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Court Rules City Can’t Regulate Pre-K at Charter Schools

New York Post

The state’s highest court on Tuesday struck down as illegal a New York City edict to regulate pre-kindergarten programs operated […]

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Success Academy Charter Network gets attacked for its remarkable work

02/19/2012

Editorials

Want to get called horrible names? Want to get hauled into court? Want to get shouted down at public meetings?

Then dare to start a dozen free, outstanding public schools in New York City.

That’s the story of the Success Academy Charter Network.

The organization operates nine charter schools. Fully 95% of the students pass the state test in reading (city average: 62%) and 81% pass the state math test (city average: 51%). All fourth graders pass the state science exam, with 91% earning an advanced rating (city average: 43%).

Given those gangbusters results, founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz is moving to open three additional charters in Brooklyn school buildings that have more than enough room, one in Williamsburg, one in Cobble Hill, one in Bed-Stuy.

Reasonable parents say: Come in, so that my kids can have more quality educational options. Teachers unions and the parents over whom they hold sway say: Stay away, because your great school is an assault on all the wonders of public education.

On paper, they focus their ire on the details of a particular space-sharing agreement. But underneath, it’s the school itself, and the great results it manages to get with non-union labor, that’s the true threat.

Witness a lawsuit filed by a group called Advocates for Justice on behalf of 15 parents. It seeks to prevent the opening of a new Success Academy in Cobble Hill — on the absurd grounds that because the city at one point changed its plans about where to locate the school, it shouldn’t be allowed to open at all.

Or witness Thursday’s hearing on a plan to co-locate a new Success Academy school in Junior High School 50 in Williamsburg.

Present were regular parents hungry for alternatives, like Janet Rentas, a parent of a five-year old son.

Said she:

“If I could get an equal education at a charter school, why not? I am a single mom, and I would have to work a lot to send him to a Catholic school, but I would sacrifice if I had to.”

Also there were parents who, parroting the union line, called for nixing the school because it offers an alternative model.

They even turned a 15-year-old girl into an anti-charter zealot, and she was as incoherent as her adult models:

“We don’t need to buy education; we have it here,” the teen declared. We’ll spare her the embarrassment that would come with publishing her name.

In education-packed speech, Bloomberg vows to bypass UFT

1/12/2012

By Philissa Cramer

Mayor Bloomberg is attempting to breathe new life into his enervated education agenda today with an ambitious and startling list of proposals that include paying top teachers $20.000 bonuses and bypassing the union to overhaul struggling schools.

Perhaps most interesting is the way that he is outlining, in his 10th State of the City address right now in the Bronx, to resuscitate stalled efforts to transform 33 struggling schools — and still receive the $58 million in federal funds that were supposed to support them. The state cut off the city’s access to those funds last month, arguing that Bloomberg’s failure to reach a deal with the teachers union on evaluations of teachers made the city ineligible for them.

But today Bloomberg argued that the city could still get the federal support without a deal. His plan is to change the city’s approach to overhauling those schools, using the “turnaround” model. That model requires that up to 50 percent of a school’s teachers be removed.

“We believe that when we take this action, we will have fulfilled the state’s requirements and the schools will be eligible for the $58 million in funding,” he is set to say.

The city had originally wanted to use the turnaround model, one of four federally mandated options, to overhaul the 33 schools. But it turned to backup models, “transformation” and “restart,” because the union would not agree. Today, Bloomberg says he believes the union’s current contract permits turnaround, according to his prepared remarks.

In a telephone call before the address, a union official said immediately that that was not the case, auguring a fight that could drag on or even wind up in court.

The proposal is one of several surprising and bold education plans that Bloomberg is outlining today at the city’s oldest high school, Morris High School in the South Bronx. Fully half of his State of the City address is devoted to education.

Other proposals include a $20.000 raise for teachers who get the top rating on the disputed evaluations for two years in a row and $25.000 to pay off student loans for new teachers who come from the top of their college class.

Those policies are designed to attract and retain good teachers, and Bloomberg is arguing that he expects the union’s support for them. The proposals, of course, depend on evaluations that the city and the union have not yet agreed on. And the $20.000 bonuses also represent individual merit pay for teachers, which the United Federation of Teachers has rejected in the past.

The mayor said the city is ramping up plans for the new schools that Chancellor Dennis Walcott introduced in September. Bloomberg said the city will open 100 new schools before he leaves office in 2013, including 50 charter schools. The city will help some charter networks — such as KIPP and Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy schools — grow faster and also bring in new charter school operators to the city. One of those, a chain called Rocketship that focuses on the technology-infused “blended learning” model, has already accepted the city’s invitation, Bloomberg announced.

