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Charter schools find a home in New York

by Elena on Dec 1st, 2009

Though charter schools have been a buzzword in education reform for years now, the past months have seen them gain even more traction and hype. Thanks to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s vocal support for charters, and the regulation that denies Race to the Top funds to states that block their creation, it looks as if the future of public education will have to accommodate them.

0219_1And so, it seems, will New York City. According to the New York Times, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made it a priority to encourage the growth of New York’s charter schools in his third term. Not only has he committed to opening twenty-four charter schools next fall and one hundred over the next four years, he has offered many of the city’s charters space to operate within existing public school buildings. In most other cities, charter schools are required to buy or rent their own spaces–this is in part what distinguishes them from traditional public schools and makes it more difficult for them to exist in the first place.

In an article for Counterpunch, David Wolff does a thorough job of explaining how the business behind charter schools–the investments that support them, and why it’s lucrative for companies to invest in them at all. According to Wolff, when charter schools use portions of their (public) funding to buy real estate, it often means that cutbacks are made in other areas:

In the case of the 100 Academy of Excellence, the principal told a state official that money was saved by letting go veteran (read expensive) teachers and increasing class size (read cost saving).

By Wolff’s reasoning, Bloomberg’s decision to house more charter schools in public school buildings may improve the quality of the education they provide. But, as Jennifer Medina notes in her piece for the New York Times, students in traditional public schools will still have to walk past their charter neighbors and wonder why their facilities are newer and better. Joel Klein, New York City’s schools chancellor, has said about charters:

“There are so many talented people out there, and I want them to come to New York…[w]hy would we want to put up barriers to that?”

His emphasis on importing talent begs the question: when charter schools move in, what will happen to what’s already here?

City’s Schools Share Their Space, and Bitterness [The New York Times, 11/29/09]
Speculating on Education [Counterpunch, 9/29/09]
Tracking the Charter Movement [Taking Note, 12/01/09]


What We’re Following this Wednesday

by Amanda on Jul 8th, 2009

NYC Dept of Ed & The Dissolution of Mayoral Control

by Learning Matters on Jul 1st, 2009

If you haven’t been following the breakdown in Albany, you’re missing quite a show.  Essentially, the state’s legislature has been in a lockdown and few, if any, legislative decisions are being made.Mayor Michael Bloomberg / Photo by Schwartz for NY Daily News

It came as no surprise, then, that the New York Senate failed to reauthorize the 2002 law that gave Mayor Bloomberg control of New York City schools.  With mayoral control no longer in existence, who is running the city’s schools?

It seems as if the newly recreated Department of Education school board is.

But it might be more complicated than that.

Gotham Schools is covering the news, minute by minute.  Go to their site to get the updates from the first DOE School Board meeting in 7 years and more.

Gotham Schools [blog]

* Photo by Schwartz for the New York Daily News

NYC Teachers Paid to Do Nothing?

by Learning Matters on Jun 24th, 2009

When a student acts up in class, the teacher usually sends them to the Principal’s office.  But what happens to a New York City teacher or school administrator when they are accused of misconduct?  They get sent to so-called “rubber rooms” during the investigation.  The time they spend waiting there could be weeks, months or even years.Rubber Rooms

The 700 or so teachers can practice yoga, work on their novels, paint portraits of their colleagues — pretty much anything but school work. They have summer vacation just like their classroom colleagues and enjoy weekends and holidays through the school year.

Sounds like a holiday, but to many teachers waiting and facing accusations it’s not.

“Most people in that room are depressed,” said Jennifer Saunders, a high school teacher who was in a reassignment center from 2005 to 2008.

The New York City re-assignment centers have existed since the 1990s, but according to the Associated Press, “the number of employees assigned to them has ballooned since Bloomberg won more control over the schools in 2002.”

Because teacher’s union contracts make it difficult to fire them, teachers waiting in the rubber room collect their full salaries which, according to the Department of Education, ends up costing taxpayers $65 million a year.

It’s a battle between the city and the teacher’s unions, students and teachers.  And who knows how things will turn out.

700 NYC teachers are paid to do nothing [AP News]

The Rubber Room story on This American Life [This American Life website]

Watch The Rubber Room documentary trailer:


Bloomberg, Klein and Weingarten Celebrate Gains in Mathematics

by Amanda on Jun 2nd, 2009

sesamestreetNYC public schools just announced statewide test results, and proudly reported significant gains in mathematics — 82% of 3-8th graders passed the test, up from 74% and 57% three years ago. (Statewide, 86% passed this year, 81 last year; national scores will not be released until the fall).

The test results brought unanimous praise from Mayor Bloomberg, schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Teachers’ Union head Randi Weingarten–leaders not known for always agreeing on the issues.

There are some critics, however, who claim that better performance and higher pass rates in testing doesn’t necessarily indicate an increase in competence, and that far too many NYC students are still entering the CUNY system needing remediation in math and writing as college freshman. But the gains in the achievement gap — the scores of Black and Hispanic students versus those of white students — were welcomed as good news.

New York City Shows Gains in Math [New York Times]

Mike Has the Look of a Winner [New York Post]

Related Content: Mayoral Control [EdBeat]

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