john liu

New York

Liu eschews own audit to focus on Medicaid reimbursements

Liu at a press conference outside Tweed Courthouse, where he discussed Medicaid reimbursement for special education students. New York City Comptroller John Liu’s audit into the city’s embattled special education data system, released today, hammered home well-established issues, but found few new problems with the three-year-old initiative. Liu, who is running for mayor, instead used the occasion to highlight a challenge not mentioned in the audit — the city's ongoing struggle to get reimbursed for low income students with disabilities who are entitled to federal Medicaid dollars. Over the last two years, the city has collected just 25 percent, or $74 million, of the $284 million amount that the city had hoped to be reimbursed for, Liu said today at a press conference. Liu took the finding from a city budget report published this spring. But he said that responsibility for the losses lies with the city's data system, which his audit criticized. The data system, built to track 190,000 special education students with Individualized Education Plans, makes it "practically impossible" to file for reimbursements, Liu said, a claim that a city spokesman later disputed. Schools began using the Special Education Student Information System (SESIS) in 2011 to keep better track of students with disabilities. School staff working with special education students are required to log information about all stages of their IEPs, including details about initial assessments, meetings with parents, services provided, and changes made to the plan.
New York

At parent forum, mayoral hopefuls vow to stop grading schools

New York

UFT tours get mayoral hopefuls weighing "community schools"

New York

In new arrangement, teachers' pensions to fund infrastructure

New York

Almost all mayoral hopefuls say educator should lead schools

Mayoral hopefuls, from left to right, Christine Quinn, Bill Thompson, John Liu, Tom Allon and Bill De Blasio, discuss city education policies. When the five leading mayoral candidates were asked on Monday how they would select the next schools chancellor at a forum on city education policy, the presumed longshot had the most specific answer. Newspaper publisher Tom Allon, who recently switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, was the only candidate to name names — and his shortlist contained an eclectic mix of people. He started with Eric Nadelstern, a former Department of Education deputy who is bullish on school closures and other Bloomberg administration policies, then moved to Hunter College President Jennifer Raab before naming Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University education professor who has been critical of policies favored by the Bloomberg administration. To round out his list, he named John White, who became Louisiana's school superintendent not long after leaving the city Department of Education in 2011. Allon's list elicited laugher and whoops of surprise from the audience, as well as a disapproving remark from Comptroller John Liu, who was sitting beside Allon on the stage.  The forum was hosted by Manhattan Media, the company that Allon owns, with help from GothamSchools. (View the entire event.) The one thing all of people on Allon's list have in common is that they have experience working with schools and educators, which Mayor Bloomberg's three chancellors have not had. Bloomberg's first and longest-serving chancellor, Joel Klein, drew criticism because he had come from the corporate world, and most of the candidates were eager to say they would not make the same decision. Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and former comptroller Bill Thompson all promised to choose an educator to lead the schools. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was the only outlier. She said she did not think the next schools chancellor should necessarily have an education background.
New York

Advocates turn up pressure as city mulls overcrowding tallies

New York

City comptroller proposes hiring 1,600 new guidance counselors

New York

City to expand pre-K offerings with new seats and a new school

City officials and philanthropists announced two new early childhood initiatives today. From left: Administration for Children's Services Commissioner Ronald Richter, Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and Susie Buffett, of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund. Instead of waiting until children are turning five years old to start educating them, the Department of Education is going to start targeting some children at five weeks. Citing research that shows a correlation between long-term achievement and enrollment in high-quality early childhood programs, Mayor Bloomberg announced this morning that the city will open a school next year that enrolls children from infancy through pre-kindergarten — and their parents. Bloomberg also announced a $20 million initiative to turn 4,000 oft-unused half-day pre-kindergarten seats into full-day slots that many parents find more attractive. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott made the announcements today in conjunction with "Education Nation," NBC's annual extravaganza of education policy programming hosted in Midtown Manhattan. This year's summit is focusing on innovations that have been proven to work. One of those is early childhood education, which primes children for academic success in elementary school and beyond. Children's minds are already 85 percent developed by the time they are old enough for kindergarten, a 2005 study found, and early education advocates say interventions in infancy can have a far greater impact on the achievement gap than at any other period in children's lives. In the proposed new school, which would open next September inside Brownsville's P.S. 41, low-income parents would be pushed to develop stronger social and emotional skills with their children while the children are infants and toddlers. Ultimately serving between 115 and 125 families a year, the school will be part of the Educare Schools network, which already operates 17 early childhood schools in 13 states.
New York

