Thursday, February 11, 2010

News Clips

New York Post
Teacher$' pet pols

Last Updated: 5:15 AM, February 9, 2010

Posted: 2:38 AM, February 9, 2010

Two teachers unions made campaign contributions to nearly all the elected officials who signed on to the UFT's lawsuit challenging the city's plan to close 19 public schools, The Post has learned.

Nine of the 10 state and city politicians who joined the suit -- filed last week in Manhattan Supreme Court -- have received a total of $45,000 from the United Federation of Teachers or New York State United Teachers since 2006.

The contributions ranged from a high of $10,750, for state Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Harlem) since 2006, to a low of $500, for city Councilman Erik Martin Dilan (D-Brooklyn) in 2009.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew denied any link between the funds and the officials' backing, calling a suggestion of undue influence "ridiculous."

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer -- who got nearly $4,000 and major union support in his 2005 election bid -- also called the notion "complete nonsense."

New York Post
Rubber room 'perv' teacher 'studied' students
By YOAV GONEN, Education Reporter

Last Updated: 8:31 AM, February 9, 2010

Posted: 3:11 AM, February 9, 2010

Even a recommendation from school investigators couldn't help bounce this creep.

New details from a 2001 probe of teacher Alan Rosenfeld -- who has collected $700,000 in salary as the longest-serving denizen of the teacher-reassignment centers known as rubber rooms -- reveal how he allegedly ogled girls as young as 13.

One Queens middle-school girl said he asked her if she had a boyfriend and told her several times that she had "a very sexy body and that [she] should wear a bathing suit to show it off," according to the report by the office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation.

Not content to leer at eighth-graders at the former IS 347, Rosenfeld followed older girls at a connecting high school into their classrooms, the probe found.

He also had to be asked more than once to keep his eyes off their rear ends, according to the report.

"My shoes are down there, not up here," one girl told Rosenfeld when he said he was merely eyeing her footwear.

The report says Rosenfeld was even spotted entering a girls' bathroom, and that he revoked one eighth-grader's bathroom privileges after she tried to protect a friend by asking him, "Why are you looking at her butt?"

Despite a wealth of evidence that led then-Commissioner Edward Stancik to recommend that "Rosenfeld's employment be terminated," an arbitrator let him off with just a week's suspension.

The Post reported this week how another long-term rubber-roomer, Queens teacher Francisco Olivares, managed to stay employed since 2003 despite a host of sex and fraud charges filed against him.

Olivares, 60, who collects a $94,000 salary, allegedly impregnated a 16-year-old student at a Corona junior-high school at the beginning of his 32-year career.

Reports that more than 600 educators receive taxpayer-funded salaries for doing nothing over periods of months and even years have sparked outrage among legislators.

Bronx lawmakers are rallying Thursday to have the rubber room in that borough shut down, while state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Queens) said he was crafting legislation to make it easier to ax misbehaving teachers.

"The current policy has tied the hands of the Department of Education," he said.

New York Times

February 8, 2010

Survey Raises Questions on Data-Driven Policy
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, an engineering major in college, has never been shy about proclaiming an unerring faith in statistics.

He created 311 as a way to collate data, and improve the lives of New Yorkers. He has whipped out education data to justify extending mayoral control, reward star employees and close laggard schools. Rarely does a month go by without Mr. Bloomberg citing data analysis as the marrow not just of his administration, but also of his private-sector career and his philanthropic foundation.

“I’m a great believer in the wisdom I learned in my first Wall Street job: In God we trust,” he said at a philanthropy conference in Atlanta last May. “Everyone else, bring data.”

But what if the data were somehow skewed?

That question has emerged as one of the by-products of a survey conducted by two criminologists that has raised doubts about the integrity of the New York Police Department’s highly regarded crime tracking program, CompStat. Relying on the anonymous responses of hundreds of retired high-ranking police officials, the survey found that tremendous pressure to reduce crime, year after year, prompted some supervisors and precinct commanders to distort crime statistics.

The survey did not address critical issues, like when the manipulation of the data was supposed to have occurred. So it is impossible to ascertain whether much of the skewing might have happened shortly after CompStat was started in 1995 under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, or whether it may have continued or even worsened since Mr. Bloomberg took office in 2002.

Still, the results have made critics and admirers of Mr. Bloomberg wonder about — if not necessarily doubt — the reliability of data underpinning policy decisions on the budget, education, transportation, health and other issues.

“The mayor should get credit for trying to put those systems in place,” said Doug Turetsky, a spokesman for the city’s nonpartisan Independent Budget Office. “But this is an important reminder that while statistics offer a vital window into how well services are being performed, whether we’re talking about crime rates in precincts, or successes in schools, or cleanliness of the streets, they’re not necessarily a perfect measure. They’re subject to all sorts of potential biases and pressures.”

Still, if more people second-guess policies closely associated with the mayor, he may have less room for error, given that he just won a third term by a narrower margin than anticipated.

“This could be a red herring or it could be a P.R. disaster,” said Kenneth Sherrill, a political scientist at Hunter College. “And this is a moment where, because of the budget crisis, the accuracy of the mayor’s data becomes a critical thing.

“If it’s perceived as a scandal, I think it has the potential of making him look like all mayors and not as the hero of skilled modern management,” he said. “It all depends on the nature of the reservoir of good will that the mayor has.”

To Bloomberg officials, any questions about data integrity are infuriating. After all, the administration regularly measures the performance of all agencies, analyzing daily why people call 311, sending undercover personnel out to see how well the public is being served and even dispatching workers to every block of every street, every month, to look for graffiti and other problems.

So when asked on Monday about the report, Mr. Bloomberg defended the overall integrity of the crime reporting system and said that there was no disputing that crime has been decreasing.

Though Mr. Bloomberg said a small amount of “fudging” was inevitable, he said “the Police Department takes their data very seriously.”

