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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:

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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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Indiana Plays the Number Game

by Ed Beat on May 20th, 2009

Superintendent of Public Instruction in Indiana, Tony Bennett, wants to do something about the state’s low 78 percent high school graduation rate.

Tony BennettNext year he will use Department of Education funds to pay for $20,000 in staff bonuses to each of the 10 schools with the most improved high school graduation rates. Two schools with enrollments of fewer than 300 students would receive $10,000 each.

Incentive pay — paying students, teachers, and parents for achieving particular milestones — has been experimented with in various ways across the country and the jury is still out about its effectiveness. (When we visited Ohio last year, we asked 12-year-old Josh Ackley what he thought.)

Mark Shoup, spokesman for the Indiana State Teachers Association, said that paying teachers differently sets up unnatural competition among educators within schools and has the potential to hurt children’s educations.  But the union’s bigger concern is that it doesn’t require districts to use an approach to boost graduation rates that is backed by solid research.

We want to make sure we have a program that is going to have sustainability and work long-term for kids,” Shoup said, “and bring the rate up for not just one year but five years or 10.”

State will pay schools to increase grad rates [IndyStar.com]

Related Program: Pay for Grades [Video]

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In L.A., charter schools take on radical proportions

by Ed Beat on May 20th, 2009

A recent New Yorker piece profiles Steve Barr, the maverick leader of Green Dot Public Schools, an organization that, since 2000, has led a more than aggressive campaign to open small charter schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Steve Barr, Green Dot CEOTwo years ago, Green Dot took over its first large public school–Locke High School, which had for years been covered in graffiti and plagued by gang fights.  It will be awhile before there is concrete evidence of improvements in the quality of education in L.A., but Barr’s efforts seem to mark a new era for the charter school movement, not least because he’s been able to negotiate successfully with the California teachers’ union.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has met with Barr several times.  Those meetings have led to a conversation between Barr and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, about a possible “national school-turnaround partnership.”

The Instigator [New Yorker, May 10, 2009]

Related Program: Charter Schools: Experiment or Solution? [Video]

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