Accountability

Growing pains

New York

Q&A: Klein disciple Nadelstern laments end of disruptive era

As Mayor Bloomberg’s term in office comes to an end in New York City, mayoral candidates have been quick to denounce many of his education policies. A recent poll found that a majority of residents disapprove of the outgoing mayor’s handling of public schools, and the current crop of candidates are unhappy with school closures and the school grading system currently in place. The Bloomberg administration can count Eric Nadelstern, former deputy chancellor for school support and instruction under Bloomberg and currently a professor of Practice in Educational Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University, as one of its staunchest defenders. Nadelstern spoke to The Hechinger Report about his thoughts on the future of public education in New York City and his recent book 10 Lessons From New York City Schools, about his 40 years of experience working in public education. Question: There’ll be a new mayor in the city soon. Any trepidation that some of the policies you talk favorably about in your book might end? Answer: Sad to say, but I think they’ve changed already under the old mayor. I see networks being redirected away from school support to more central office compliance matters which disturbs me. I see the core curriculum being mandated in a way that was reminiscent of the old days in the way superintendents mandate curriculum rather than rolled it out in a way that creates a lot of options for schools on how to creatively engage around it or not if they choose to. And those decisions and policies trouble me. Certainly under a new mayor I think two main areas in greatest jeopardy are the issues of school closings that also creates the opportunity to open new schools as well as whether the non-geographic network structure may return to the old-time district structure headed by superintendents. Politicians in particular favor the old structure because they could exploit it to their benefit more easily. Q: What changes are you talking about?
New York

More schools met threshold for closure on new progress reports

New York

After closure scare, Opportunity Charter gets five-year renewal

Opportunity Charter School's principal, Marya Baker, is optimistic about the Harlem school's future. Months after fighting to stay open, a troubled Harlem charter school has secured a long-term future after the Department of Education recommended that it receive the longest-possible charter renewal. Last fall, Opportunity Charter School was one of six charter schools whose performance landed them on the city's short-list for closure. Now the city is locked in legal battles to shutter two of schools, Peninsula Preparatory Academy and Williamsburg Charter High School. But Opportunity is set to keep its doors open until at least 2017. It's good news for Opportunity, a middle and high school that has had its share of performance and management troubles in recent years. The Harlem school stands apart from many charter schools because it serves older students and maintains an even balance of students with disabilities and students who do not require special education services. “Opportunity Charter is incredibly pleased to have been recognized by the city for all the hard work we do,” said Principal Marya Baker while chaperoning the school’s prom in the Bronx last Friday. “I think that we’re finally being recognized for being successful for a model that is incredibly difficult and something we feel we do very well — that is, having an inclusive setting for 50 percent of our students who have special needs.” The about-face is especially remarkable because the city recommended a shortened charter renewal for Opportunity in January. Short-term renewals are given when a charter school has failed to fulfill performance promises but is considered capable of improvement. Opportunity got one in 2010.
New York

Feds grant NY a waiver to swap new promises for NCLB rules

New York

Sticks, carrots, and familiar policies in state's NCLB waiver plan

New York will get new terms for high- and low-performing schools — and new ways to define good and bad performance — under a proposed accountability plan designed to replace the requirements of No Child Left Behind. The proposal, which was released in draft form late today and will be discussed by the Board of Regents on Monday, is the result of two months of planning in response to the Obama administration's offer to waive some of the decade-old federal law’s requirements, including one that requires full proficiency by 2014. In exchange, states must to commit to prioritizing college readiness, setting guidelines for teacher and principal evaluations, and holding schools and districts accountable for their students' performance on state tests. Under the proposal, the bulk of the state's testing program would remain unchanged. But elementary and middle school students would take science tests; the bar to be considered proficient on high school exams would be raised; and proficiency would be calculated not just by whether students met certain benchmarks, but by how much they improved. Schools that fall short would not get extra funding to pay for tutoring services, an arrangement that has shown mixed results. Instead, they would get extra money to carry out more of the initiatives that the Regents themselves have endorsed, such as improving teacher training and revising curriculum standards. Five percent of low-scoring schools would become Priority Schools and have to undergo federally mandated school overhaul approaches. Another 10 percent would become Focus Schools, and their districts would have to develop plans to improve them. For the first time, school districts will be evaluated with the same scrutiny as schools were under NCLB. "Since district policies often contribute to why schools have low performance for specific groups of students," the proposal says, "districts must play a lead role in helping schools to address this issue." New York City, a district certain to house many Focus and Priority schools, will not be evaluated as one entire district, according to a provision. Instead, each of the city's 32 districts would be evaluated based on state test scores for its schools.  
New York

