'two tiers'

Tisch: Top city schools could be exempt from new teacher evaluation system

More than 100 top-ranked New York City schools could be exempt from a prescriptive teacher evaluation system approved by state lawmakers earlier this week, according to the official charged with finalizing the new system.

The schools, which include both elite screened schools and popular zoned schools, are on a statewide list that Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch told Chalkbeat may make them be eligible for a waiver because of their students’ high performance. Of 354 schools that earned the distinction last August, 103 are in New York City.

Tisch cautioned that she is still not sure how much flexibility she has under the new law, which charges the state education department and Board of Regents with filling in the details of a new plan. But if schools are allowed to develop alternative evaluation systems, it would mark a significant shift in the way teacher evaluations work citywide.

“Where this goes and how this goes I don’t know,” Tisch said, “but I just thought it should be part of the conversation.”

Tisch has already proposed exempting some high-performing districts, as reported by Capital New YorkOn Thursday, Tisch said she believes the same principles apply to individual schools.

For the last two years, city schools have used the same basic framework for evaluations, with state test scores and teacher observations each counting for a portion of a teacher’s final rating, which ranges from ineffective to highly effective. There has been some variation, though most teachers have been rated effective or better, with some schools opting to use additional city-created assessments, for example, while others tried different rubrics or peer evaluations through an experimental program.

The schools that could be exempt from the new system, according to Tisch, are the state’s “reward schools,” a designation created in 2012 when state officials sought and received a waiver of their own from some requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Eight of the 103 city schools on the list that also receive federal Title I funding for having a large share of needy students became eligible for separate grants to share ideas and work with low-performing schools. Applications for those grants were due earlier this week, according to the state education department’s web site.

Several of the city’s other reward schools have strict screening policies, or are housed in zones that pull from affluent neighborhoods. As a result, they admit and serve some of the city’s top-performing students.

They include elite specialized high schools like Stuyvesant High School and Brooklyn Technical High School; citywide gifted and talented programs, like the Anderson School and the Talented and Gifted School for Young Scholars; and hugely popular zoned elementary schools like Brooklyn’s P.S. 321.

There are also many schools serving higher-need populations. More than half of the students in 25 of the elementary and middle schools, for instance, qualified for free lunch last year, according to city data. At P.S 42, in Chinatown and P.S. 172 in Sunset Park, for instance, nearly 90 percent of students receive free lunch and about 30 percent of students speak a language other than English at home.

To earn the distinction, schools had to rank in the top 20 percent of schools on state test scores for two straight years, or in the top 10 percent on student growth on the tests in 2012-13; all student subgroups had to make academic progress; and there couldn’t be “unacceptably large” achievement gaps between a school’s low-income students and their peers.

Tisch did not elaborate on exactly what those schools might do instead of implementing the state’s evaluation system. But the idea of allowing schools within a district to use different systems is certain to raise questions, and Tisch’s proposal to allow district exemptions had already sparked sharp criticism from the state teachers union.

“Now the chancellor seems to be floating a ‘yacht’ evaluation plan for some communities and non-stop testing pressure for the rest,” New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee said in a statement.

Here are New York City’s Reward Schools for the 2014-12 school year:

PS 42 BENJAMIN ALTMAN

PS 172 BEACON SCHOOL OF EXCELLENCE

PS 161 ARTHUR ASHE SCHOOL

PS 36 UNIONPORT

MOTT HALL SCHOOL

THE BRIGHTER CHOICE COMMUNITY SCHOOL

PS 176 OVINGTON MAGNET SCHOOL OF MATHEMATICS, SCIENCE, DESIGN

PS 120

PS 112 LEFFERTS PARK

PS 130 HERNANDO DE SOTO

PS 24 ANDREW JACKSON

PS 304 EARLY CHILDHOOD SCHOOL

PS 255 BARBARA REING SCHOOL

IS 227 LOUIS ARMSTRONG

IS 392

PS 235 LENOX SCHOOL

PS 124 YUNG WING

MEDGAR EVERS COLLEGE PREP SCHOOL

PS 184 SHUANG WEN

QUEENS GATEWAY TO HEALTH SCIENCE SECONDARY SCHOOL

PS/IS 113 ANTHONY J PRANZO

PS 133

PS 31 SAMUEL F DUPONT

IS 187 THE CHRISTA MCAULIFFE SCHOOL

PS 32 STATE STREET

PS 18 WINCHESTER

SCHOLARS’ ACADEMY

PS 162 JOHN GOLDEN

PS 173 FRESH MEADOW

IRWIN ALTMAN MIDDLE SCHOOL 172

PS 31 BAYSIDE

TAG YOUNG SCHOLARS

PS 191 MAYFLOWER

PS 26 RUFUS KING

PS 115 GLEN OAKS

QUEENS COLLEGE SCHOOL-MATHEMATICS, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY

PS 213 THE CARL ULLMAN SCHOOL

PS 11 PURVIS J BEHAN

PS 205 ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL

PS 46 ALLEY POND

PS 47 CHRIS GALAS

PS 159

PS 35 THE CLOVE VALLEY SCHOOL

PS 11 WILLIAM T HARRIS

NYC LAB MIDDLE SCHOOL FOR COLLABORATIVE STUDIES

MS 260 CLINTON SCHOOL WRITERS & ARTISTS

PS/IS 266

MARK TWAIN IS 239-GIFTED & TALENTED

PS 50 FRANK HANKINSON

PS 78

PS 41 CROCHERON

PS 53 BAY TERRACE

PS 1 TOTTENVILLE

PS 203 OAKLAND GARDENS

JHS 67 LOUIS PASTEUR

PS 186 CASTLEWOOD

PS 94 DAVID D PORTER

PS 195 MANHATTAN BEACH

PS 221 THE NORTH HILLS SCHOOL

MATH & SCIENCE EXPLORATORY SCHOOL

PS 144 COL JEROMUS REMSEN

NEW EXPLORATIONS SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & MATH

PS 212 MIDTOWN WEST

PS 196 GRAND CENTRAL PARKWAY

PS 188 KINGSBURY

MS 255 SALK SCHOOL OF SCIENCE

PS 5 HUGUENOT

PS 58 THE CARROLL

EAST SIDE MIDDLE SCHOOL

PS 158 BAYARD TAYLOR

PS 59 BEEKMAN HILL INTERNATIONAL

PS 40 AUGUSTUS SAINT-GAUDENS

PS 98 THE DOUGLASTON SCHOOL

PS 290 MANHATTAN NEW SCHOOL

PS 321 WILLIAM PENN

PS 199 JESSIE ISADOR STRAUS

SPECIAL MUSIC SCHOOL

PS 87 WILLIAM SHERMAN

THE ANDERSON SCHOOL

PS 6 LILLIE D BLAKE

PS 234 INDEPENDENCE SCHOOL

PS 77 LOWER LAB SCHOOL

PS 89

PS 183 ROBERT L STEVENSON

NYC LAB HS-COLLABORATIVE STUDIES

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT HIGH SCHOOL

MILLENNIUM HIGH SCHOOL

BARUCH COLLEGE CAMPUS HIGH SCHOOL

STUYVESANT HIGH SCHOOL

HS-DUAL LANGUAGE & ASIAN STUDIES

FIORELLO H LAGUARDIA HIGH SCHOOL

HS MATH SCIENCE & ENGINEERING AT CCNY

BRONX CENTER FOR SCIENCE & MATH

BRONX HIGH SCHOOL OF SCIENCE

HS AMERICAN STUDIES AT LEHMAN COLLEGE

BROOKLYN TECH HIGH SCHOOL

BEDFORD ACADEMY HIGH SCHOOL

LEON M GOLDSTEIN HIGH SCHOOL

TOWNSEND HARRIS HIGH SCHOOL

JAMAICA GATEWAY TO THE SCIENCES

QUEENS HIGH SCHOOL AT YORK COLLEGE

STATEN ISLAND TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL

Educator diversity

Aurora Public Schools’ principals more racially diverse this year, but district still lagging behind

File photo of kindergarten students at Laredo Elementary in Aurora.

In the most diverse city in Colorado, school district officials have struggled to hire and retain principals of color.

The issue isn’t unique to Aurora Public Schools. But one change made three years ago to how Aurora hires principals is now slowly increasing diversity among school leaders, officials say.

The revamped hiring process wasn’t aimed at increasing diversity, but rather at increasing quality and minimizing biased or preferential hiring decisions, officials say.

“Systems that are more likely to have bias are less likely to have diversity,” said John Youngquist, Aurora’s chief academic officer. “Systems that are engaging these kinds of processes that allow people to demonstrate behaviors they’ve practiced over time are ones that allow those high quality candidates to get to the top. I know is this is a practice that increases the level of diversity.”

This fall, 10 percent of Aurora principals are black, and 14 percent are Hispanic, up from 9 percent that were black and 7 percent that were Hispanic last year.

It’s an improvement, but the numbers still represent a gap with the diversity in the district and in the city. Eighteen percent of Aurora Public Schools students are black and more than 50 percent are Hispanic. The city of Aurora has similar demographics, according to the most recent U.S. Census estimates.

State data tracking both principals and assistant principals by race showed the Aurora district had lower percentages of school leaders who were black or Hispanic in 2016 than in 2013. Numbers for the current school year are not yet available.

This year, the numbers of teachers who are not white are smaller and farther from representing the student or community demographics than they are for principals.

Research has shown that students of color benefit from having teachers of color. Having diverse and highly qualified principals helps leaders in turn attract and hire high quality and diverse teachers, Youngquist said.

Aurora superintendent Rico Munn said that increasing diversity is a priority but said he isn’t sure how many educators of color Aurora schools should aspire to have.

“For our workforce to mirror the community, I don’t know that there’s enough educators in the state,” Munn said.

Elizabeth Meyer, associate professor of education and associate dean for undergraduate and teacher education at CU Boulder, said all districts should be striving to see an upward trend in the numbers, not necessarily trying to reach a certain percentage as a goal.

She said that issues in diversifying teachers and principal pools are similar, but that teachers of color who are supported can be the ones who can then go on and become principals.

“We’re already limited because teaching demographics are overwhelmingly white women,” Meyer said. “We do need to find ways to make teaching a more desirable profession, especially for people of color.”

Meyer said that while there are nationwide and statewide issues to be addressed, districts need to incentivize teachers by paying higher wages, create environments that are inclusive for teachers already in the district and have visible leaders of color.

“It’s not enough to just want to recruit people in,” Meyer said. “Retention is the other part of the problem.”

When Youngquist’s office led the change in how the Aurora district hires principals, the focus was to increase the quality of school leaders and remove bias that could allow a person to be invited into the process “just with a tap on the shoulder,” he said.

The new process requires a team of district leaders and other principals to observe candidates as they are asked to model practices through scenarios and demonstrations of situations they’re likely to confront as principals.

Yolanda Greer, principal of Aurora’s Vista Peak Exploratory was one of the first to go through that new hiring process three years ago.

Yolanda Greer, principal of Vista Peak Exploratory in Aurora.

“I will tell you at the end of it I certainly felt like I had been through a triathalon of some sorts,” Greer said. “But I do recall saying at every point, ‘I’m so impressed. I’m so appreciative that APS is taking the thoughtfulness that went behind creating this process to make sure we have leaders that are prepared.’ It made me want to be here even more.”

Speaking at a community meeting last month, Munn said the neighboring districts of Denver and Cherry Creek can offer more money, so Aurora must focus on other appeals to hire and retain diverse educators.

“We have to think about what’s the right atmosphere or what’s the right way that we can recruit or retain people in a way that makes them want to be part of what we’re doing here in APS,” Munn said. “Our ultimate winning advantage there is that we have a strong connection to the community. We also demonstrate to potential staff members that we are a district that has momentum. We are a district where there is opportunity. We are a district that can truly impact the community that we serve.”

Greer said she felt that draw to Aurora long before she applied for the principal position.

“I think because there was a public perception that Aurora was an underdog,” Greer said. “It’s a great opportunity to not only impact the school but the district and community.”

Though Aurora district officials are happy with how the principal process is playing out, they started working with a Virginia-based consultant last year to look at all hiring practices in the district. Munn said part of that work will include looking at whether the district is doing enough to increase diversity.

Like most school districts, Aurora has sent officials to recruit new educators from Historically Black Colleges and Hispanic Serving Institutions.

One thing that Greer said is in a district’s control is allowing a culture where issues of inequity can be discussed. In Aurora, she said she feels comfortable raising issues of student equity if she sees them.

For her, seeing other people of color in leadership positions in the district, including the superintendent, also made her feel welcome.

“In Aurora when I walk into leadership meetings, there’s a lot of people that look like me, so there’s that connectivity,” Greer said. “There’s open conversations and people listen.”

Earlier this year, Greer was reminded of the impact that leaders of color can have when her elementary students were asked to dress up for the job they hoped to have when they grew up.

Several of the students came to school dressed as their principal, Greer said.

“I want to make sure students of color can see someone that looks like them,” she said. “When they can see me in the specific role in education and they can say, ‘Wow, that can be something admirable and I want to aspire to that,’ it’s a big deal.”

deep cuts

New York City teachers don’t get paid maternity leave. Their paychecks prove it.

PHOTO: Emily James/Courtesy photo
Brooklyn high school teacher Emily James with her children.

Susan Hibdon opened her front door and saw nothing but white.

It was a day that would go down in tabloid headline history after schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña declared it “absolutely a beautiful day,” despite a forecast calling for 10 inches of snow. For Hibdon, a Brooklyn high school teacher, it was memorable for a different reason. It was exactly six weeks after she had given birth, which meant it was time to go back to the classroom.

She kissed her infant goodbye and headed into the wet February weather.

“If you want to pay your rent, you have to go right back to work,” she said. “That’s not just bad for the mother who just gave birth. That’s bad for everybody.”

New York City teachers have no paid maternity or family leave, a policy that takes a toll on teachers’ paychecks and creates deep gender inequity in an education workforce that is about 77 percent women.

Hibdon and fellow teacher and mother Emily James recently launched an online petition calling on the United Federation of Teachers to negotiate for paid leave, which is not included in any of the city’s contracts with unionized workers. Almost 78,000 people have signed on, and the women will present their request at the union’s executive board meeting on Monday.

“I think the irony of it sticks out to many people: These are women who are paid to raise children and they aren’t paid to raise their own children,” Hibdon said.

As it stands now, teachers who want to take paid time off after having a baby must use their sick days. The policy only applies to birth mothers, putting a strain on those who become parents through adoption or surrogacy, and fathers who want to take a leading role in the earliest moments of parenthood.

“We talk so much about parents being active in their child’s education,” said Rosie Frascella, a teacher who has also pushed for paid leave policies. “Well, let’s let teachers be active in their child’s education.”

For teachers, the policy packs a financial blow on multiple levels.

If a mother wants paid time off after giving birth, the only option is to use sick days. Women are limited to six weeks of sick time after a vaginal birth, and eight weeks after a C-section.

Teachers earn one sick day per school month. In order to save up for an eight-week leave, a teacher would have to work about four years without using any sick days.

Many women haven’t accrued that many days, so they can “borrow” sick days they haven’t yet earned. Teachers run into problems, though, if they actually get sick — or their children do — since they can only borrow up to 20 sick days. Once they hit that number, any additional time off is unpaid. And if a teacher leaves the education department, she must repay any sick days she borrowed.

Hidbon learned that the hard way. She has three children — and precious few sick days in the bank. Hidbon remembers a time that she completely lost her voice, but still had to go to work.

“No one could hear me. I had to conduct my entire class writing notes on the board,” she said. “I’m supposed to be teaching and I can’t do my job because of the way the system is set up — and my students are getting the short end of the stick.”

The crunch for sick time could lead to a financial blow later in a woman’s career. Teachers are allowed to accrue up to 200 sick days, and receive a payout for unused time when they retire. The city could not provide numbers for how many sick days men versus women retire with. But it makes sense that men would rack up far more since women with children are more likely to get stuck with a negative balance.

James, a Brookyln high school teacher and co-starter of the online petition, still has a negative balance of 16 sick days — almost three years after giving birth. The problem is compounded by the fact that women are more likely to take time off when a child is sick or there are other family obligations, a pattern that is seen in professions across the board.

“There were many times when I was so sick at work the kids were like, ‘Why are you here? Miss, go home,’” she said. “But it costs a lot of money to stay home.”

Even when women don’t have to borrow sick days, they can still lose financially. The city only allows women to use up to eight weeks of their banked time. Any additional days off are entirely unpaid.

Amy Arundell, a former director of personnel for the UFT, said many mothers stay home longer because of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides job protections for 12 weeks of leave.

“The people who don’t take 12 [weeks] obviously have real financial commitments” that make taking unpaid time off impossible, she said.

Women who take that time get hit with a double-punch to their salaries. Because of the way summer pay is calculated, unpaid time off results in a smaller summer paycheck, too. Arundell said the hit is usually equivalent to one paycheck.

Same sex-couples and those who become parents through surrogacy or adoption face many of the same financial setbacks, since only birth mothers are allowed to use sick time after having a baby.

After years on a waiting list, Seth Rader and his wife had only weeks’ notice that their adoptive baby was on the way. Since his wife was in grad school, the couple decided Rader would stay home with their new son — even though Rader, a Manhattan high school teacher, is the primary breadwinner at home.

“In a lot of ways, I’m much more bonded with him as a father, and him to me,” Rader said. “Are we really in a place where we want to discourage fathers from taking that role?”

At the time, the couple were saving for a down payment to buy a place of their own. After the expense of Rader taking off from work, they still are.

“I think all of this has to be affecting the sustainability of teaching,” he said. “If we create a system where people can’t imagine being teachers and parents at the same time, then that’s a loss.”

When it comes to the push for family leave, teachers have been left behind even as strides are made elsewhere. New York State recently passed a mandatory paid leave policy that will cover private employees. Last winter, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a paid leave act for city employees.

But that benefit isn’t extended to workers with unions, like the United Federation of Teachers. Currently, no union in New York City has paid maternity leave, according to a city spokeswoman.

Teachers across the city are fighting to change that. The petition started by Hibdon and James calls on UFT President Michael Mulgrew to “fight for our teaching mothers.”

“They’re supposed to really care about what teachers are struggling with and they’re our voice,” James said. “I just wish that they would take this seriously.”

Both the city and the United Federation of Teachers say they have held talks to extend similar benefits to teachers. In an emailed statement, Mulgrew called family leave “an important issue for the UFT and its members.”

“In our talks so far, the city has failed to come up with a meaningful proposal,” he said.

In an article published in the UFT journal, which ran shortly after the city passed its parental leave policy, the union pointed out that gaining that benefit came at the cost of a scheduled raise for managers and fewer leave days for veteran employees.

According to the article, Mulgrew said he “looked forward to negotiations with the de Blasio administration for an appropriate way to expand parental benefits for UFT members.”