“I have an enormous amount of confidence in the data in terms of it being as accurate as you can possibly make it,” Mr. Bloomberg said during an appearance in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

Still, perceptions are important, and so are politics. And even supporters say that they are troubled by the survey of retired police officials.

Peter F. Vallone Jr., the chairman of the City Council’s public safety committee, who endorsed Mr. Bloomberg for a third term, said he would consider holding a hearing on the topic if additional corroborating evidence emerged.

“Accountability is good but it leads to added pressure to perform, and the ramifications of that pressure need to be guarded against,” he said.

Of all Mr. Bloomberg’s policies, though, education has been more of a flashpoint than crime when it comes to statistics. The mayor and Joel I. Klein, the schools chancellor, have generally succeeded in getting their way on major policies, including the reauthorization of mayoral control last year. The administration has also been praised by President Obama and Arne Duncan, the education secretary, for its approach.

But during the mayoral campaign, Mr. Bloomberg’s Democratic opponent, William C. Thompson Jr., echoed the concerns of vocal parents and some teachers, accusing the mayor of manipulating and even falsifying statistics.

Norman Siegel, a civil liberties lawyer, resurrected some of those concerns in the wake of the crime survey. After returning from a vacation, he said he had received numerous messages from parents who were apoplectic about the administration’s recent decision to close 19 schools because of poor performance.

“A lot of the parents and teachers were calling me and telling me that the data are not accurate,” Mr. Siegel said. “So the question immediately becomes, is the data that’s now being used by the Bloomberg administration being manipulated to produce a result-oriented policy decision? It’s early to tell how much it could affect Bloomberg’s reputation and his legacy, but it does create some concern, and there’s potentially a cloud of uncertainty.”

Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.

Queens Courier
Pols rally to save Flushing High
Monday, February 8, 2010 6:09 PM EST

Flushing will not go down so easily.

That is the message Assemblymember Grace Meng wanted to convey when she called for a joint statement with Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and City Councilmember Peter Koo on Friday, February 5.

The statement was in response to a report that Flushing High School was one of a number of city schools that were being monitored for possible closure. Meng, whose statements were sometimes pointed directly at Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, said that she is ready to stand tough against any possible closing.

“We wanted to take the offensive on this,” said Meng. “We want the Chancellor to know that there is a human face on this – and there are people here who really care about their school. We are sending a strong message that we will not accept closure.”

Meng was most concerned that Flushing parents might be worried that their high school would follow the same path as Jamaica and Beach Channel, which the Department of Education voted to close last month.

Whereas those two schools had been dogged by poor graduation rates, a major reason for their closing, Flushing representatives said that their school’s graduation numbers have been rising steadily for a number of years.

“Flushing had a graduation rate of 59-percent in 2009, up from 39-percent in 2002,” said Stavisky. “The school is a hidden gem and we’re here to get the word out. They’ve made a great deal of progress and that will continue.”

Stavinsky, Meng and Koo met with Flushing High School Principal Cornelia Gutwein and school faculty and staff to discuss how they can work together to keep the school open in its current form.

“Personally, I want to offer my assistance to work with all to ensure this school performs, educates and prepares our young adults for a bright future,” said Koo. “All schools have problems, as does Flushing. So let’s analyze the problem, put together an innovative and creative team of professionals and develop a plan to assist our students and allow them to achieve.”

United Federation of Teachers’ Queens Representative James Vasquez, who was at the forefront of the fight to keep Jamaica High School open, said that those in power ought to take a step back and realize these are schools, not business dealings.

“Education is not a business,” said Vasquez. “Progress is not made in one day or one year.”

New York Post
Brooklyn kids cry over cow-ardly school theft

Last Updated: 6:47 AM, February 9, 2010

Posted: 3:10 AM, February 9, 2010

Call the sheriff! Some low down varmints are rustling cattle in Brooklyn's Wild West.

A life-size Fiberglass cow -- left behind after the 2000 CowParade art project -- has vanished from the front lawn of a Bensonhurst school.

"Neighborhood children are crying because the cow is no longer there," said Denise Levinsky, the principal of Seth Low Intermediate School. "It was part of the community."

The cow was among 500 original bovine sculptures decorated by artists and students and placed throughout the city 10 years ago.

Art teacher Deborah Glassman and 30 of her eighth-grade students at Seth Low were chosen to paint it based on their prize-winning design of puzzle pieces depicting city landmarks.

The cow was displayed in Manhattan for 10 weeks and then purchased by the Seth Low PTA and given permanent grazing rights outside the building.

She got a makeover in 2006, when Glassman and her students repainted her white, with the word "peace" in green letters in 17 different languages.

Glassman a teacher at the school for 20 years, said, "9/11 had taken place and terrorism was going on and the children and I decided on that design.

"When I arrived for work Monday morning, it was gone and I was devastated," said Glassman.

"The cow was not only an art experience. It inspired my students."

"It's cruel and mean," said Niki Lam, 11, of the puzzling theft. "I think it was terrorists, because they don't like peace."

Additional reporting by Ikimulisa Livingston

New York Post

Exiled Queens teacher on payroll despite knocking up student


Last Updated: 2:40 PM, February 7, 2010

Posted: 3:43 AM, February 7, 2010

Three strikes and he wasn't out.

At the beginning of his 32-year career as a math teacher in Queens, Francisco Olivares allegedly im pregnated and married a 16-year-old girl he had met when she was a 13-year-old student at his Corona junior high, IS 61, The Post learned.

He sexually molested two 12-year-old pupils a decade later and another student four years after that, the city Department of Education charged.

But none of it kept Olivares, 60, from col lecting his $94,154 sal ary.

He hasn't set foot in a classroom in seven years since beating criminal and disciplinary charges. Chancellor Joel Klein keeps Olivares in a "rubber room," a district office where teachers accused of misconduct sit all day with nothing to do.

The DOE insists it can't get rid of him. "The department's hands are tied by state law and union rules," said spokeswoman Ann Forte.

She said tenured teachers can be fired only if an arbitrator approves.

"The department twice tried to terminate this teacher, and both times, an arbitrator decided to keep him on the payroll," she said.

Most of the 660 rubber-room teachers on the city payroll are awaiting disciplinary proceedings, but Klein has exiled "a handful" of duds like Olivares even though they have been legally cleared to return to class.

Last week, The Post reported that typing teacher Alan Rosenfeld, 64, was banned from the classroom in 2001 for allegedly making lewd comments to and leering at girls at IS 347 in Queens. Raking in $100,049 a year, he has spent time in a Brooklyn rubber room working on his law practice and overseeing more than $7 million in real-estate investments.

Olivares has an even worse record. The Queens district attorney charged him with abusing two 12-year-old students in school, one in December 1988 and the other a month later.

He showed one girl porn pictures and photographed her in suggestive poses with her pants down, the DA charged. Another accused him of rubbing against her from behind.

A jury found him guilty, but his conviction was reversed on appeal on technicalities. The DOE held an administrative trial on the charges, but a panel of arbitrators voted 2-1 in favor of Olivares. They sent him back to IS 61.

He struck again, according to Special Schools Investigator Richard Condon, who recommended firing him. In 2002, Condon found Olivares had backed a girl against a wall and caressed her arms while urging her not to transfer, saying, "I'm becoming very fond of you."

After a hearing, an arbitrator let Olivares off with just a warning not to stand close to students.

This time, Klein refused to return Olivares to the classroom. The teacher sued in 2004 to have his records expunged.

It was then that DOE officials dug up accusations from 1978 that Olivares had a sexual relationship with a former IS 61 student he had met when she was 13 -- and got her pregnant at 16, according to records filed in Manhattan Supreme Court in the 2004 suit.

Olivares, then 30, married the teen and falsified DOE forms to get her health insurance sooner, it was alleged.

DOE officials could not explain Friday why the department waited until 2003 to formally bring those sex and fraud charges.

Olivares' student-turned-wife, whose name is being withheld by The Post, could not be reached.

Reached in Georgia, his daughter, now 29, said her parents "have been estranged for so many years."

"I try to keep in touch a few times a year," she said of her dad. "I wish I could say something, but I don't want to go behind his back. My father can do his own defense."

After separating from his wife, Olivares, at age 50, fathered a son with a 23-year-old, records show.

The teachers union did not defend him.

"The current system works for no one," United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said, adding that the union "has made repeated attempts to work with the administration to resolve the rubber-room issue, but the administration has preferred to grandstand rather than solve it."

New York Post
Rubber room slam

Last Updated: 9:11 AM, February 8, 2010

Posted: 3:41 AM, February 8, 2010

A state lawmaker lashed into the city yesterday for protecting the jobs of incompetent and sometimes dangerous teachers by sentencing them to do-nothing jobs in Department of Education "rubber rooms."

"New York City must no longer permit a gift of several million dollars for incompetent former teachers who sit in the infamous 'rubber rooms,' drawing full salary while the Department of Education drags its feet and refuses to promptly address allegations of teacher misconduct and incompetence," state Sen. Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) fumed.

"What uniform service gets the benefit of 'suspended with pay' without any work responsibilities?"

Diaz trashed the DOE after The Post exposed two cases in as many weeks of male teachers accused of sexual misconduct receiving taxpayer-funded salaries.

The city welcomed Diaz's angry response.

"The silver lining here is that Albany leaders are finally getting fed up with the rotten options that state law and labor rules give us for cases like this, and are starting to talk about the kind of changes we've long been pushing for," DOE spokesman David Cantor said.

Diaz was outraged over the free-ride status of math teacher Francisco Olivares, who has been drawing a city paycheck even though he hasn't set foot in a classroom for seven years.

Olivares, 60, is collecting $94,154 annually despite being exiled over criminal allegations that he sexually molested two 12-year-old students a decade after allegedly impregnating a 16-year-old girl he met when she was his 13-year-old student at a Corona junior high school.

Olivares is one of 660 rubber-room teachers on the city payroll who are awaiting disciplinary proceedings.

Joining Olivares on the sidelines is typing teacher Alan Rosenfeld, 64, who was banned from the classroom in 2001 for allegedly making lewd comments and leering at girls at IS 347 in Queens.

Rosenfeld, a lawyer, makes more than $100,000 a year as an exiled teacher, and has used his time in a Brooklyn rubber room working on his law practice and overseeing more than $7 million in real-estate investments.

A jury found Olivares guilty of snapping pictures of a girl with her pants down, and rubbing up against another girl from behind, but his conviction was reversed on appeal because of techicalities.

New York Post
The wrong layoffs

Last Updated: 4:28 AM, February 8, 2010

Posted: 2:23 AM, February 8, 2010

Regrettably, it now appears likely that budget cuts will require teacher layoffs in New York City public schools. These will be based solely on seniority under the current teachers-union contract. In Washington, DC, however, they've taken a different approach. They're allowing principals to choose whom to lay off based on merit. We should follow DC's lead and reject the indefensible practice of merit-blind layoffs.

At a time when we may be forced to do more with less, we need to keep our strongest and most talented teachers in the classroom. Layoffs based automatically on seniority prevent that. A junior teacher, even if he is the greatest pedagogue since Socrates, is automatically forced out while some marginally effective teachers remain just because they were hired first. This type of rigid trade-unionist approach has no place in our schools if our goal is to nurture and promote our most talented teachers. With historic budget deficits, this is no time for business as usual.