Candidates to skip first day of school for Democratic convention

Last year, Robert Jackson (l.) and Speaker Christine Quinn, candidates for higher office im 2013, joined UFT President Michael Mulgrew on the first day of school. Visiting schools to shake hands with students and pose with parents on the first day of school is a time-honored stop on elected officials' public schedules. But few of them will be pounding the pavement on Thursday. That’s because their presence is required at a different kind of political event: the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. All of the leading contenders in next year’s mayoral race have made first-day-of-school stops in the recent past. Last year, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn appeared in Inwood with United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew to celebrate their budget victory that prevented thousands of teacher layoffs. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer handed out "Back 2 Basics Guides" at several schools, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio was in Fort Greene calling on parents to get more involved in their children’s education. As comptroller in 2009, Bill Thompson used the first day of school to criticize the city for increasing class sizes. This year, all four are part of the roughly 450-member New York State delegation that will help nominate President Barack Obama for a second term Thursday evening. On Tuesday, the delegates approved the party platform, presented by Newark mayor Cory Booker, which included a hefty slate of education policy positions.
New York

Mayoral hopefuls split on taking donations from StudentsFirstNY

New York

Mayoral candidates unite to target Bloomberg's school policies

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, a 2013 mayoral candidate, talks about school closures at a press conference outside City Hall. A press conference about the city's school closure policy looked a lot like a campaign stop for four men eyeing 2013 mayoral runs. Four leading mayoral candidates — Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, and former comptroller and 2009 mayoral runner-up Bill Thompson — spoke at the event on the steps of City Hall. The press conference was organized by the Coalition for Educational Justice, a nonprofit that has spearheaded protests against many of the 25 closures proposed this year. Flanked by advocates and parents, the men echoed concerns outlined in a report CEJ released last week about the inclusion of students with special needs in new small schools. (That report responded to a report by an independent research firm that found the schools had increased students' chances of graduating.) The candidates all said the Bloomberg administration had been too quick to close schools without trying other interventions and had "warehoused" high-needs students in schools that are now facing closure. They also demanded that the city release details about what happened to students who had not yet graduated when their schools closed — information that is required by law to come out tomorrow. But they stopped short of explaining how they would do things differently if they became mayor and gained control of the schools. The closest anyone got was Stringer, who took aim at an Achilles' Heel for Bloomberg: the way the Department of Education engages parents and communities.
New York

City plan to shrink Wadleigh draws vocal and official opposition

Ninth-grader Geronimo Miranda joins sixth-graders Ariyelle Ceasar, Tiane Jackson, Cheyanne Young and Nia Manerville in describing Wadleigh Middle School's positive qualities at a school truncation hearing Jan. 26. A who's who of elected officials and Harlem leaders turned out Thursday to defend the Wadleigh Secondary School of Performing Arts against the Department of Education's plan to close its middle school. About 200 parents, students, activists, and staff packed the school's auditorium Thursday evening for a public hearing on the proposal. Just before, officials who included City Councilman Robert Jackson, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, State Sen. Bill Perkins, and Comptroller John Liu all held court in the packed lobby of the Harlem campus. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and the city's NAACP chief, Hazel Dukes, also spoke at the hearing. They said the city was giving up on a neighborhood institution by moving to close Wadleigh's middle school. Jackson promised to call Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott today to air his opposition to the plan. Wadleigh's 440-student high school would remain open under the plan, as would another middle school in the building, Frederick Douglass Academy II, which narrowly escaped closure this year after earning an even lower progress report score than Wadleigh's middle school. A charter school, Harlem Success Academy I, is set to move its middle school grades into the building, according to a plan the city set last year.
New York

