Sunday, April 10, 2011

New Chancellor, Little Change

After Mayor Bloomberg’s disastrous appointment of Ms. Black which culminated in a hasty resignation, the newly appointed chancellor offers little hope that he will fight to reverse the destructive efforts of the mayor.

On his first day, former teacher, Dennis Walcott, like the mayor, has already chosen not to advocate for the institution he has been charged with – the New York City public school system. Rather than question the priority of a mayor and governor who have chosen to underfund its public schools and take responsibility for the negative impact of their decision, Mr. Walcott chose to defend budget cuts and shifts blame onto teachers.

When Mr. Walcott described seniority laws as “one of the most crippling policies on the books” he absolves his boss, the mayor and the governor from the supremely negative consequences of their decision to underfund public education, allowing instead, to fund tax breaks for the wealthy.

As reported on abc: In February, UFT President Michael Mulgrew stated

the city already has lost nearly 5,000 teachers to attrition in the last two years and class sizes are “skyrocketing.”

“Given the city’s growing revenues, along with the governor’s clear statement that the state budget should not require local layoffs, the mayor’s insistence on teacher layoffs becomes more and more bizarre,” Mulgrew said Wednesday night in a statement.

He said it was time Bloomberg “joined us in fighting for the children of our city” and stopped focusing on “a bogus strategy to lay teachers off.”

In addition to thwarting ageism that would not be tolerated in any other profession and in many scenarios reprehensible by affirmative action laws, seniority laws were put into place to protect students from losing experienced teachers at the whims of politicians who favor other budget priorities and agendas over adequately funding their public schools.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Secretary Duncan's Interview with Star Ledger's Tom Moran

In a recent Star Ledger interview, Secretary Duncan refuses to acknowledge the truth about public education or its improvement. (A Q&A with ... Arne Duncan: The eyes of America are on Newark’s school reform, Sunday April 3, 2011)

When the Credo study, the most extensive evaluation of charter schools, reported that more than twice as many charters have lower student achievement rates compared to the local publics, it is nonsensical to insist on modeling them. Those with a sincere desire to look at the best schools will consider the best public schools.

He pushes merit pay and evaluations based on standardized test scores even though the Vanderbilt study demonstrated it does not improve student achievement and in separate analyses , NYU economist Sean Corcoran and Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker, stated an unheard of 25-35% margin of error, rendering it meaningless as an accurate teacher evaluation tool.

Secretary Duncan perpetuates the myth that poor staffing is due to tenure; evidence suggests otherwise. There is NO correlation between tenure and poor student performance. Looking at NAEP data, states with strong union protections and tenure rights generally have higher rates of achievement than those that don't.

Most egregiously the Obama administration, Commisioner Cerf, Mayor Booker, and others ignore NJ public schools’ plethora of successes. Among them, NJ is the only state to narrow the achievement gap while raising the achievement of non-minority students; Darling-Hammond, the President's former adviser noted, that on one nationwide test, NJ's African Americans and Latino's performance equaled California's entire average. Additionally in Ed Week's 2010 Diplomas Count, NJ has the highest graduation rates in the country.

Conversely, recently reported in a Western Michigan University study, KIPP charters schools have the highest dropout/attrition rates of African American males. It is abominable to push this sort of initiative in Newark, when Newark was commended by the Schott foundation this year for already having the highest rate of graduation nationally, among African American males.

Of course more work needs to be done. But, contrary to the rhetoric, pushing reforms that have proven not to work and lack evidence is not about improving student achievement; rather it’s about control - Namely, giving politicians and outside private enterprise more at the expense of the local community and their students.

Specific reports and analysis mentioned in this article:

Other summaries of mentioned research: