Less Is Not Always More

This article appeared in the Rochester Business Journal: City Skills brings STEM experiences to city youth by Gino Fanelli

“Amid a small crowd of city school youth at the Rochester MUSEUM and Science Center, Mayor Lovely Warren stands close to Douglass student Smiley Samuel, the pair carefully manipulating construction paper into a makeshift windmill. Eventually settling on the right blade positions, the pair place their creation in front of a set of billowing fans. It remains still, the Mayor plucking it back up and moving back to the drawing board.

Samuel and her fellow classmates are part of a pilot program dubbed “Technology and Careers in Rochester Powered by AT&T,” a program aimed at inspiring youth into careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Financed heavily by AT&T, the program is a collaboration between the museum, the Rochester City School District, the Finger Lakes STEM Hub and the Seneca Waterways Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Included in the project is the City Living course; a five-week program immersing 12 students who are one science, math or elective credit shy of graduation into STEM-based field trips and hands-on experience.

“What we can do here is build curiosity and interest in STEM fields,” said Director of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Joe Marinelli. “This gives students a chance to gain hands-on experience in construction, manufacturing and energy power in Rochester.””

This is a heavily financed collaboration between Strong Museum, RCSD, Finger lakes STEM hub and the Boy Scouts of America.

Is it a good program, absolutely.

However, this type of learning used to take place in schools at the elementary level of education serving entire classrooms of students.

Xerox engineers worked with students at the Fourth grade level serving hundreds of students until becoming a summer camp and Saturday school program for just a few.

Hands-on, experiential learning should begin in kindergarten along with art and music and continue throughout the educational experience. Waiting until middle and high school to shore-up the educational success of a few does little to benefit all children.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Promises Promises

SUNY deans speak out against teacher hiring plan
By Bethany Bump

“The deans of education programs at 18 State University of New York schools are condemning a proposal they say would lead to unqualified teachers in New York classrooms.

The proposal comes from the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, the largest authorizer of charter schools in New York, and would allow certain high-performing charter schools to operate outside of the state’s stringent teacher certification requirements and instead certify their own teachers on the promise they produce strong academic results.

But critics say the move would weaken teacher standards in New York at the same time that SUNY and other education leaders are trying to elevate the profession. A chief concern is the requirement that charter school teachers have just 30 hours of classroom experience.

“The regulation change allows anyone with a bachelor’s degree to earn state teacher certification without broad and rich intellectual stimulation from education faculty, without taking appropriate coursework or completing an adequate number of field experience hours, without demonstrating adequate content knowledge, without student teaching, and without demonstrating the ability to teach effectively according to any standardized measure,” the deans wrote in a letter released Saturday.

. . . “It is entirely inappropriate to lower the standards for teachers because charter schools are finding it difficult to hire certified teachers, and is entirely unfair to the students in their charge,” the deans wrote. “Creating a cadre of underqualified teachers is misguided, shortsighted and harmful to the state’s children as well as to the profession of teaching.””

The Atlantic reports, “Charter schools are concentrated in urban and less affluent areas—and it’s not just because of practical reasons, such as available infrastructure and philanthropic funding. According to the Bellwether report, 56 percent of charter-school students live in cities, versus just 29 percent of all U.S. children.

. . . Relatedly, nearly two-thirds of the charter-school population is nonwhite, compared to about half of its regular public-school counterpart.”

We must change our current system of education so that all children will receive an excellent public education and not just the promise of one.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Adult Jobs Matter – Children’s Education – Not So Much

Paying Teachers Not to Teach Is Absurd — but Reviving NYC’s ‘Dance of the Lemons’ Hurts Kids by Daniel Weisberg outlines a problem that exists in many school districts.

He states:

“For most of the past decade, New York City has struggled to solve a seemingly ridiculous problem: It spends about $100 million every year paying teachers not to teach. That’s how much it costs to operate the city’s so-called Absent Teacher Reserve pool, a limbo for about 800 educators entitled to full salary and benefits even though their positions were eliminated.

. . . Teachers can apply for any open positions they want, and principals have final say on which candidates to hire. It’s called “mutual consent,” but it’s really just common sense.