Liu: City hasn't gotten sufficient bang from ARIS's $83m buck

Graph of principals' self-reported satisfaction with ARIS over time, from an audit of by Comptroller John Liu. The Department of Education hasn't gotten adequate bang for its buck from more than $80 million spent on ARIS, its data warehouse, concluded an audit released by Comptroller John Liu today. Liu offered a solid clue to the audit's conclusions last week, when he lambasted the city's $10-million move to formally reassign its ARIS contract to Wireless Generation, which has managed the system for years. The audit began in March 2011, shortly after Liu held a series of town hall meetings to solicit public input about what he should investigate. The data warehouse, launched in 2008 by IBM, has attracted no shortage of critics because of its steep price tag and early glitches. Examining usage data, principals' responses to a satisfaction survey the city administers, and the results of a survey that it distributed to educators in June, Liu's office concluded principals' satisfaction with ARIS has fallen, that many schools substitute other data programs in whole or in part, and that use among school staff has leveled off since the system's first year, although use by department officials who work with schools has risen. What's more, the audit concludes, the city can't show that ARIS is leading to higher student performance — something that former chancellor Joel Klein signaled would be a result when he rolled out the system in 2008. "This costly tech program was much-touted by the DOE to help principals and teachers track progress and thereby improve student learning, even as long-time educators questioned its cost and effectiveness," Liu said in a statement today. "$83 million later, there is little discernible improvement in learning and many principals and teachers have given up on the system." DOE officials disputed the audit's methodology, conclusions, and very premise.
New York

In audit, Liu and DOE spar over pre-K funds the city doesn't use

New York

Comptroller: Most schools not meeting P.E. time requirements

New York

Auditing DOE's space planning data, comptroller finds glitches

The Department of Education's annual assessments of how much space is available in each school building are not always correct. That's according to an audit being released today by Comptroller John Liu, who is in the midst of scrutinizing DOE data in a series of reports. Liu, who is weighing a 2013 mayoral run, launched the audits this spring after holding town hall meetings in which New Yorkers suggested topics for investigation. Last week, he critiqued the DOE's handling of the Absent Teacher Reserve, and he has at least three other schools audits in the works. The newest audit examines the city's "Blue Book," which contains space estimates for each school building. The DOE and the School Construction Authority use the Blue Book to guide how many students can be placed in a school, and how many schools can fit into a building. Critics, including members of the City Council, say Blue Book numbers don't always reflect reality — for example, suggesting that an additional class could fit into an art room — and that decisions based on them can leave schools crunched for space. To evaluate the city's success at ensuring accurate Blue Book data, Liu's office analyzed entries for 23 schools and found that space assessments for 10 percent of all rooms were incorrect in a way that affected the school's overall capacity. "Proper space is essential for fostering a good learning environment, yet all too often the DOE is basing critical building decisions on its unreliable Blue Book, which bears too much resemblance to a house of cards," Liu said in a statement.
New York

Thousands march from City Hall to Wall Street to oppose layoffs

New York

City Council moves to regulate city's placement of charter schools

The former chair of the City Council education committee, Eva Moskowitz, talked to the current chair, Robert Jackson, before today's hearing on charter schools. Moskowitz runs a charter school network, while Jackson said he is skeptical of charter schools. (<em>GothamSchools</em>, Flickr) City Council members today moved to regulate the process of placing charter schools in public school buildings, introducing a resolution that they said would avoid conflicts between families at neighborhood schools and new charter schools placed inside of them. Right now, Department of Education officials offer some charter schools space in public school buildings on their own, but the space-sharing arrangements are sometimes contentious. (Charter schools receive public funding, but operate outside of the DOE watch and are not guaranteed space in public school buildings.) The Council resolution would force the department to follow some kind of a regular procedure — probably involving a requirement to work with members of a neighborhood — before it could place a charter school in a public building. "Make community stakeholders part of that process," City Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo, of the Bronx, said. "You fail miserably at including the people that have to deal with the fallout of the decisions that you make." Council Member Jessica Lappin of Manhattan, who chairs the council's work on public land use issues, said that charter schools should be placed in the same way that new traditional public schools are placed. "I have worked very hard to bring community members, principals, and the Department of Education together so that we can resolve the issues that inevitably arise," Lappin said. Why, she asked, shouldn't charter schools be placed in the same way? Testifying before the council, Department of Education officials said they agree that they need to improve the way that they bring in new schools, but they declined to support the resolution that would force them to follow a new procedure when doing it.