Brooklyn charter school with checkered past put on probation

The Department of Education is giving a Brooklyn charter school with a history of trouble just weeks to fix its most flagrant violations. We wrote in April that Williamsburg Charter High School had failed to make rent after a sharp enrollment decline. Now, the city has placed the school on a one-year probation, saying it is "in material and substantial violation of its charter, and in serious violation of applicable laws and regulations." Those laws and regulations include ones governing management, finances, and the school's relationship with the Believe High Schools Network — a relationship that the city says the school entered into illegally and must terminate within six weeks. At least three of WCHS's six board members are employed by the Believe network or one of the other two schools it operates, according to the letter, sent by Recy Dunn, head of the DOE's Charter Schools Office, to the chair of WCHS's board. "Any decisions made by the Board in regards to WCHS’s relationship with the Network would not be valid as those three members would have to recuse themselves; with only three voting Board members remaining, a majority vote decision would not be possible," the letter states. Whether the board actually voted on the Believe relationship is not clear: The board met only four times last year, instead of the required 12. The letter also raises red flags about the school's budgeting, pointing out that the school's own reporting put current assets at about $509,000 and current liabilities — the amount for which it's on the hook — at nearly $5 million.
Colorado

Opinion: Has reform cart outpaced data horse?

Several high-profile education reforms passed by the Colorado legislature in the last few years rely on massive collections of data to work as planned. For example, the 2009 accountability bill requires administrators at struggling schools to use school-level data to drive the improvement planning process. Senate Bill 191’s teacher evaluation provisions require more, however. Administrators must be able to drill down to the individual level, accurately linking teachers with students to evaluate teachers based on how well their students progress over the year. And Senate Bill 10-036 tills the soil for teacher prep programs to monitor the achievement of their graduates’ students in order to improve teacher prep programs. All are ambitious laws -- and I sometimes fear that Colorado’s reform cart has raced ahead of the data horse. The Colorado Department of Education, school districts and the Department of Higher Education are still working out the details on the kinds of data needed. That’s not a criticism. Collecting data that links every student, teacher, school and public university in the state is incredibly slow and painstaking when done right – and you definitely want it done right. I just worry that the public enthusiasm for the reforms will fade before they even get a chance. Collecting data that links every student, teacher, school and public university in the state is incredibly slow and painstaking when done right – and you definitely want it done right. That would be a shame because Colorado is headed toward building one of the most sophisticated data systems in the country, one that can be used to help improve our schools in many ways. Administrators and teachers can use data to identify their schools’ weaknesses and work together to set targets and monitor improvement. Principals can provide useful feedback to individual teachers, helping the weakest improve or find a new profession. Researchers can measure which programs and reforms are most successful over time and examine why.
Colorado

DPS' response to the credit recovery controversy

Editor's note: This post was submitted to Education News Colorado by Antwan Wilson, Denver Public Schools' assistant superintendent, office of post-secondary readiness. It offers the district's response to this blog post from EdNews Publisher Alan Gottlieb, and this article from Westword. I wanted to take this opportunity to address the concerns raised in recent media reports about the credit recovery at North High School. The issues raised in the report are very serious ones, and we are actively investigating the claims and reviewing our overall credit-recovery procedures.  Should we find violations of our guidelines or ethical standards or the need to implement clearer or stronger policies, we will take action to ensure the integrity and rigor of that program and all of our programs.  We certainly recognize that for our diplomas to have value, our programs must be - and be seen as - rigorous. In addressing the concerns about rigor, it’s important to take a minute to discuss the purpose of credit recovery and where it fits in our overall high school programs. To date, that investigation has determined at a minimum that there were serious deficiencies in following procedures and keeping records during the 2009-10 school year. First, a word on rigor.  Over the past several years, the Denver Public Schools has significantly strengthened the rigor of its high school programs. The district has increased the number of credits required for graduation from 220 to 240 (the highest in the state to our knowledge) by adding a fourth year of math and additional lab-science requirement, among other changes. We have nearly doubled the number of students taking and receiving college credit from Advanced Placement courses over the past five years, and we have also nearly tripled the number of students concurrently enrolled in college-level courses. The percent of concurrently enrolled students receiving As, Bs, or Cs in these college level courses (and therefore college credit) is over 80 percent. And these increases cross all racial and socioeconomic groups. Our district also has posted double-digit gains in math and reading proficiency on state assessments over the past five years. Our mission at DPS is to ensure that all of our students graduate high school and successfully pursue postsecondary opportunities and become successful world citizens.  This is an important mission in that it sets a high bar that requires that we implement a system district-wide that meets the needs of all of our students regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what their previous academic performance may have been. Aligning mission to Denver Plan This mission aligns with the 2010 Denver Plan goal of being the best urban school district in the country.  It says that we recognize and appreciate the diversity within our student population and the many unique needs of our students and we are making it our responsibility to construct a system that prepares all students for success in the college and career opportunities they seek. READ THE REST OF THIS STORY IN THE BLOG ARCHIVE