training day

Moskowitz offers training for district school principals, and city offers praise

Eva Moskowitz speaks last year at a seminar hosted by Success Academy that was open to other charter and district school leaders. Moskowitz is hosting a similar event next month and directly appealing for New York City principals to attend.

Eva Moskowitz earned rare praise from the de Blasio administration on Tuesday after she invited city principals to a training day sponsored by her charter school network next month.

Moskowitz, who founded Success Academy Charter Schools in 2006, is offering to host classroom visits and professional development sessions on Oct. 30 for leaders of the city’s district elementary schools. She’s even emailed Chancellor Carmen Fariña and other top education officials directly to help get the word out.

“This is great to see,” said Devora Kaye, a spokesperson for Fariña, in response to the announcement.

The offer to share resources and details about Success’ curriculum, management, and programs aligns with what Mayor Bill de Blasio and Fariña have said they want from the city’s charter schools. Fariña in particular has encouraged teachers and principals to visit each other’s schools in a structured way, saying the practice is a key driver of improvement.

“We celebrate when schools answer the chancellor’s call for greater collaboration,” Kaye said.

The praise is notable given de Blasio’s frosty relationship with Moskowitz, a political rival with mayoral ambitions and starkly different ideas about how to improve public education. And it’s unclear if Fariña intends to help market the event to district principals. Only five months ago, Moskowitz helped organize attack ads against the mayor after he blocked three of her schools from co-locating in district school buildings.

For those who want charter schools to serve as laboratories of new ideas and then to share them with district schools—a central premise of the charter movement when city teachers union president Albert Shanker first embraced it in 1988—the development was seen as a “good first step.”

“But it’s only a first step,” said David Bloomfield, a professor of educational leadership at Brooklyn College. “My hope would be that this initiates an ongoing collaboration of Success and other charters” and district schools, he said.

Success, the city’s largest charter school network, is currently applying to expand from 32 to 46 schools over the next two years. The schools are in high demand from parents and rank as or among the city’s top-performing schools each year on state tests.

Success schools last year attracted 300 visitors from people who wanted to know more about the network’s which opened with its first school in 2006, Success spokesperson Ann Powell said.

But the schools are also controversial among teachers and principals who work in district schools, who argue that the charter sector’s growth hurts the traditional public school system, which loses resources as more students attend charter schools. Teachers and education activists have been airing their criticisms of Success by circulating petitions against Success’ application to expand and at public hearings where the applications are being reviewed.

The October training event is open to 60 people, and that a few principals have already signed up, Powell said, and the network has focused its outreach on schools co-located with Success Academy schools.

The event will include classroom observations in the morning focused on the network’s “Think Literacy” curriculum and approach to math instruction, followed by meetings in the afternoon at Columbia University. Moskowitz will moderate an afternoon session called “The Essential Role of the Principal” to “discuss the critical role of the principals as an instructional leader,” according to an outline of the day that Success posted online for those who are interested in registering.

Last year, Success held a similar event mostly for other charter school leaders, including KIPP’s Dave Levin, Achievement First’s Dacia Toll, and Uncommon’s Schools’ Brett Pieser. A group of educators from the Houston Independent School District also attended.

union power

Charter teachers won big in nation’s first strike. What now?

PHOTO: Yana Kunichoff / Chalkbeat
Teachers from Acero charter schools in Chicago protest stalled negotiations Oct. 24, 2018, as they readied to vote on authorizing a strike.

Some 500 unionized teachers joined in the nation’s first charter strike last week, and succeeded in negotiating wage increases, smaller class sizes and a shorter school day. Their gains could foreshadow next year’s citywide contract negotiations — between the Chicago Teachers Union, with its contract expiring in June, and Chicago Public Schools.

“The issue of class size is going to be huge,” said Chris Geovanis, the union’s director of communications. “It is a critically important issue in every school.”

Unlike their counterparts in charters, though, teachers who work at district-run schools can’t technically go on strike to push through a cap on the number of students per class. That’s because the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act defines what issues non-charter public school teachers can bargain over, and what issues can lead to a strike.

An impasse on issues of compensation or those related to working conditions, such as length of the school day or teacher evaluations, could precipitate a strike. But disagreements over class sizes or school closures, among other issues, cannot be the basis for a strike.

The number of students per class has long been a point of contention among both district and charter school teachers.

Educators at Acero had hopes of pushing the network to limit class sizes to 24-28 students, depending on the grade. However, as Acero teachers capped their fourth day on the picket line, they reached an agreement with the charter operator on a cap of 30 students — down from the current cap of 32 students.

Andy Crooks, a special education apprentice, also known as a teacher’s aide, at Acero’s Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz school and a member of the teachers bargaining team, said that even having two fewer students in a classroom would make a huge difference.

“You really do get a lot more time with your students,” Crooks said. “And if you are thinking about kindergarten in particular, two less 5-year-olds really can help set the tone of the classroom.”

In district-run schools, classes are capped at 28 students in kindergarten through third grade, and at 31 students in fourth through sixth grade. But a survey by the advocacy group Parents 4 Teachers, which supports educators taking on inequality, found that during the 2017-2018 school year, 21 percent of K-8 classrooms had more students than district guidelines allowed. In 18 elementary school classrooms, there were 40 or more students.

The issue came up at last week’s Board of Education meeting, at which Ivette Hernandez, a parent of a first-grader at Virgil Grissom Elementary School in the city’s Hegewisch neighborhood, said her son’s classes have had more than 30 students in them. When the children are so young and active — and when they come into classrooms at so many different skill levels — “the teachers can’t handle 30 kids in one class,” she told the board.

Alderman Sue Garza, a former counselor, accompanied Hernandez. She also spoke before the board about classroom overcrowding — worrying aloud that, in some grades at one school in particular, the number of students exceeded the building’s fire codes. (Board chair Frank Clark said a district team would visit the school to ensure compliance fire safety policies.)

While the Chicago Teachers Union aren’t technically allowed to strike over class sizes, the union does have a history of pushing the envelope when it comes to bargaining.

Back in 2012, when the Chicago Teachers Union last went on strike, they ended up being able to secure the first limit on class sizes in 20 years because the district permitted the union to bargain over class size.

They also led a bargaining campaign that included discussion over racial disparities in Chicago education and school closures, arguing that these trends impacted the working conditions of teachers.

“Even if you can’t force an employer to bargain over an issue, you can push them to bargain over the impact of an issue,” Bob Bruno, a labor professor at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, explained.

The Chicago Teachers Union also emerged from its 2012 negotiations with guarantees of additional “wraparound services,” such as access to onsite social workers and school counselors.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

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