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December 12, 2013
Common Core critics and backers compete at Manhattan forum
Unlike at a forum in Brooklyn Tuesday, many critics of the Common Core standards spoke at hearing Wednesday in Manhattan, while state Education Commissioner John King (center) listened. After an unexpectedly warm welcome in Brooklyn, state Education Commissioner John King received a more typical — and icier — reception in Manhattan Wednesday on the latest stop of his statewide Common Core listening tour. As at many of the upstate forums devoted to the tougher standards, the one in Lower Manhattan featured emotional testimonies on the toll of testing, harsh criticism of the state and some heated heckling — including by a woman who said King should be arrested for child abuse. But, like in Brooklyn, there was also a sizable contingent of parents and teachers — many of them affiliated with advocacy groups that backed the Bloomberg administration's education policies — who argued that the new standards push students to higher planes of thought and eventually college. As a result, some speakers seemed to direct their arguments as much to other members of the public as to the education officials seated before them.
December 11, 2013
A warm reception greets King and the Common Core in Brooklyn
PHOTO: Monica DisareSupporters of the Common Core standards greeted State Education Commissioner John King at the forum in Brooklyn Tuesday. Many members of the parent advocacy group, StudentsFirstNY, arrived early to the meeting, snatched up many of the speaking slots and hoisted similar signs during the forum. A well-organized coalition of parents, teachers and advocates turned out in full force to public forums Tuesday night to support Commissioner John King and his push for tougher learning standards that have sparked opposition in most other parts of the state this fall. The groups, which included StudentsFirstNY, Families for Excellent Schools and Educators 4 Excellence, used the hearings in Brooklyn and the Bronx to make arguments in favor of the Common Core standards that they feel have been left out of recent debates. In particular, some parents argued that the tougher standards are urgently needed to improve the quality of struggling schools, while some teachers said they enhanced their instruction. “To those of you who are calling to slow it down or stop the movement for these high standards, you do not speak for me or many of these parents,” said Mery Melendez, a charter-school parent and organizer with Families for Excellent Schools who spoke at the Brooklyn hearing. “We’re tired of waiting for change.” The supportive presence was most apparent in a packed Medgar Evers College auditorium in Crown Heights where the Brooklyn forum was held. A much smaller audience showed up in the Bronx, though it offered more mixed reviews of state education policies. Critics at the events – who in Brooklyn were vastly outnumbered – challenged the notion that the standards benefit students. Others argued they were too quickly incorporated into the state tests and that they leave some students behind.
December 4, 2013
Common Core meetings coming to NYC next week
Merry Tisch, pictured above with librarian Paul McIntosh on a visit in October to Wadlegh Secondary School. Commissioner John King and…
November 8, 2013
State officials respond swiftly to anti-Semitism allegations in upstate district
Top state officials responded publicly and with distress today to a New York Times article detailing anti-Semitic incidents in the Pine Bush school district.
October 23, 2013
For Weingarten, New York's Common Core fight hits home
New York State Superintendent John King and AFT President Randi Weingarten speaking on a panel at an event hosted by Teaching Matters. At center, Teachers College professor Jeffrey Henig, who moderated. Randi Weingarten has been a national union boss for over three years, but her heart remains in the state that groomed her as a labor leader. So when California recently became the latest state to alter its testing policies amid reforms to learning standards and teacher evaluations, Weingarten said her thoughts turned to New York. "I get embarrassed when a state like California is figuring it out more than my beloved Empire State," Weingarten said Wednesday in a speech in midtown Manhattan, where she accepted an education award from the education nonprofit Teaching Matters. Weingarten twice referred to California, which moved a step closer to eliminating high-stakes tests for a year, while making her latest case for why New York should strip high stakes from state tests for teachers and students in order to focus on adopting Common Core learning standards. She also appeared on a panel discussion with Commissioner John King, whose handling of state education policies she has been critical of.
October 22, 2013
King to hit Harlem schools circuit with top Democratic lawmaker
Commissioner John King has a busy day scheduled in New York City tomorrow. First, King and Chancellor Merryl Tisch are meeting up in Harlem where they'll visit schools in the district of Assemblyman Keith Wright, a senior legislative member with influential positions in the state's Democratic Party. Wright will take them to P.S. 180 and Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing & Visual Arts, an embattled middle and high school that nearly closed last year and posted some of the lowest test scores in the state. In the afternoon, King will travel to midtown Manhattan for what could be a more tense encounter: a panel conversation with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, one of his fiercest critics. The panel is hosted by Teaching Matters at The Harvard Club starting at 12 p.m. The events are scheduled on the day after King released evaluation data that showed barely any teachers received low ratings, which he said he hoped would ease concerns of teachers union leaders. For months, Weingarten and local union leaders called on King to hold off on tying high stakes to teacher evaluations until after schools fully adopted new Common Core learning standards, which students were tested on in April. Test scores plummeted and critics reprised calls for a moratorium in recent weeks. On Tuesday, the state teachers union said today that the evaluation data did not sway their concerns. "The state’s rushed implementation of Common Core and last April’s testing debacle call into question the use of these scores in any high-stakes decisions affecting individual teachers or students," said New York State United Teachers President Dick Iannuzzi. Such a change would require a change to state law, which would require support from legislators like Wright. In an interview today, Wright said he recognized that the issue was a "hot topic" but said such a change wasn't a priority among his parent constituents.