Some may say that our most experienced teachers are our best. Sometimes but not always. Experience isn't everything. The committee responsible for drafting the Declaration of Independence included Benjamin Franklin, then America's most famous writer with four decades of experience, but he deferred to a 33-year-old whippersnapper named Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson did all right.

Great teachers come in all shapes and sizes. I'm sure that we can all think of some experienced teachers we had who were wonderful, but others who weren't. Similarly, some junior teachers are still finding their stride, but others are naturally gifted and have become masters of their craft. Rather than lay off people based on stereotypes, we should look at actual classroom performance. All decisions concerning hiring and termination at the charter schools I help run are based solely on merit.

Another important consideration is class size. According to the United Federation of Teachers, this is one of the most important factors in learning. Indeed, the UFT considers it so important that it has sued the city.

Unfortunately, the seniority-based layoffs on which the UFT insists will actually have the perverse effect of maximizing the effect of layoffs on class size. A teacher with three years of experience and 30 postgraduate credits makes $50,000 a year while a teacher with 22 years of experience can make more than $100,000. To save $100 million, you could either lay off 2,000 of the former or 1,000 of the latter. Obviously, laying off more teachers will have a bigger impact on class size.

Of course, we shouldn't go to the other extreme of firing senior teachers first just because they are the most highly paid. That would be wrong and foolish. Rather, layoffs should be based on merit so that they will occur across the spectrum of seniority. This will have less of an impact on class size than firing based purely on seniority. If the UFT is really serious about its commitment to class size, then it should waive its insistence on seniority-based layoffs.

Nobody doubts that being laid off is painful. It's not necessarily more painful, however, for an older person than a younger person, especially when the layoff is temporary. A teacher with 30 years of experience may have considerable savings and financially independent children. By contrast, some junior teachers are living hand-to-mouth, paying off student loans or starting a family on a meager salary.

But the real point is that the primary responsibility of schools isn't to employ adults, it's to educate kids. A policy of layoffs based on seniority is by definition solely about adults, because it looks only at what adults need rather than what those adults are doing for kids.

Nobody welcomes the possibility of layoffs. If they must happen, however, they must be designed to minimize the harmful impact on our kids. Doing so in a way that will indiscriminately remove some of our best teachers from the classroom and exacerbate the harmful effect of layoffs on class size doesn't meet that test.

Eva Moskowitz is founder of the Success Academy Charter Schools and a former chair of the City Council's Education Committee.

New York Post
Bounce rubber flubbers

Last Updated: 7:39 AM, February 8, 2010

Posted: 4:49 AM, February 8, 2010

It sure beats working. The scene is out of Franz Kafka. Or a mental ward.

Each day, nearly 100 ten- ured teachers and adminis- trators, among the brightest and most expensive minds the city can muster, sit in a Brooklyn room. Or they lie down.

As soon as they clock in, many place their heads on desks like recalcitrant children, a spy reports. There is nothing to do. And they do it well.

Suddenly, in walks the Patron Saint of Idle Teachers, a man who's done more time in this room than any human -- nine years. He is the inspiration and muse to hundreds of educators, some of whom spend years in reassignment centers, known as "rubber rooms." He is typing teacher Alan Rosenfeld. He is the master.

Rubber rooms have become the symbol of everything in city government that makes one's head want to explode. These oases of waste and neglect exist in all five boroughs, playing host to a whopping 660 educators who've been accused of everything from sexual abuse and stealing to incompetence. Here they sit, as their cases crawl through the system at a glacial pace, costing taxpayers tens of millions a year in salaries and benefits at a time when the school system is facing a billion-dollar deficit.

A disgrace.

None of these charges has sat on his rump as long as Rosenfeld, a lawyer who also owns millions in real estate. In 2001, he was caught leering at the backsides of junior-high girls and making lewd comments. He was suspended for a week -- a wrist slap -- and freed to teach again. But Schools Chancellor Joel Klein won't have him near kids. And union rules say Klein can't fire him. So we're stuck with him.

Rosenfeld gets to work, a bizarre sight in this suffocating room where most teachers eat, sleep, peck at laptops or chitchat. He gets busy advising "clients" -- other teachers in the same boat as he.

"He tells them how to beat the rap," said a source. After nine years of drawing a now-$100,000-a-year salary for not teaching, he's good at his job.

A groundswell of outrage has attached itself to the rubber rooms. The Department of Ed is fed up. Even the teachers union says it wants to shutter them -- while doing everything in its power to protect bad teachers.

"We've been trying to get this fixed," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, who claims the Department of Ed is "very reluctant."

Education officials laugh. "The notion that the union wants reform -- that's 'Alice in Wonderland,' " said a department insider. Officials have proposed taking demonstrably bad educators off the city payroll. If they're cleared of charges, they'd be reinstated with back pay. In the real world, that might work. This isn't the real world.

"It was rejected by the union," the insider said.

Make no mistake, the teachers union is a powerful player in state politics. It's so fierce that when Klein traveled to Albany last week to talk reform, legislators laughed in his face.

Klein's tenure as chancellor was described by state Sen. Carl Kruger as "nine years of torture, nine years of acrimony, nine years of nail biting and hand twisting."

Hello, rubber room.

Proving she takes the matter seriously, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, is paying former 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund chief Kenneth Feinberg to study the issue on a national level. "I'm going to present her with a proposal that I think satisfies her twin concerns about efficiency and fairness," he told me.

In the meantime, rubber rooms are a national disgrace, siphoning precious dollars from classrooms while the union flexes its muscle.

Stop the insanity! Fire the bums.

New York Post

Minorities' HS setback


Last Updated: 7:34 AM, February 6, 2010

Posted: 3:05 AM, February 6, 2010

The percentage of black and Hispanic students accepted at the city's elite public high schools -- already criticized as being too low -- dipped slightly this year, according to new data.