When ATR teachers struggle to find new jobs, there are often very good — albeit uncomfortable — reasons. Consider a few findings from a 2014 analysis of ATR teachers:

About 25 percent had been brought up on disciplinary charges.

Another third had received unsatisfactory evaluation ratings.

More than half hadn’t held a regular classroom position for two or more years.

About 60 percent hadn’t applied for a single position in the previous year, suggesting they weren’t even trying to find a full-time job.

. . . because only a tiny number of tenured teachers are ever dismissed for poor performance, any who fail this forced “tryout” will likely end up being foisted upon another group of students at another school the following year. More to the point, subjecting thousands of kids to ineffective teachers for even a year is simply unacceptable.”

Weisberg posits that teachers who are remanded to the ATR would be forced into positions and “students in lower-income neighborhoods, where teaching positions have historically been most difficult to fill, would be hit hardest.”

The hiring, assessing and retention of teachers in most districts is politically based and at the discretion of principals and the union. Parents have little input into the process.

Teachers who “go along” “get along” while those who don’t, won’t.

Our entire system of education must be changed so that it concentrates on educating children not employing adults.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Evaluate The System Not The Schools

New York plans to use suspension rates to grade schools by Julie McMahon outlines NYSED’s plan to evaluate school performance.

She writes:
“Out-of-school suspension rates are the latest criteria the department has proposed as part of its plan for school evaluations.

The new criteria would be used as early as the 2018-19 school year, according to a report by Chalkbeat New York. The plan is pending final approval by the Board of Regents and the federal Education Department.”

“. . . Education reformers over the last several years have pushed for schools to limit out-of-school suspensions because they are often disproportionately used to punish students of color.

Many districts, including Syracuse city schools, have shifted from relying heavily on suspensions to using alternatives like “restorative justice,” which aims to keep students in the academic environment.”

In a subsequent report, 8 ways NY plans to grade schools beyond tests, graduation rates: Give your feedback, Ms. McMahon reports on the State’s proposal for evaluation.

They are:
*Measure achievement in more than just math and English as is current practice. The plan proposes expanding measures of science, social studies and language acquisition.

*Focus on chronic absenteeism and attendance.

*Give more consideration to August, five-year, and six-year graduation rates. The state now emphasizes the four-year June rate.

*Push schools to reduce gaps among certain populations of students. The plan calls for more emphasis overall on growth and gap closing, not the stringent 100-percent achievement goals of No Child Left Behind.

*Stress parental involvement, including in decisions about how to spend money for school improvement.

*Require reporting per pupil spending and per pupil sources of revenue for each district and school.

*Reward districts for providing advanced coursework.

*Exempt “English language learners” from English language arts tests for one year. The plan calls for more supports for students who are not proficient in English, including state evaluations of district programs and training for teachers.

While we are searching for ways to evaluate our schools there is no plan in place that evaluates our current system of education that normalizes, standardizes and dehumanizes our children.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Let’s All Go To The “Lobby”

Recently reported by Diane Ravitch: New York City: Mayor de Blasio’s Capitulation to the Powerful Charter Lobby

“Mayor Bill de Blasio ran for mayor with the promise that he would fight the charter lobby. He was a public school parent and had served on a community school board. I believed him. I endorsed him.

Then after he was elected, the billionaires showed him who runs education policy in Albany. Governor Cuomo, the recipient of large sums from the financial industry, became the charter cheerleader, even though charters enrolled only 3% of the children in the state. The Republican-led State Senate gives the charter industry whatever it wants. The charter industry’s best friend is State Senate Republican leader John Flanagan, who loves loves loves charters, but not in his own district on Long Island. Call him Senator NIMBY.

De Blasio wanted charters to pay rent if they could afford it. The legislature required the City to give free space to charters, even though public schools are overcrowded, and to pay their rent if they locate in private space.

In the recent legislative session, the mayor was told that the only way to get a two-year extension of mayoral control was to revive 22 charters that had been closed or abandoned for various reasons.

Now the mayor is seeking a “truce” with the private charter industry that sucks the students it wants from the public schools.”

Along with Ms. Ravitch, many New Yorkers voted for DeBlasio because he promised to “fight the charter lobby”. Unfortunately Mayor DeBlasio neglected to call on the support of those individuals when it came to fighting the control of the Repubican and Democratic party leaders in the legislature who bullied him into capitulation.

If Mayor DeBlasio believed he had the support of the people, why did he succumb to the demands of the private charter industry?

Charter schools further segregate public schools with some “normal” children being placed in high achieving institutions and others being served in failing institutions. Those students who do not fit into the “norm” are left out completely.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

It Can Be Done

NYC PARENTS FILE COMPLAINT TO ENFORCE LAW TO REDUCE CLASS SIZE
July 6, 2017

Contact: Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters, 917-435-9329; leoniehaimson@gmail.com

Wendy Lecker, Education Law Center, 203-536-7567, wlecker@edlawcenter.org

“Today, nine parents from every New York City borough filed a petition with State Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia, charging the City Department of Education (DOE) with failing to reduce class sizes as mandated by the Contract for Excellence Law (C4E). The City’s Public Advocate, Letitia James, and two advocacy groups, Class Size Matters and the Alliance for Quality Education, also joined the parents in the petition.

Education Law Center (ELC) is representing the Petitioners.

. . . In 2007, as required by the C4E law, the DOE developed a class size reduction plan for the City’s public schools, pledging to lower average class sizes in Kindergarten through third grade over five years to no more than 20 students; in fourth through eighth grade to no more than 23 students; and to no more than 25 students per class in high school core classes. The State Education Commissioner approved the plan.

The DOE never delivered on its plan. Instead, class sizes have increased sharply since 2007, particularly in the early grades, and are now substantially larger than when the C4E law was enacted. As of fall 2016, DOE data show classes in Kindergarten through third grade were more than 18 percent larger, classes in grades four through eight were six percent larger, and high school classes were 1.5 percent larger than in 2007.

“The growth in class size from 2007 to the present is breathtaking,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director.

. . . “New York City students have waited too long for a better opportunity to learn, and it is unacceptable that the City has reneged on its legal obligations,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters. “The research is crystal clear that smaller classes benefit all children, but especially those who predominate in our public schools: students who are low-income, have special needs, or are English Language Learners.”

The question being asked is, “Why aren’t Rochester Parent groups & organizations taking similar action?”

Become involved, make education work for our children.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!

Those Who Can Do – Those Who Can’t Tell Those Who Can What To Do

In his article “Intellectual Arrogance” James C. Wilson, Ed.D. states,

“Individuals with expertise in engineering, medicine, and business believe their achievements entitle them to think their area of knowledge extends outside their profession. The recommendations that they make in subjects outside their area of expertise are examples of misplaced intellectual arrogance.

. . . This intellectual arrogance has never been demonstrated more clearly than in recent pronouncements concerning education in America. Brilliant people in diverse fields outside of education feel perfectly comfortable making judgments and policy recommendations about education that impacts millions of students as well as educational professionals. Their audacity is appalling and their ignorance is inexcusable.

. . . These brilliant people mean well, but their lack of research, professional experience, and lack of understanding of complex issues in education prevent them from realizing the severe unintended consequences of their amateurish meddling.

. . . The unintended consequence of their plan is to continue to sacrifice millions of America’s youth to dropping out of high school directly into crime and prison. This is the school to prison pipeline. These billionaires and politician’s meddling has resulted in real consequences and the enormous price tag that comes in the guise of more youth going to prison and ultimately higher costs to maintain prisons.

. . . We need to listen to America’s schools of education and researchers like Diane Ravitch, not political hacks and billionaires who, frankly, haven’t done due diligence to learn about educational research demonstrating success before implementation of new policies. We know preschool improves poverty level kid’s achievement and high school completion. We know career academies graduate 95 percent of their students, all with an employable skill. These are the interventions that are essential to expand across the country. These are the well researched educational initiatives that can make a difference in America. Imagine a million fewer people in prison. Imagine a workforce with millions more skilled workers. This is the alternative future that education can provide.”

An important question to ask is, “Why are educators allowing those with no background in education theory dictating to those who do, what education should be?”

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!