October 18, 2013
King unveils slate of new Common Core forums for parents
Less than a week after he called off parent meetings that he said were "co-opted by special interests," Commissioner John King announced a slate of new forums that will be moderated on different terms. The new meetings, like the old ones, are meant to address concerns around the state's transition to Common Core learning standards and the increased role of testing in schools, a contentious issue for parents who fear it's leading to narrowed curriculum and instruction. A dozen of the meetings, which will begin in Albany on Oct. 24 and take place over six weeks, will be hosted in partnership with state lawmakers who will moderate the forums. Another four events will be broadcast on local public television stations with studio audiences. The department didn't release additional details for the meetings on Friday. None are planned for New York City, but a spokesman said the department was "looking to cover many more communities." After he canceled the meetings late last week, accusing outside groups of trying to derail the original purpose, King came under intense criticism from parents, teachers and lawmakers, with some calling for his resignation. They said the decision was just the latest move that showed King's disinterest in hearing opposing views to his agenda.
October 17, 2013
So far, parent group is sitting out dueling Common Core forums
Two sides of a heated debate over the role of testing in New York State schools are rushing to plan a series of dueling forums to give parents a platform to share their concerns. The State Education Department is scheduling more than a dozen small forums about the Common Core, the state's new standards, to replace ones that Commissioner John King canceled over the weekend. And the state teachers union is planning forums of its own in response to King's decision. But a statewide parent group caught in the middle of the fight isn't sure if it'll participate in either. "Until we can tone down some of the emotion, we're not sure we're ready to go out into public forums yet," said Richard Longhurst, executive administrator of the New York State Parent Teacher Association.
October 17, 2013
Concerns about testing accompany Common Core standards
Students would take their annual state tests on computers if New York adopts tests produced by the multistate consortium Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. In New York starting this school year, classrooms will transform into havens of critical thinking and deeper learning — the opposite of the teach-to-the-test culture so reviled by many teachers for more than a decade. Or so promise proponents of the new set of standards known as the Common Core that the state’s schools are adopting in full for the first time this fall. But some educators are worried the drill-and-kill culture will survive the shift to tougher standards as New York pushes forward with its plans to tie teachers evaluations to their students’ test scores. That shift started last year across the state and continues in New York City this year. “If I’m a new untenured teacher, I could be very focused on trying to make sure those kids do well on the test,” said David Getz, principal of East Side Middle School, one of the highest-performing middle schools in New York City.
October 16, 2013
Mixed feelings for N.Y. teachers as Common Core fully launches
New York City's Common Core Fellows collaborated last year to design curriculum materials for the new standards. This October many high school students around New York State are taking an Algebra I quiz with some unusual and very tough questions. In one, students are asked about how much water is used in the tallest skyscraper in the world during a 24-hour period. But the problem set forth in this mid-unit exam doesn’t include any set amounts; students are asked to estimate the numbers for the equation themselves and solve the problem based on their guesses. There isn’t one correct answer. Students must also write explanations of why an equation is right or wrong, instead of just solving it. The quiz is part of a new set of state-sponsored curriculum materials that many schools across New York are adopting in full for the first time this fall as they try to meet the new Common Core State Standards in math and English. (New York students were tested on the Common Core for the first time last spring, even though many schools had not yet connected all their lessons to the new standards.) The curriculums and the tests put New York ahead of the pack among the 45 states that have signed on to the standards, which are meant to increase critical thinking and problem-solving skills in the nation’s elementary and secondary schools and prepare more students for college.
October 15, 2013
When crowds go wild: 8 loud moments in education activism
A raucous Poughkeepsie parent crowd prompted Commissioner John King last week to cancel plans for future meetings with parents. But the disruption, in the video above, is just the latest instance of angry protesters derailing public events in recent years. In New York City, other meetings have long been the backdrop for battles over school closures, charter schools, overcrowding, teacher evaluations and testings have wages. Here are highlights caught on tape from event in recent years: "Sex and the City" star gets jeered, then cheered Nov. 12, 2008: Even the rich and famous don't get a free pass to air grievances about the city's public school system. "Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon and noted education advocate spoke up at a Upper West Side meeting in opposition to an overcrowding plan that would move her son's school to another building. Nixon was booed by the plan's supporters as she stepped to the microphone. But her argument — that the plan exacerbated racial and socio-economic segregation — ended with applause.
October 8, 2013
Looking to future, education officials imagine next UFT contract
At a panel geared toward current and potential education funders in New York City, city and state officials said they'd like to see some changes that philanthropy can't produce. City Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky and State Education Commissioner John King both said they want to see the city's next mayor use contract negotiations with the teachers union to give educators time to work together. “The next union contract needs more professional development time,” Polakow-Suransky said. “One of the biggest mistakes Randi and Klein made in the last contract was removing professional development time.” He was referring to Randi Weingarten and Joel Klein, who as UFT president and chancellor in 2005 negotiated a contract that traded about two hours a week of teacher training time for more teacher time with struggling students. The city’s contract with the teacher’s union has expired, as have the contracts of all labor unions in the city, and one of the new mayor's first tasks will be to negotiate a new one.