The total from both groups fell to 13 percent from 14 percent of the more than 5,000 kids accepted to the eight schools in 2009 -- a difference of about 91 students receiving offers based on their scores on the admission exam for specialized high schools.

Stuyvesant HS offered spots to just seven black students this year out of 958, down from 12 last year. The number of Hispanic students accepted dropped from 24 to 17, according to Department of Education data.

"Wow. That's shocking!" said Paola DeKock, a former PTA president at the school. "[Chancellor] Klein and [Mayor] Bloomberg are very much focused on narrowing the [racial achievement] gap. That doesn't seem like they're doing it."

A DOE spokesman said the demographics of those taking the test and receiving offers has stayed relatively constant in recent years -- despite outreach to every community in the city.

Daily News
Frank McCourt High School attracts hundreds of prospective students, parents at new city fair
By Meredith Kolodner

Monday, February 8th 2010, 4:00 AM

The Frank McCourt High School was the hottest item at the city's new high school fair Sunday, but other small schools - including a new charter high school in East Harlem - also attracted hundreds of enthusiastic would-be students.

More than 2,400 bundled-up parents and students trundled through the Emigrant Savings Bank Hall in downtown Manhattan, up from about 2,000 last year.

The table for the McCourt school, which will be located on Manhattan's upper West Side, was swamped and ran out of flyers to give parents.

The school is named after Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Angela's Ashes" and legendary Stuyvesant High School teacher Frank McCourt, who died last year. The writing-focused school is the first to be named in honor of a city teacher.

The selective school requires an interview, which counts more than attendance, test scores and grade point average combined.

Parents peppered Nicholas Tishuk, the principal of Renaissance Charter High School for Innovation, with questions. Ernissa Wilkins liked what she heard for her son Daion, 14.

"I want a good small school for him, that has up-to-date books," said Wilkins, 43, of the Bronx. "Now he just has to get in."Meredith Kolodner

New York Post
Don't shut schools
Last Updated: 3:32 AM, February 6, 2010

Posted: 12:44 AM, February 6, 2010

* Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, Mayor Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers are supporters of the NAACP whom we cherish ("Closing Bad Schools," Walcott, PostOpinion, Feb. 2). But sometimes good friends have to fight with each other when principles are at stake.

Our lawsuit is about democracy and inclusion. The state mandates that, before closing schools, the city must seek parental input. This hasn't happened for the 13,000 students being moved, or for the often-overcrowded schools they'll be sent to.

Many of the schools scheduled to close serve students with intensive needs who were relocated from other closed schools. Some have high concentrations of special-needs students, students who don't speak English fluently and homeless students.

Merely shuffling kids to other stressed schools will not solve the problem. In Chicago, school closures did not improve scores or decrease dropout rates.

Many of these schools could be turned around with equitable resources for reducing class sizes, teacher support and emphasizing college readiness.

Instead, the mayor has spent money on a lobbyist for the Department of Education.

Every child in America has the right to a good school, which is often the only opportunity to escape a life of poverty.

Both parents and students should have their voices heard.

Hazel Dukes

President, NY State

Conference, NAACP


02/05/2010 10:08 PM

NY1 NewsDOE Threatens To Shut Down Policy-Breaking Charter School
By: Lindsey Christ

Parents say a charter school in East New York, Brooklyn is one of the area's few options for a good education, but the Department of Education may shut it down due to policy violations. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

All the students at East New York Preparatory Charter School passed the state math test last year and 86 percent passed the reading test. Yet the Department of Education says the school may have to close down. They say administrators at East New York have committed the worst violations of charter school policy they have ever seen. The situation was so bad that every single teacher either quit or was fired between June and September 2009.

But at a hearing this week, parents said they are desperate for good schools and begged for East New York Prep to stay open.

"My child is not finished with school until she finishes college. How many schools do that?" said a parent at the hearing.

The test scores at East New York were high, but DOE officials say the school expelled almost 50 low-performing students before they could take them.

DOE officials says many of the problems can be traced to the school's leader, Sheila Joseph, seen right, and the school's board of trustees. Charter school policy does not permit the DOE to fire the principal or replace the board.

"The DOE is telling the truth, their hands are tied. They do need to close down the school," said Mona Davids of the New York Charter Parents Association.

"The chancellor has been clear that if a charter school or a regular district school is not performing, then he is going to hold them accountable and they're going to close down. And the same goes for East New York Prep," said DOE official Michael Duffy.

Joseph has been accused of giving herself the title of superintendent and gave herself a raise from $120,000 to $180,000. The DOE says Jones also put her child's father on the school's board and paid him $5,500 that she cannot account for.

Still, Joseph says she is confident the school will survive and she'll remain at the helm.

"We are going to look back on this and say 'Okay, that was is a hiccup.' Maybe it was a big hiccup, but it was a hiccup that we had to go through to be stronger as a school and as a community," says Joseph.

The school's board has until March 5 to respond to the allegations. Then it is up to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to decide whether to revoke the charter.

Parents of East New York Prep students agree with the DOE on one point -- charter school policy should be revised so that closing a charter school is not the department's only option.

Daily NewsStill growing strong, the ABC national program that helps disadvantaged students excel
BY Jared Mccallister

Monday, February 8th 2010, 4:00 AM

At first glance, state Sen. Bill Perkins from Harlem, Grammy Award-winning musician Tracy Chapman and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick may seem like an odd trio.

The truth is, they're tightly linked - connected by a New York-based organization that took its cues from the civil rights movement of the 1960s and gave good students the opportunity to excel.

Perkins, Chapman and Patrick all were students in a national program called A Better Chance (ABC). Founded by the heads of prestigious private and public schools across the nation, the 47-year-old nonprofit group's name clearly spells out its goal to take academically fit, economically challenged students and give them access to exceptional educational opportunities.

These three celebrated participants are some of the more than 12,000 middle and junior high school students who have attended some America's best college preparatory schools through the program. Its alumni have achieved greatness in fields such as business, law, politics and medicine.

"ABC was a result of the civil rights movement. We're not just a product of the ABC; we're a product of the civil rights movement," said Perkins.

Perkins, a confirmed city kid, attended summer orientation at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in 1964 before starting classes at Manhattan's exclusive Collegiate School.

ABC began in 1963, the tumultuous year in which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. made his moving "I Have a Dream" speech at the first March on Washington, and the year four young African-American girls were killed in the bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., church.

Against this dramatic backdrop, the headmasters of 23 independent schools made a pact to include disadvantaged students of color in their respective institutions. Fifty-five academically qualified students were chosen; Perkins was a member of that inaugural group.

"What you hear and what you see is ABC," said Perkins, speaking from his district office in Manhattan last week. "I was very fortunate, and I'm grateful," he said, adding that the program helped him "sharpen up the skills and the discipline to study, research, question and challenge."

About one-third of ABC scholars come from families that are receiving welfare or living in poverty, and 65% of the students come from single-parent households. But the program gets impressive results. More than 96% of ABC graduating seniors immediately enroll in college.

There are now 312 member-schools, including the Brooklyn Friends School in downtown Brooklyn, the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in Riverdale, the Bronx, and the Milton Academy in Massachusetts (which Patrick graduated from in 1974).

For information about the program, visit the Web site

New York Times

February 8, 2010

With Federal Stimulus Money Gone, Many Schools Face Budget Gaps

Federal stimulus money has helped avoid drastic cuts at public schools in most parts of the nation, at least so far. But with the federal money running out, many of the nation’s schools are approaching what officials are calling a “funding cliff.”

Congress included about $100 billion for education in the stimulus law last year to cushion the recession’s impact on schools and to help fuel an economic recovery. New studies show that many states will spend all or nearly all that is left between now and the end of this school term.

With state and local tax revenues still in decline, the end of the federal money will leave big holes in education budgets from Massachusetts and Florida to California and Washington, experts said.

“States are going to face a huge problem because they’ll have to find some way to replace these billions, either with cuts to their K-12 systems or by finding alternative revenues,” said Bruce Baker, an education professor at Rutgers University.

The stimulus program was the largest one-time infusion of federal education dollars to states and districts in the nation’s history. As the program took shape last year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other officials repeatedly warned states and districts to avoid spending the money in ways that could lead to dislocations when the gush of federal money came to an end.

But from the start, those warnings seemed at odds with the stimulus law’s goal of jump-starting the economy, and the administration trumpeted last fall that school districts had used stimulus money to save, or create, some 250,000 education jobs.

Now the new studies point to the problems likely to beset thousands of school districts when the federal money runs out.

One study, which Dr. Baker wrote with David Sciarra and Danielle Farrie of the Education Law Center in Newark and which is to be presented on Monday at a conference at Teachers College of Columbia University, examines how 11 states have used their education stimulus money. The 11 states received amounts from the stabilization fund ranging from $234 million (Nebraska) to $2.5 billion (New York).

Nine of the 11 states had already allocated most of that money for this school year and last, the study found, leaving a third or less of their federal money available for the 2010-11 school year.

Another bigger study, also to be presented at the conference, found that some states facing pressing financial problems last year as the stimulus program emerged decided to use 100 percent of their education stimulus money almost immediately.

Of the 20 states in the study by Michael A. Rebell, a professor at Teachers College, and two colleagues, Jessica Wolff and Dan Yaverbaum, six of them — Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, New Jersey and Washington — had allotted all of their education stabilization money to schools for this school year and last, leaving zero to spend on the school term beginning this fall.

The two new studies based their findings on data supplied by the states last year to the federal Department of Education on their applications for stimulus money, as well as on other financial reports that have allowed the scholars to document states’ actual expenditures on public schools. Professor Rebell’s study also involved phone interviews with state and local school officials in the 20 states, he said.

The new studies align with results of a broader, 50-state survey on the stimulus program carried out by the National Conference of State Legislatures. The conference’s survey, based solely on an examination of the states’ stimulus applications, found that 20 states said when applying that they intended to spend 100 percent of their stabilization funds in the 2008-9 and 2009-10 school years.

The 20 states were Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

But Dan Thatcher, who conducted the conference’s survey, said that Idaho, and perhaps others among the 20, had reconsidered those plans, deciding to reserve some stimulus money for the coming school year.

On average, according to the conference’s survey, states allotted 38 percent of their stabilization money to the 2008-9 year and 48 percent to the current school year, leaving only 14 percent for the school term that begins this fall.

About $65 billion of the $100 billion in education stimulus money went to states in three pots: $39.5 billion as part of a stabilization fund intended to bolster the finances of state public education systems, $13 billion for the federal program for poor students known as Title I, and $12.2 billion for students with disabilities. Congress directed the rest of the $100 billion to smaller initiatives, including $4.3 billion to a school improvement grant program the Obama administration calls Race to the Top.

Professor Rebell’s study examined in some detail how school districts have used the stimulus money they received under the federal programs intended for poor and disabled students. Many districts have chosen to spend much of the money they received for students with disabilities on things like lift buses, handicap-accessible vans and renovated bathrooms.

“This was a godsend, and the investment will last for years,” Professor Rebell said. “In most cases, districts didn’t put people on the payroll that they would now have to lay off.”

But many school systems have not been so prudent in their use of Title I money.

“The need to spend these funds quickly has led districts to add large numbers of temporary staff positions,” Professor Rebell’s study says. “In most states that we studied, some school districts appear to have spent a considerable amount of their Title I funds to save jobs formerly paid for through state and local funding that were threatened as a result of cuts in that funding.”

