It’s been a week since the thousands at the Brooklyn Tech PEP meeting pilloried the Chancellor and his home boys over the closing of nineteen schools. From 6 PM until 4 AM over three hundred speakers challenged the pre-determined decision of the mayoral appointees. The overwhelming majority of the speakers were just plain folk, parents, community members, students and teachers.
What impressed me was the passion of the audience. For hour after hour the thousands cheered and the PEP members, sat, stony-faced as speaker after speaker took their two minutes to try to change minds.
The Borough President appointees (with the exception of Staten Island) attempted to postpone the vote, without success.
A week later an alliance that represents the sentiment of the audience: the UFT, the NAACP, members of the legislature and a range of advocacy organizations are suing the City arguing that the school-closing process violated the new State Governance law.
The suit charges that the department violated state law by failing to do the required analysis of how school closings would affect the more than 13,000 students who would potentially be displaced, particularly special needs students; by failing to analyze the effects of the closings on other already overcrowded public schools nearby; by failing to give communities and interested groups appropriate notice of local public hearings; and by failing to answer questions at public hearings.
From the halls of Washington to the streets of Brooklyn, the powerful, from the President to his Secretary of Education to the Commissioner of Education to the Chancellor announce, untried, unproven policies dangled with the promise of “thirty pieces of silver” and the threat of school closings, the proverbial carrot and stick.
In his budget speech Obama pushed for dollars to fund embedding RttP into the reauthorization of a different NCLB, one that is redefining the accountability metrics,
“We want accountability reforms that factor in student growth, progress in closing achievement gaps, proficiency towards college and career-ready standards, high school graduation and college enrollment rates,”
The New York State Race to the Top Application, at least the released 18 page summary is depressing and frivolous. As the dog on the windshield it simply nods at all the RttT requirements, is there anything truly innovative that will assist teachers and principals?
Will the following turnaround “persistently low achieving schools”?
* launch a virtual high school.
* … authorize cultural institutions, research centers, not-for-profits, and others with demonstrated results in raising the achievement for high needs students … to recommend for certification both teachers and principals for placement in high needs schools through the clinical graduate programs … and … award master’s degrees … offered by non-colleague institutions.
* Expand the means by which students can earn high school credit based upon completion of competencies, including virtual/on-line course completion.
The State Ed Department has spun out another list of fifty-seven “persistently low achieving” schools, with a dense metric describing how they reach their conclusions.
To be identified as persistently lowest-achieving, a school had to:
- be a school in the Restructuring phase of New York’s Differentiated Accountability System; and
- have for 2008-09 school year results an average Performance Index for the All Students group in English language arts and mathematics of 146.5 or less; and
- have failed to make at least a 25 point gain on each ELA and mathematics measure for which the school was accountable between SY 2005-06 and SY 2008-09.
- have a graduation rate below 60 percent for the All Students group on its 2002, 2003, and 2004 graduation rate cohort.
The US Department of Education, New York State and New York City all want to turnaround the lowest five percent of schools, however, they all define the “lowest five percent” differently.
Do we use the proposed changes in NCLB or, the limited and harsh choices in RttT?
Why is the City using the Progress Reports when they are at variance with the Feds and the State, and, they intend to change the system for next year, and, apparently continue to tweak the Report Card system?
The Shael Polakow-Suransky, the new Chief Accountability Officer tells us,
Moving from our current system to a set of richer assessments will take several years. While much of the work will happen at the state and national levels, here in New York City, some of our schools are already teaching and assessing higher order skills …. For next year, working with the Gates Foundation and others, we will introduce new opportunities to design and pilot this kind of performance task as part of the Periodic Assessment program. The innovation and experience present in our schools position New York City to be a national model in this area; strengthening the assessments we use will be a clear priority moving forward.
Shael has proposed substantial changes in the School Report Card, see Elementary/Middle Schools here and High Schools here, and pre-determined, much to the dismay of principals, the percents of grades in each letter category.(25% of schools As, 30% Bs, 30% Cs, 10% Ds, and 5% Fs.) An artificially skewed bell curve.
The Department is holding a series of feed back sessions over the next few weeks.
The union scoffs and sees the changes as simply closing more schools.
Why are we closing schools at this moment?
1) the President intends to make dramatic changes in NCLB,
2) the RttT requires limited untried, unproven alternatives (i.e., charters),
3) the New York State metric is confusing and in flux, and,
4) the City is in the midst of totally revamping it’s school evaluation system.
The Department must toll the clock, put a halt on all school closings, with the full participation of parents, teachers and communities agree upon a range of alternatives to turnaround low performing schools.
Punishing the most vulnerable is not an answer.