October 2, 2013
Five people who could be the next chancellor of New York City's schools
When the next mayor takes office on January 1, one of his first acts will likely be to choose a schools…
September 17, 2013
Educators share Common Core worries with state policy makers
Panelists from around the state were invited to Albany to share their experience in implementing new Common Core Learning Standards with the Board of Regents. ALBANY — When Principal Alonta Wrighton wanted to open up P.S. 11 a week earlier than normal to prepare teachers for a year of big changes, red tape blocked her. First, Wrighton said, she needed a permit and $2,200 to pay to keep the school open longer than normal. And then she still couldn't require her staff to show up, since the week before Labor Day was not among the training days listed in the city's contract with the teachers union. Both issues inhibited city schools' ability to implement the Common Core standards, Wrighton said during a panel discussion of educators at Monday's Board of Regents meeting in Albany. "[Professional development] should be looked at as a given," Wrighton said. "I should not have to use my budget to open up my building early and train my teachers." Wrighton's concerns were among many raised by the five educators invited from around the state to speak about the challenges that continue to face schools in the second year of the standards' rollout. Her request for more required training time reflected a contract issue between the city and the United Federation of Teachers, but it also illustrated the depth of support that educators say is needed to successfully transition to the Common Core.
September 11, 2013
Principal, King frame tensions over school choice changes
A back-and-forth between State Education Commissioner John King and a Brooklyn high school principal today provided a window into the tensions at play when high-needs students are placed in city schools — at a moment when additional shifts in enrollment policies may be imminent. As King toured the High School for Public Service, principal Sean Rice outlined his worries about serving 35 special education students, up from "almost none" two years ago, in a school with about 440 students. Five or six have been added to his rolls in just the past week, he said. Commissioner John King spoke with principal Sean Rice, center, about special needs students at his school. "It is a major concern," Rice said. "It's going to be challenging for us this year, because we have a teaching staff that has not had extensive experience with students with disabilities." But Rice's situation is rare for how few special education students he has, since some high schools, like William E. Grady High, have more than 20 percent special education students. Figures like that have created a schism between the city and the state for years, as King has criticized the city's school choice policies for allowing some schools to become overloaded with needy students. "I think this is the balance, though, between our concern—which we've long expressed—of students being concentrated in isolated buildings, and attempts by the city, which I think is the right direction, to try and avoid those overconcentrations of students," King said to Rice during a discussion with Chancellor Merryl Tisch and other state education officials.
September 10, 2013
State education officials to tour four city schools today
State Education Commissioner John King and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch will visit four city schools today as part of their back-to-school tour. The…
August 1, 2013
Still no word from city on final details of teacher evaluation plan
The city submitted its proposal for a key piece of teacher evaluation this week — a list of ways to measure students' learning that aren't standardized tests. But one month before schools need to finalize their plans for evaluating teachers, it's still unclear what the alternative measures will look like. If approved by State Education Commissioner John King, the list of alternative assessment options is what principals and teachers will have to choose from by Sept. 9, the first day of school, when teacher evaluation plans must be finalized. The alternative assessments' measure of how much a teacher helps students learn represents 20 percent of each teacher's evaluation. The measures are one of the details that weren't finalized back in June, when State Education Commissioner John King imposed a system on the city. King gave the city Department of Education two months to come up with the list of choices for the measures, which can include both assessments the city develops on its on and third-party assessments developed by outside vendors.
July 26, 2013
With evaluation standoff past, city wins new round of grants
New York City is getting nearly $75 million in federal grants to help 16 struggling schools improve and support another six school buildings where schools are shuttering, the state announced today. The grants are the second round of New York State's disbursements from its share of the U.S. Department of Education's $3.5 billion grant program known as School Improvement Grants, or SIG. The grants are designed to improve outcomes in schools with large numbers of students in poverty. Two years ago, the city forfeited a large chunk of the first round of grants after failing to reach a deal with the teachers union on teacher evaluations, which was required to qualify for the majority of the funding. Officials said today that of $58 million awarded to the city, just $15 million was spent that year. The rest was returned back to the state. Those funds may be reallocated to future grant winners, a state spokesman said. Now that evaluations are in place for the 2013-2014 school year, teachers union leaders endorsed this year's grant applications. Union officials cited other reasons this year's applications were an improvement over the previous round, too. They said that this year, individual schools had a more prominent role in determining how the grant money will be spent. In previous years, the city Department of Education applied centrally. "It's more targeted to the needs of the students versus the needs of the administration," United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said of the new grants. Mulgrew said he was "very happy" with this year's version.
July 24, 2013
King won't change cut score advice for new Common Core tests
Contrasting his administration to previous ones, which have been criticized for inflating state test scores, State Education Commissioner John King agreed to accept proficiency bars recommended by a committee of educators with no revisions, as captured in this simple slide. Commissioner John King pledged this week to accept the "cut scores" recommended to him by a committee of educators, one of the final steps remaining before the state releases results from the state tests. Cut scores determine the number of right answers students need on state English and math tests to be deemed proficient in the subjects. The announcement at this month's Board of Regents meeting came in the middle of a detailed 46-page slideshow presentation outlining how the "cut score" recommendations were made. But while the other slides were packed with numbers, graphs, and paragraphs, King's 10-word acceptance of the standards got its own simple slide: "The Commissioner accepted recommendations from Day 5 with no changes." (The full slideshow is below the jump.) The flourish was a signal of the new transparency the department is trying to project around test scoring. In 2009, under then-Commissioner Richard Mills, dramatic improvements on state tests that had been seen as signs of academic progress across the state came under scrutiny for being inflated — not representing actual learning gains. The inflation seems to have been the result of several factors, including focused test prep by teachers who became increasingly familiar with the tests. But at least one observer, Sol Stern, has reported that state officials might have deliberately inflated results by lowering cut scores so that more students would be deemed proficient. Commissioners do not have to accept the recommendations of the committee of educators that suggests where to set the scores.
June 21, 2013
Broad concerns about "harsh" ELA Regents conversion charts
The grading of high school Regents exams isn't even over, but some city educators are already registering concern about the new state conversion charts for English tests. Bronx Center for Science and Math Assistant Principal Stephen Seltzer sent a letter to State Education Commissioner John King expressing frustration about the new conversion chart that has made it more difficult for students to pass the English Regents exam. Seltzer writes that "the rubrics and conversion charts must be aligned and consistent, and both should be made available when teachers are preparing students, not at the time of the exam."
June 17, 2013
Education policy makers divided on how to interpret grad rates
State Education Commissioner John King presented new data about the state's high school graduation rate to the Board of Regents today in Albany. ALBANY — After listening to State Education Commissioner John King present the state's latest graduation rate data today, members of the Board of Regents were divided on how to respond. Some grumbled about the rates, pointing in particular to declines that the state's five largest cities experienced. But others said they had expected far worse. Though statewide graduation rates stayed steady at 74 percent, rates in the "Big Five" fell by 2.8 points on average, a dip that was largely weighted by a seven-point decline in Buffalo. In New York City, the four-year graduation rate dropped by half a point, to 60.4 percent. Elsewhere in the state, districts considered "low-need" because many students come from relatively affluent families graduated students on time 94 percent of the time. "Our affluent children do as well as anybody," said Regent Kathleen Cashin, of Brooklyn. "Where we don't do well is with the poor. This concerns me because of the fact that every single large city district has gone down."
June 17, 2013
HS graduation rate fell in 2012, for the first time under Bloomberg
New York City's four-year graduation rate fell slightly last year, from 60.9 percent to 60.4 percent, State Education Commissioner John King announced this morning in Albany. King's announcement, to the Board of Regents during its monthly meeting, set the stage for a press conference that Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott have called for this afternoon. The annual graduation rate announcement is typically a festive occasion for the mayor, who has staked his education legacy in large part on increased numbers of students finishing high school each year. But last year, when the city's graduation rate flattened (showing a 0.1 point decline) after several years of steady growth, Bloomberg acknowledged that tougher graduation requirements could put pressure on the city's graduation rate. Students who entered high school in 2008 were the first required to earn a Regents diploma by passing five Regents exams with a 65 or higher. The less rigorous local diploma option, which for years helped prop up the city’s overall graduation numbers, disappeared, a change that critics said would leave thousands of students at risk of dropping out.
June 13, 2013
Progress on student data bill stirs concern from school officials
A legislative effort to give parents greater control over how schools share data about their children got renewed energy this week after sitting idle in the Assembly for months. The progress has alarmed officials at the State Education Department, who assumed a bill to restrict data-sharing was dead. It has also raised concern among education groups whose members would be in charge of administrating the law. Education Chair Catherine Nolan breathed new life into the issue last week when she nixed an old bill that had languished in the committee since March, despite picking up support from more than 60 lawmakers. She introduced her own, less extreme version, which sailed unanimously through the committee on Wednesday. With less than a week left in the legislative session, the bill's chances of becoming law this year are slim, but the momentum means that it could be an issue next year. Both versions aim to empower parents to decide how their child's data should be shared with third-party vendors working with their school. The original bill would have required parental consent for student data to be shared, while Nolan's bill would assume that data can be shared unless parents opt out of making their child's information available to vendors.
June 4, 2013
Student reporters' questions for John King driven by experience
Student reporters video-conferenced with State Education Commissioner John King this morning. Reporters peppered State Education Commissioner John King with questions about all of the expected topics at a press conference this morning: teacher evaluations, college readiness, and Regents exams. But in a twist, the reporters were students whose questions were rooted in their own experience, and who pushed King to consider how his policies play out in their schools.
June 3, 2013
What King decreed, Part II: Growth measures, surveys, and more
The teacher evaluation plan that State Education Commissioner John King set for the city over the weekend has prompted both city and union officials to claim victories. But a point-by-point analysis of some of the major areas of dispute shows that the truth is more complex than either side has proclaimed. We've rounded up some of the biggest disputes and how King settled them. In our first installment, we looked at King's decisions on issues relating to teacher observations. In the second installment, we look at other issues where King bridged gaps between the city's and union's positions. School-based committees to decide student growth measures Outcome: Shared UFT/DOE win Both the city and the UFT agreed that figuring how to calculate the "locally selected" piece of student growth should be decided at the school level. But they disagreed about who should make that decision and about one of the options they should have. The UFT wanted a team of teachers to make the choice, but the city wanted principals to have complete discretion. King accepted the union's suggestion that each school have a committee to draft recommendations for which student growth measure to use. But, siding with the city, he said principals could reject the committee's recommendations.