Daily News
Don't blame me, says principal who called for the arrest of Queens girl, 12, for doodling on desk


Friday, February 5th 2010, 11:02 PM

Education officials say it was a "mistake," but the principal of a school where a 12-year-old girl was arrested and cuffed for doodling on her desk won't back down, the student's mom said Friday.

Alexa Gonzalez no longer faces a suspension for scribbling with a lime green marker, but principal Marilyn Grant told her mother, Moraima Camacho, that agency policy dictated that she calls the cops.

"[She said] that it wasn't their fault that it was something they had to do," Camacho said of her meeting with Grant at Junior High School 190 in Forest Hills. "She doesn't consider it doodling."

A message left for Grant was not returned.

After Alexa scribbled her name, the date and a smiley face on her desk during a Spanish class on Monday, her teacher reported her to an assistant principal, who placed a call to cops, city officials said.

The cops arrested Alexa, escorting her out of the school with her hands behind her back in metal handcuffs, Camacho said.

City Department of Education spokeswoman Margie Feinberg called the episode a mistake. "The principal made a mistake and has lifted the suspension," she said.

Though other students have been arrested for petty wrongdoings, this was the first time the city admitted to an error, said New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman.

"This should be a wakeup call to the mayor," she said. Teachers, students and parents at the school agreed Friday. "I definitely think it was excessive for this girl to be handcuffed," said a teacher at the school .

The NYPD is expected this month to start using Velcro handcuffs to subdue unruly kids following a pilot program in 22 schools in northern Queens.

With Rocco Parascandola

Daily News
After desk doodling and toy gun incidents, it's clear educators lack common sense


Saturday, February 6th 2010, 9:31 AM

Test scores show our kids are getting smarter.

That's a good thing, because our educators seem to be getting dumber.

On Monday, a teacher at Junior High School 190 in Queens caught 12-year-old Alexa Gonzalez doodling on her desk with a lime green magic marker. Instead of just erasing it, the school called police and the girl was walked out in handcuffs.

A day later, Principal Evelyn Mastroianni of Public School 52 on Staten Island nearly suspended 9-year-old Patrick Timoney for playing with an action figure who had a 2-inch gun.

I don't know what the qualifications are for landing a job as a teacher or principal, but one thing's for sure, it's not common sense.

What's next? Will spitballs bring an assault charge? Could kids get 7-to-10 for shooting rubber bands? With this kind of thinking, gramps would have done hard time for dunking girls' braids in the inkwells.

What a stunning lack of common sense! Alexa was initially suspended from school and told to do eight hours of community service.

Heck, Naomi Campbell got little more than that for bonking somebody on the head with a cell phone.

As for Mastroianni, it's a good thing she didn't frisk Patrick - she might have found snips and snails and puppy dogs' tails.

It'd be hilarious, except that Alexa is throwing up every day, and little Patrick, an A student, in math no less, didn't want to go back to school.

Are these educators trying to get the city sued?

Mastroianni must be well-versed in the work of Dr. William Pollack, the Harvard psychologist who wrote "Real Boys" and said America has become "afraid of its own sons."

We're sure she's read "Raising Cain" and familiarized herself with the work of the Gates Foundation and the Gurian Institute, on how to deal with boys who still have a little caveman in their DNA.

These folks are as bad as the Transportation Security Administration people who frisk 8-year-old New Jersey boy Mikey Hicks when he tries to board a plane because he has the same name as a terror suspect.

Somebody even searched him when he was 2.

Common sense has departed. These people have taught the kids a valuable lesson, though: Grownups can be idiots.

New York Post

Stupid principal tricks

Last Updated: 3:34 AM, February 6, 2010

Posted: 12:39 AM, February 6, 2010

One dumb New York public-school principal is a disappointment. Two is a trend.

A pretty disturbing one, at that.

And a trend is what the Department of Education appears to have on its hands.

First, Evelyn Mastroianni, principal of PS 52 in Staten Island, hauled a 9-year-old out of class, made him sign a "confession" and threatened him with suspension after he was seen playing with a plastic toy machine gun that was all of two inches long.

The boy's mother was summoned to a conference with Mastroianni, who eventually lifted the suspension threat -- presumably leaving his classmates safe.

A DOE spokesman admitted Mastroianni "made an error in judgment" by "overreacting."

Gee, ya think?

(Unfortunately, that's not the end of the overreaction: The student's mother says she's considering a lawsuit.)

Then it comes out that, 24 hours earlier, a 12-year-old student at JHS 190 in Forest Hills was handcuffed, placed under police arrest and hauled off to Family Court after she was caught scribbling a couple of erasable doodles on her desk during class.

The girl was marched out of school in cuffs and taken to the police precinct across the street, where she was detained for several hours; she remains suspended from school.

Now, we're not about to defend students who deface school property -- but calling in the cops and cuffing her like a dangerous felon?

C'mon, now.

Once again, DOE admits, "This shouldn't have happened." And the NYPD added that "common sense should prevail and discretion used in deciding whether an arrest or handcuffs are really necessary."

Well, duh.

With common sense at such a premium, is it any wonder that many public schools have trouble educating their students? Certainly, it's time DOE sent these dopey principals off to the rubber room.

Daily News Letters
Failing our kids I

Whitestone: In "Albany attacks charter schools, yet again" (Opinions, Feb. 3), Valerie Babb says charter schools are singled out for a double budget cut by Albany. Maybe if charter school owners gave back some of their $400,000- plus salaries and put that money back into their students' education, the cuts would not hurt so much.

Frank Tucci

Failing our kids II

West Hempstead, L.I.: Charter schools have no checks and balances. Albany is making them more accountable. There should not be a two-tier system in education. These schools should be open to everyone regardless of academic ability.

Alan Coles

Failing our kids III

Great Neck, L.I.: Race to the Top federal aid for schools should be called Race for the Exceptional Few and Profiteering Companies that Run Charter Schools. It is only fair that public schools enjoy the privileges charter schools benefit from.

Joan Gleicher

New York Times
February 8, 2010

For Students at Risk, Early College Proves a Draw

RAEFORD, N.C. — Precious Holt, a 12th grader with dangly earrings and a SpongeBob pillow, climbs on the yellow school bus and promptly falls asleep for the hour-plus ride to Sandhills Community College.

When the bus arrives, she checks in with a guidance counselor and heads off to a day of college classes, blending with older classmates until 4 p.m., when she and the other seniors from SandHoke Early College High School gather for the ride home.

There is a payoff for the long bus rides: The 48 SandHoke seniors are in a fast-track program that allows them to earn their high-school diploma and up to two years of college credit in five years — completely free.

Until recently, most programs like this were aimed at affluent, overachieving students — a way to keep them challenged and give them a head start on college work. But the goal is quite different at SandHoke, which enrolls only students whose parents do not have college degrees.

Here, and at North Carolina’s other 70 early-college schools, the goal is to keep at-risk students in school by eliminating the divide between high school and college.

“We don’t want the kids who will do well if you drop them in Timbuktu,” said Lakisha Rice, the principal. “We want the ones who need our kind of small setting.”

Results have been impressive. Not all students at North Carolina’s early-college high schools earn two full years of college credit before they graduate — but few drop out.

“Last year, half our early-college high schools had zero dropouts, and that’s just unprecedented for North Carolina, where only 62 percent of our high school students graduate after four years,” said Tony Habit, president of the North Carolina New Schools Project, the nonprofit group spearheading the state’s high school reform.

In addition, North Carolina’s early-college high school students are getting slightly better grades in their college courses than their older classmates.

While North Carolina leads the way in early-college high schools, the model is spreading in California, New York, Texas and elsewhere, where such schools are seen as a promising approach to reducing the high school dropout rate and increasing the share of degree holders — two major goals of the Obama administration.

More than 200 of the schools are part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Early College High School Initiative, and dozens of others, scattered throughout the nation, have sprung up as projects of individual school districts.

“As a nation, we just can’t afford to have students spending four years or more getting through high school, when we all know senior year is a waste,” said Hilary Pennington of the Gates Foundation, “then having this swirl between high school and college, when a lot more students get lost, then a two-year degree that takes three or four years, if the student ever completes it at all.”

Most of the early college high schools are on college campuses, but some stand alone. Some are four years, some five. Most serve a low-income student body that is largely black or Latino. But all are small, and all offer free college credits as part of the high school program.

“In 27 years as a college president, this is just about the most exciting thing I’ve been involved in,” said Rick Dempsey, the president of Sandhills. “We picked these kids out of eighth grade, kids who were academically representative at a school with very low performance. We didn’t cherry-pick them. Their performance has been so startling that you see what high expectations can do.”

Initially, the prospect of two years of college at no cost was less appealing to Ms. Holt than to her mother, Simone Dean, an Army mechanic at nearby Fort Bragg.

“I didn’t want to do it, because my middle school friends weren’t applying,” Ms. Holt said. “I cried, but my mother made me do it.

“The first year, I didn’t like it, because my friends at the regular high school were having pep rallies and actual fun, while I had all this homework. But when I look back at my middle school friends, I see how many of them got pregnant or do drugs or dropped out. And now I’m excited, because I’m a year ahead.”

Because most of the nation’s early-college high schools are still new, it is too soon to say whether strapped states will be impressed enough to justify the extra costs of college tuition, college textbooks and academic support,

A recent report from Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit group that is coordinating the Gates initiative, found that in 2008, the early-college schools that had been open for more than four years had a high school graduation rate of 92 percent — and 4 out of 10 graduates had earned at least a year of college credit.

With a careful sequence of courses, including ninth-grade algebra, and attention to skills like note-taking, the early-college high schools accelerate students so that they arrive in college needing less of the remedial work that stalls so many low-income and first-generation students. “When we put kids on a college campus, we see them change totally, because they’re integrated with college students, and they don’t want to look immature,” said Michael Webb, associate vice president of Jobs for the Future.

The first early-college high schools — Simon’s Rock at Bard College, a residential private liberal-arts college in Great Barrington, Mass., and Bard High School Early College, a public school in New York City — were selective schools intended to cure the boredom that afflicts many talented high school students.

“The philosophy behind the school was that the last two years of high school are not engaging, and we would set up something that would make them intellectually exciting.” said Ray Peterson, the principal of Bard High School Early College.

But at the City University of New York’s early-college schools, the emphasis is less on preventing the senior slump than on aligning high school with college.

“Our students are actually planning for college-level coursework from their first day in the school,” said Cass Conrad, executive director for school support and development at CUNY, which has a dozen early-college high schools. “And their teachers plan backwards from college, to make sure they’ll know what they need to be successful in college-level classes.”

In the pine woods of North Carolina, SandHoke students start in a small Hoke County school down the road from a turkey-processing plant, and begin traveling to the Sandhills campus, nestled among the golf courses of Moore County, only as seniors. Their first college class, in 10th grade, is a user-friendly communications course taught by Cathleen Kruska, a high-energy teacher who had them discussing job interviews, learning which kinds of questions are legally permissible and doing mock interviews.

Ms. Kruska teaches the same course to college students at Sandhills, and said the only difference was that the high school students were needier.

These days, aspirations run high. Ms. Holt, for example, is aiming for medical school. She was disappointed last semester to get three B’s and two A’s.

“That’s not what I was hoping for,” she said, “and I’m going to work harder this semester.”

Her high standards have affected the whole family.

“My 13-year-old is going to apply to SandHoke for next year,” Ms. Dean said. “And I’m actually learning from Precious. When I’m done with the military, I want to get my degree.”


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