.

    Mr. Liu’s office recently found that DOE had made three payments of
    about $95,000 apiece to TNTP, through purchase orders that are usually used for
    inter-agency disbursements or buying items like student MetroCards.

    Klein’s Involvement At

    It also found that DOE had attempted to make two payments totaling $1.3
    million to Wireless Generation, a technology firm that implements the ARIS
    system for tracking student achievement, among other projects. Mr. Liu had also
    rejected that contract on the grounds of a conflict of interest, because
    Wireless Generation is owned by News Corporation, which employs former Schools
    Chancellor Joel I. Klein.

    “Because of due diligence, we were able to catch these prior to
    payment,” Mr. Liu’s spokesman Michael Loughran said in a phone
    interview. “The DOE is attempting to pay outside consultants without
    registered contracts, in violation of the State Education Law.”

    He said that Mr. Liu’s office was trying to settle the issue amicably.
    “We have requested a meeting with the DOE to further discuss our

    But Mr. Cushman, in his letter to Deputy Comptroller for Contracts Geneith
    Turnbull, said that Mr. Liu’s actions had been “inconsistent with
    Education Law” and thus DOE had not accepted the rejection of the TNTP

    ‘Beyond His

    He disputed the Comptroller’s powers over the DOE’s procurement
    process, saying, “State Education Law does not give the Comptroller the
    authority to decide what is and what is not a complete registration package or
    to impose additional obligations on DOE in order for a contract to be
    registered...neither the Education Law nor the policies adopted by DOE even
    require completed VENDEX questionnaires to be submitted to the Comptroller at
    all as part of a registration package.”

    He cited a specific portion of Education Law that says that after 30 days of
    a contract’s filing, the Comptroller’s powers are limited.

    “Instead of complying with the Education Law requirements regarding
    the registration of DOE contracts, the Comptroller’s Office asserts a
    right not to register a DOE contract by substituting its judgment,” Mr.
    Cushman wrote. “The Education Law, however, does not allow the
    Comptroller to take this step.”

    Criteria Too Test-Heavy NYSUT Sues to Head Off New Teacher Evaluations

    RICHARD C. IANNUZZI: ‘Do it the right way.’

    Posted: Friday, July 1, 2011
    5:00 pm | Updated: 11:29 am, Wed Jul 6, 2011.

    By DAVID SIMS | 0 comments

    New York State United Teachers June 27 launched a lawsuit against the state’s
    new Teacher-evaluation regulations, due to take effect in September, charging
    that it was illegal to base 40 percent of Teachers’ grades on one
    standardized exam their students take.

    The original agreement stipulated that 20 percent of the evaluation would be
    based on “student growth data on state assessments” and another 20
    percent based on “other locally selected measures of student

    Governor: Base 40% on Tests

    But in May, Governor Cuomo proposed combining the two categories into one, with
    40 percent of the evaluation based on state tests. The state Board of Regents
    voted to let individual districts decide whether to take up the
    Governor’s framework.

    “By approving regulations that would circumvent collective bargaining
    and usurp local autonomy, the Board of Regents and State Education Department
    ignored the very law they helped negotiate, as well as the expert advice of
    their own task force of practitioners,” NYSUT President Richard C.
    Iannuzzi said in a statement.

    “New York was poised to take the lead on a path to a thoughtful and
    comprehensive evaluation system developed in collaboration with Teachers and
    other stakeholders,” he added. “Instead, the Regents chose politics
    over sound policy and the cheap way over the right way.”

    State Education Department spokesman Jonathan Burman said in a statement,
    “This new Teacher and Principal evaluation system will allow local
    districts to recognize and replicate teaching excellence, provide intensive
    professional development for teachers in need of additional support, and
    provide a fair, objective and expedited means of removing ineffective teachers
    from the classroom. It is the critical foundation of all of our efforts to
    ensure that every classroom is led by a highly effective Teacher. We have every
    confidence that it will be upheld by the courts.”

    Weight to Tests’

    NYSUT’s lawsuit focuses on the over-reliance on standardized tests,
    saying the system gives “disproportionate weight to standardized-test
    results so a Teacher could receive a composite rating of
    ‘ineffective’ based on the results of a single standardized state
    test, no matter how well he or she performed on every other performance
    measure. This is contrary to the law’s intent that the rating score ‘incorporates
    multiple measures of effectiveness.’”

    It also challenges the legality of the new appeals system, in which Teachers
    rated “ineffective” for two consecutive years can be dismissed
    through an expedited process. This policy should have been bargained with
    NYSUT, the suit charges.

    The evaluation system was adopted as part of the state’s education
    reform efforts to net $700 million in Federal money from the Race to the Top
    program. Mr. Cuomo’s revisions came after lobbying from Mayor Bloomberg
    to end the “last-in, first-out” seniority system for layoffs; Mr.
    Cuomo said a strong evaluation system needed to be in place before further
    action was taken on the law.

    Daily News

    Fuzzy math on Regents exams may have affected state results, teachers say

    BY Ben


    Thursday, July 7th 2011, 4:00 AM

    Bunk questions might have thrown the results of state math tests taken by
    thousands of city students last month, public school teachers who gave and graded
    the tests say.

    The Regents exams for Algebra II/Trigonometry were supposed to measure
    readiness for college - but teachers say several questions showed fuzzy math.

    "It's a serious problem - the tests didn't tell us what the kids really
    know," said Jonathan Halabi, a math teacher at the High School of American Studies in
    the Bronx.

    Teachers gave an F to three of 39 questions on the exam - enough to make a
    difference in whether a student passes or fails.

    On one open-ended problem involving graphs, teachers discovered three
    possible correct answers. The state decided to give students full credit for

    For an intermediate algebra question, students were asked to choose one of
    four multiple choice answers, even though two were correct. Credit will be
    given for both answers.

    And on another multiple-choice question, teachers say none of the answer
    options was correct, a charge that state education officials deny.

    "We are confident in the construction of this exam and that students
    were not impacted in any way by the three test questions at issue,"
    spokesman Jonathan Burman said.

    About 27,800 city high school students, mostly sophomores and juniors, took
    the advanced math exams given on June 21.

    A passing grade counts toward an advanced Regents diploma, which can help
    students get into college. Many high school classes also use the Regents as
    final exams.

    New York Post

    Walcott probes grades


    Last Updated: 7:54 AM, July 7, 2011

    Posted: 2:26 AM, July 7, 2011

    Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced yesterday he's launched a probe
    into charges of grade-tampering to improperly pass failing students and inflate
    school graduation rates -- complaints first exposed by The Post.

    Walcott said he has already received two dozen e-mails from school
    whistleblowers following Post columnist Michael Goodwin's reports from teachers
    who claimed they were pressured by higher-ups to pass students, despite shoddy
    attendance and poor grades.

    "My e-mail was publicized in your paper. I have received a number of
    e-mails from individuals," Walcott said.

    He added that he has personally responded to the e-mails, thanking the
    whistleblowers and promising to inform them of the results of his investigation
    in each case.

    Walcott's office declined to release the contents of the claims yesterday,
    to protect confidentiality.

    The chancellor emphasized that he takes charges of grade-tampering and
    social promotion seriously, and that's why he asked The Post to publish his
    e-mail address --
    -- to personally review the complaints.

    The Walcott probe comes as some education advocates question whether the academic
    gains of the New York City school system in recent years are real.

    The probe also comes as the state Board of Regents has begun to ratchet up
    graduation and promotion standards after admitting its standardized exams had
    become predictably easy.

    "I'm pleased that Dennis is looking into this. We, too, have gotten
    reports about grade inflation and cheating," said Board of Regents
    Chancellor Merryl Tisch.

    She admitted that accountability pressures were driving some principals and
    teachers to cut corners.

    "There are going to be people who don't follow the rules. It's human
    nature to try to show improvement," she said.

    But Tisch cautioned not to paint with a broad brush.

    "Is there wholesale grade inflation? I don't think so," she said.
    "You are dealing with, by and large, a decent and honorable school