June 3, 2013
What King decreed, Part I: Danielson, observations, and video
Over the past 48 hours since State Education Commissioner John King set a new teacher evaluation system for New York City, both sides in the dispute have sought to position themselves as winners. First out of the gate was the Bloomberg administration, which compiled a chart outlining its victories and boasted about publicly. But, as union officials argued in an email highlighting their own "wins," it was a cherry-picked list. King imposed the plan after reviewing policy papers (that still have not been made public) and hearing hours of testimony last week. In his written explanation of his decision, he summarized where the two sides differed and where they occasionally agreed — and where he sometimes disagreed with both of them. We've rounded up some of the biggest disputes and how King settled them. In the first part of the roundup, we look at King's decisions on issues relating to teacher observations, which will count for 60 percent of teachers' scores next year. Version of the Danielson rubric Outcome: DOE win One of the only issues, it seemed, that the city and the union could agree on when it came to observations was which rubric to base them on. It turns out they lacked consensus even there.
June 1, 2013
King unveils long-awaited evaluation systems for city educators
The evaluation system that State Education Commissioner John King imposed on New York City today fulfills requests made by both the Bloomberg administration and the United Federation of Teachers. In a unique move, it also delegates crucial decisions about how teachers will be rated to the city's roughly 1,600 non-charter public schools and, in some cases, to teachers themselves. Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked lawmakers to allow King to impose an evaluation system after city and union officials failed to agree on one by a January deadline. Starting from broad parameters set out in state law, each side made its case in position papers and in-person presentations last month, and King issued his final determination tonight. "Following years of delay, today we can finally say that every school district in the state of New York has a teacher evaluation system in place based on some of the most stringent and comprehensive standards in the nation," Cuomo said in a statement. "The mayor didn't win and the union didn't win. Today, the students won. Finally."
June 1, 2013
Union chiefs offer first takes on state-imposed evaluation plans
UFT President Michael Mulgrew offered what appeared to be a tepid endorsement of the teacher evaluation system that State Education Commissioner John King imposed today, while Mulgrew's counterpart at the principals union was more favorable about the new plan for rating his members. Ernest Logan, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Superintendents, said in a statement that his union had actually reached a deal on evaluations with the city Department of Education late Friday, "with the strong intervention of Commissioner King." He said the deal resembled what had almost been finalized back in January, when the city's negotiations with the teachers union fell apart just before a state deadline. Logan praised the new evaluation system, saying that it "preserves many of the same tools our principals are accustomed to while at the same time substantially improving our due process protections and safeguards." It also provides for helping principals improve, which the old system did not do, he said. Mulgrew's reaction was more circumspect.
May 29, 2013
As evaluations process kicks into final stages, King gets advice
State and local education officials are preparing to work through the weekend on a teacher evaluation system that will be imposed on New York City, an outcome that resulted from years of failed labor talks between the city and its teachers union. State Education Commissioner John King gets the final say on how city teachers will be evaluated using a process outlined earlier this month. He'll formally start that process on Thursday, when officials from the Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers each have four hours to present their cases during arbitration hearings. The Council on School Supervisors and Superintendents, which represents principals, is slotted to present during a four-hour block on Friday morning. King plans to release his plan, which is likely to borrow from each group's proposal but does not have to, by Saturday afternoon. City and union officials — and reporters — will then go into high gear to understand the process that King has devised, which will go into effect immediately for next year.
May 28, 2013
State senator asks for test-item transparency
Link: State senator asks for test-item transparency State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents part of Manhattan, has written to State Education Commissioner John…
May 21, 2013
City Council officially petitions state to bar in-school field testing
The New York City Council is calling on state officials to do away "immediately" with standalone field tests, just weeks before thousands of city students are scheduled to take the tests. Speaker Christine Quinn and Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson made the demand in a letter today to State Education Commissioner John King, and the full council is expected to pass a resolution Wednesday calling for the same change. Test-makers use field testing to try out questions before they count, to see whether they are likely to provide useful results about student achievement in the future. Last month's state reading and math tests, which were aligned to new standards known as the Common Core for the first time, included some field questions that did not factor into students' scores. Now, 3,300 schools across the state are being told to administer hourlong, standalone field tests to some students next month. That requirement has elicited consternation from families and educators who believe that students have already spent enough time taking tests for the year. Some of them plan to boycott the field tests, as a number did last year when field tests were given for the first time.
May 8, 2013
King outlines path for arbitration in NYC's teacher eval dispute
State Education Commissioner John King released details of the arbitration process meant to settle a longstanding dispute over teacher evaluations in New York City. The process, outlined in state law, will determine the city's teacher evaluation system for the next school year. The first part of the process, pre-hearing arbitration, gets kickstarted as soon as the city and the United Federation of Teachers electronically post separate evaluation plans to the state's Review Room website, where districts have uploaded their evaluation plans as they complete them. The state wants to see the specific areas under dispute and will review position papers — limited to 20 pages in length — in which each side argues its respective stands. Those materials are due at 11:59 p.m. today. Both sides say they'll submit before the deadline, rather than submit a jointly negotiated deal. The documents won't be made public. The state has promised confidentiality because the plans are considered "unresolved issues pertaining to ongoing collective bargaining negotiations," which are protected from public scrutiny.
May 7, 2013
As yet another evals deadline arrives, rollout concerns remain
A panel on teacher evaluations focused on implementation concerns. From left: Avram Barlowe, Tom Kane, Linda Rosenbury, Aaron Pallas, and moderator Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children. With New York City on track to let yet another state deadline to come up with a teacher evaluation plan pass on Wednesday, it appears increasingly likely that State Education Commissioner John King will have to impose an evaluation system on the city's schools. But how to put that plan into action remains a question with few easy answers, according to a panel at a New York Bar Association event Monday evening. The panel featured two education researchers who often disagree about some of the thorny issues around teacher evaluations; a principal who sees no need to slow down reforms; and a veteran teacher whose high school is exempt from high-stakes testing. Despite their diverse perspectives, the panelists agreed that city educators are ill prepared to give and receive feedback. And even though the role of test scores has been a hot topic recently, the panelists honed in not on the role that measures of student performance will play in evaluations but on the more subjective elements required by the state's evaluation law, such as observations.
April 23, 2013
Proposal to refine state's "value-added" formula elicits concerns
ALBANY — A dozen new factors could be tossed into the state's formula for measuring how much teachers have boosted their students' state scores, according to a proposal that is dividing state education policy makers. The state’s teacher evaluation law, passed in 2010, requires student performance to count in teacher ratings. Currently, the state calculates “growth scores” that count for a fifth of teachers’ overall ratings. But the law allows the state to increase the weight of its score to a quarter of teachers’ ratings once officials adopt a more complex "value-added" model for assessing teacher impact. Both models are based on the principle that comparing students' actual test scores with their predicted scores can show the impact their teachers had on their learning. The question is what variables to use when predicting scores so that teachers whose students have greater needs are not at a disadvantage.
April 17, 2013
Efforts to boost test security leave proctoring rules unchanged
Most students taking this week's state reading test are doing so under the watchful eyes of their regular classroom teacher. Teachers proctor their own students' exams in most schools, in an arrangement that is logistically simple and keeps students calm — but also represents a soft spot in the state's efforts to prevent cheating. As part of its recent efforts to safeguard against fraud, New York State has reduced educators' access to tests before they are administered and increased scrutiny on tests after they are returned to see whether answers were changed unusually often. The latter measure, known as erasure analysis, helped investigators uncover adult cheating in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., in recent years. But even as the state has taken steps to prevent improprieties at a time when ensuring that scores accurately reflect student performance is increasingly important, it has left proctoring relatively unregulated. Erasure analysis and pre-test security can't reveal whether students were advised to check their work on specific questions or, more egregiously, were actually given the answers while they took the tests. "Test administration with educators proctoring their own students is one of the weak links in the testing process," said Greg Cizek, a professor at the University of North Carolina who specializes in educational measurement and test security.
April 15, 2013
King and Walcott take their Common Core message to church
State Education Commissioner John King took the stage at Greater Allen AME Cathedral in Queens on Sunday to tell parishioners about the new Common Core standards, on the eve of the first state tests tied to them. Speaking to the congregation at Greater Allen AME Cathedral's morning worship in Queens on Sunday, the state's top education official summoned Martin Luther King, Jr. to respond to detractors who say he's moving too fast on the Common Core standards. "When it comes to the education of our children, we do not have as much time as the patient and the cautious would give us," State Education Commissioner John King said. He was adapting a line from a draft of the speech that Martin Luther King delivered on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. John King made the appearance alongside New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who ducked out shortly after speaking to make it to the Sunday service at his own church, as part of a sweeping public relations push in the days before the first state tests tied to the new standards.
April 9, 2013
On a school tour, education officials see Common Core success
PHOTO: Scott ElliottChancellor Dennis Walcott looked on in a sixth-grade math class at Brooklyn's Academy of Arts and Letters where the teacher listed all of the different ways students solved the same math problem, an emphasis of the Common Core. City and state education officials liked what they saw this morning when they stopped by the Academy of Arts and Letters in Brooklyn to see how the new Common Core standards are being implemented there.
February 20, 2013
Cuomo: Process to impose city's eval system would start in May
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to have state education officials impose teacher evaluations on New York City would begin in just three months, he announced today in Albany. Premiering a slate of budget amendments that he will formally propose on Thursday, Cuomo said he would ask legislators to approve an amendment that would allow the state education commissioner to select a plan well in advance of Sept. 1, the deadline for districts to have evaluation plans in place for the 2013-2014 school year. "What this law will say is that the State Education Department must render a decision by June 1 for the September deadline," Cuomo said. In late May, the city and United Federation of Teachers would be asked to submit their proposals for what an evaluation system should look like, according to Lawrence Schwartz, Cuomo's top aide. But all of the details would be fully up to State Education Commissioner John King, as long as they follow the state's evaluation law, Cuomo said. UFT President Michael Mulgrew signaled that he would not mind letting King have the final say on the evaluation system that is adopted in the city.
February 11, 2013
Officials reassess state tests in wake of attendance disruptions
ALBANY — As state exams near, education officials are growing increasingly anxious about the large swath of city students whose schooling has been interrupted this year by Hurricane Sandy and the ongoing school bus drivers' strike. Speaking to members of the Board of Regents at their monthly meeting today, Chancellor Merryl Tisch said she thought students with disabilities who have not been able to get to school should not have to take the state's math and reading tests in April. "I'm not comfortable asking this population to sit for state exams when they have missed chunks of the school year," said Tisch, who pressed State Education Commissioner John King on the State Education Department's authority to waive test requirements. The city is mulling its options about how to use the test results of students with a high number of unavoidable absences, a spokeswoman said today.
February 11, 2013
City's evaluation rollout plan ignores state's latest requests
The city Department of Education delivered a plan for how it will implement new teacher and principal evaluations to the state ahead of schedule today — but without giving state officials much of the information they asked for. According to a memo that Chancellor Dennis Walcott sent today to the state, the city plans to spend $23 million in the next six months preparing city educators for a new evaluation system. The memo is a response to State Education Commissioner John King's demand, made last month after the city and teachers union failed to agree on a new teacher evaluation system, that the city detail its implementation plans or lose state funds. The plan that Walcott delivered today is broader than the highlights that city officials released last week. In addition to dealing just with teacher and administrator training about the observation model the city is planning to use to assess teachers in action, the memo also explains how city educators will learn about some components of evaluations that must be based on student performance. It also delineates different training programs for teachers, principals, department officials and attaches a price tag to each one. But for the most part, the plan contains only the bare minimum of what city officials were told on Friday should be included in their implementation plan. In response to requests for guidance from the city, the state official overseeing review and approval of all evaluation plans, Julia Rafal-Baer, sent a chart to Chancellor Dennis Walcott with dozens of "key questions" whose answers do not appear in the plan the city submitted today.
February 7, 2013
City’s draft eval training plan heavy on principals, needy schools
City Department of Education officials think they'll be able to train 1,600 principals and 80,000 teachers to use new a evaluation system by the end of the year, and they plan to let the state know before a deadline next week. The deadline is one that State Education Commissioner John King set last month after the city and teachers union failed to agree on a new teacher evaluation system: By Feb. 15, he said, the city would have to detail its implementation plans or lose more state funds. A summary of the draft memo, that department officials released today, is light on details and focuses almost entirely on how administrators will be trained to use a new rubric for classroom observations. It promises real-time training for principals, extra support for administrators at struggling schools, and instruction for network officials and superintendents. It also includes a proposed requirement for six hours of training for teachers, which a teacher who saw the plan last week said would not be enough. "A lot of teachers are frustrated about that because there is a lack of resources for teachers to learn how to apply the rubric or shift their practice to the rubric," said the teacher.
January 22, 2013
Bloomberg renews criticism of UFT in ongoing teacher eval spat
Addressing the collapse of teacher evaluation talks for the first time since state education officials criticized his role, Mayor Bloomberg today blamed the teachers union again. Last week, Bloomberg said he could not accept a teacher evaluation deal because the union wanted only a temporary evaluation system — an objection that State Education Commissioner John King said city officials had not raised earlier in negotiations. “That comment from the mayor was, from my perspective, a new issue that was raised after they walked away from the table,” King said on Friday. Speaking this morning at an announcement about an affordable housing project, Bloomberg dialed back his emphasis on the "sunset" issue. The union “was just deliberately trying to throw as many procedural roadblocks up that it would be so impossible to remove a teacher, even if the deal didn’t expire," he said.
January 18, 2013
State sets new deadline to pressure city to submit eval plan
If nearly $300 million wasn't incentive enough for the city to create an evaluation plan, state Education Commissioner John King said today that he hopes the threat of more than $1 billion will do the trick. King assailed the city and the teachers union for their failure to reach a deal on evaluations before last night's deadline and vowed to get them to do so in the coming weeks. In a letter sent to Chancellor Dennis Walcott today, King said he plans to add teeth to the request by taking advantage of a $1 billion pot of funds meant for city schools that the state has the power to withhold or control. "They have a legal obligation to continue their negotiation," King said in a call with reporters today. "I'm disappointed that they're not at the table today...They thought this new system was the right thing for students. If so, shouldn't they be at the table?"
January 14, 2013
State officials are ready to fast-track New York City's eval plan
Commissioner John King and Chancellor Merryl Tisch discussed the remaining school districts without approved evaluation systems during a Board of Regents meetin today. ALBANY — State education officials cleared their schedule in anticipation of a busy week as dozens of school districts, including New York City, scramble to meet a Thursday teacher evaluation deadline. Over the weekend, they finished assessing the last of the evaluation plans that districts had proposed, Commissioner John King told the Board of Regents this morning. "As of 5 p.m. [Sunday], our desk was empty," he said. "We've reviewed and provided feedback on everything that's been submitted." Now they are just waiting for six districts to submit their plans for the first time and 29 others to resubmit plans that needed revisions. King did not name New York City when he mentioned the districts that have not yet submitted plans. But there was no mistaking which district was most on his mind. "One of them is quite large," King said, to laughter.
January 2, 2013
Commission recommends broad overhaul, with few specifics
The high-profile commission charged with overhauling New York's public schools released its first set of recommendations today, endorsing several popular education reform policies but shying away from declaring a position on others. The full report, titled "Putting Students First," is below the jump. Governor Cuomo, who created the commission, stopped short of endorsing its recommendations, but did express early support for several ideas, including teacher performance pay and the community school model of using schools to offer supports beyond academic preparation. Other recommendations include expanding pre-kindergarten for students in poor districts, strengthening teacher and principal preparation programs, and extending the school day and year. The commission did not address some prickly issues, such as teacher evaluation. Chairman Richard Parsons said that was by design, citing a recommendation from State Education Commissioner John King that the commission wait to take up the topic until its next report, scheduled for next fall.
December 18, 2012
NYC among just two dozen districts without teacher eval plans
Not having a teacher evaluation agreement puts New York City in an increasingly elite group: Of the state's 694 school districts, just 27 haven't agreed on an evaluation system. And almost all of the other lagging districts have much less ground to negotiate with their teachers unions than the city does: They have fewer students, on average, than some city high schools. According to the latest update from the State Education Department, 442 districts have already had their evaluations systems approved. About 180 have received feedback from the department and are expected to revise and resubmit before the Jan. 17, 2013, deadline set by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And about 45 have submitted plans recently and are waiting to hear whether they pass muster. That leaves just 27 districts that have not submitted even a first draft of a teacher evaluation plan, despite increasingly strident admonitions that state officials at least six weeks to review whether plans adhere to legal requirements and department guidance.
November 28, 2012
Even if deal on teacher evals is reached, logistical matters loom
Negotiations between the city and teachers union over new teacher evaluations appear likely to come down to the wire yet again. Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he would withdraw increased state aid from any district that does not negotiate a teacher evaluation system with its union by Jan. 17, 2013. As the deadline nears, state education officials have said repeatedly that they need weeks to review systems that are submitted for approval. Districts should submit plans by the first week of December, they have urged. Most districts have responded to the urgency. About 85 percent of New York State's 700 school districts have turned in at least the first draft of required teacher evaluation plans, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said today. In New York City, where $300 million in state aid is at stake this year, city officials say they feel confident that they will reach a deal before Cuomo's deadline, and union leaders say constructive discussions are back on track after a nearly monthlong hiatus following Hurricane Sandy. But both said there is significant ground yet to cover. Comparing the introduction of new teacher evaluations to a 26.2-mile marathon, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said on Tuesday, "We're at mile five, and our goal is to make this a long-distance run."
November 20, 2012
City raids February vacation week to make up time lost to Sandy
This year's midwinter vacation will shrink from five days to two to make up for school days cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy, city and union officials announced today. The city closed schools for five days because of the storm, and some particularly hard-hit schools were closed even longer. In addition to interrupting students' schooling, the lost time dropped the city below the 180 instructional days required to receive state school aid. Now, according to a city-union deal, students will attend school on four days they were supposed to have off: Feb. 20-22 and June 4. The February days had been part of a weeklong break that has been part of the calendar since 1990, and the June date had been scheduled as a "clerical day" for teachers and school staff. With four days added back to the calendar, the school year is now set to be 181 or 182 days, depending on what grade students are in. That leaves a slight cushion for snow days, but if more than one day is cancelled, additional makeup days will have to be identified.
November 19, 2012
Officials blanket Sandy-affected schools, where fallout persists
State Education Commissioner John King and City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott talk to a P.S. 47 administrator. At M.S. 53 on the Rockaway Peninsula, one student told Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch he was worried about taking the state tests after all the time he missed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Up a flight of stairs at Village Academy, Chancellor Dennis Walcott heard from a seventh-grader named Kimberly who lost everything in the storm. In a few weeks, she's relocating permanently to Rochester, said her principal, Doris Lee. And at a third visit at P.S. 47 in Broad Channel, an island that helps connect the Far Rockaway peninsula to the Queens mainland, Walcott asked about 20 fourth-graders if they knew what "FEMA" meant. Every hand went up. Another 12 schools damaged by Sandy reopened on Monday, bringing 5,400 more students back to their original classrooms from temporary relocations in other school buildings. During a visit to another Far Rockaway school, P.S. 43, Mayor Bloomberg celebrated the news and noted that of 65 schools originally rendered "non-operational" because of power outages, damaged boilers, and flooded basements, all but 18 are back up and running.
November 14, 2012
Several NYC teachers on state's new Teacher Advisory Council
Jeff Li, who stepped down at Teach for America to return to the classroom this year, is one of seven city educators on the state's new Teacher Advisory Council. Among the 23 teachers from across the state that Education Commissioner John King has tapped to give him feedback about how policy is playing out in the classroom, seven work in New York City schools. The commissioner's Teacher Advisory Council, announced today, will meet periodically to discuss the policy agenda that the state's Board of Regents is advancing. That agenda, aimed at helping more students become college ready, includes adopting more challenging standards; overhauling low-performing schools; facilitating data-driven instruction; and improving teacher preparation and evaluation. "The teachers on the Council will give direct feedback from the frontlines of reform – the classroom," King said in a statement. "The most important thing we can do as educators is maintain focus on the students, and these extraordinary teachers will help us do just that." The teacher council parallels ones that already exist for superintendents, school boards, and other groups, according to Dennis Tompkins, a State Education Department spokesman. One of the city teachers on the board is Jeff Li, the former head of Teach For America's New York City office who returned to the classroom this fall.
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