And Bloomberg announced new efforts to push students along the path to college, by helping them get financial aid, and careers, through new schools with a vocational focus and a mentoring program involving local businesses.

Bloomberg left lots of questions unanswered: How does the workaround at the 33 struggling schools resolve the conflict over teacher evaluations? Will the state start federal funds flowing now, even though the switch to turnaround wouldn’t happen until September? Where will the funds for raises and loan repayments come from? Are the charter school networks Bloomberg mentions prepared to scale up faster?

We will be trying to find answers to these questions and others this afternoon.

In chronological order, according to the prepared remarks, Bloomberg proposed to:

  • Give new teachers who come from the “top tier” of their college class $25.000 to pay off student loans.
  • Raise the salaries of teachers who are rated “highly effective” for two years on new evaluations by $20.000
  • Use a turnaround program in state law to remove half of teachers at SIG schools, to get federal funding back
  • Open 100 new schools in the next two years, including 50 charter schools
  • Speed the expansion plans of charter networks such as KIPP and Success Academy
  • Recruit new charter school operators to come to the city, such as Rocketship, which has committed
  • Open three new grade 9-14 schools and at least a dozen new career and technical schools and programs
  • Ask local business and companies to offer mentoring and internships for students; Bloomberg LP is in
  • Help students apply for federal financial aid, using assistance from the Obama administration
  • Lead the charge for the New York State Dream Act to help undocumented students attend college

High-Performing Success Academies To Open Elementary Schools In Cobble Hill And Williamsburg

Two schools will help meet surging parental demand in Brownstone Brooklyn for high-quality public school education
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More than 1.500 Cobble Hill residents sign petition saying they’d be interested in applying to a Success Academy School

(BROOKLYN): The high-performing Success Academies network will open new public charter schools in Cobble Hill and Williamsburg for the 2012-2013 school year, school officials announced today.

Both Success Academy Cobble Hill and Success Academy Williamsburg will begin with a kindergarten and first grade comprised of roughly 190 children and grow by one grade each year until the schools serve students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

“One look at all the strollers on Court Street and Bedford Street provide all the proof you need that both Cobble Hill and Williamsburg have gone through a true baby boom in recent years,” said Eva Moskowitz, Founder and CEO of the Success Academies. “While these neighborhoods do indeed have some good schools, they’re quickly filling up, and we’ve repeatedly heard from parents that they’re worried that their kids won’t have good school options. Success Academy Cobble Hill and Success Academy Williamsburg will give parents another great public school option.”

More than 1.500 residents in District 15 where Success Academy Cobble Hill will be located signed a petition requesting that a Success Academy come to the neighborhood.

“Every parent wants to send their child to a great school and in our neighborhood, those schools are bursting at the seams,” said Lisa Melmed, a Brooklyn Heights parent. “I’m excited to learn that Success Academies is planning to open a school in Cobble Hill so that parents have another great option to consider, one that has an exceptional track record and where kids can get a high-caliber education without a private school price-tag.”

Members of the community are also eagerly anticipating the school’s arrival. “Our community is strengthened by the presence of as many high-quality schools as we can have,” said Melissa Benson, President of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue. “The Brooklyn Heights Synagogue has grown enormously in the past few years, in part due to improvements at P.S. 8 that have made it possible for more families to stay in the neighborhood. More good public schools will no doubt bring similar benefits.”

“The demand for school options in this community is incredible” said Eliza Rossman, a parent and board member of Heights and Hills, an organization with deep roots in the community. “Like many other families, we moved to Brooklyn because it seemed like a great place to raise children. Our community would benefit tremendously from a new school option.”

School applications will be available in mid-October (the school websites will launch by October 17th at www.successacademies.org/schools/cobble-hill/ and www.successacademies.org/schools/williamsburg/). The Department of Education will work with the community to determine which of several underutilized schools in both Districts 14 and 15 can best accommodate the schools.

“We look forward to closely working with the Department of Education and the community to open these schools,” Moskowitz said.
All four Success Academy Schools that received progress reports this year were given “A’s,” and students have received among the best test scores in all of New York City.

Big Study Links Good Teachers to Lasting Gain

01/06/2012

By Annie Lowry

WASHINGTON — Elementary- and middle-school teachers who help raise their students’ standardized-test scores seem to have a wide-ranging, lasting positive effect on those students’ lives beyond academics, including lower teenage-pregnancy rates and greater college matriculation and adult earnings, according to a new study that tracked 2,5 million students over 20 years.

The paper, by Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia, all economists, examines a larger number of students over a longer period of time with more in-depth data than many earlier studies, allowing for a deeper look at how much the quality of individual teachers matters over the long term.
“That test scores help you get more education, and that more education has an earnings effect — that makes sense to a lot of people,” said Robert H. Meyer, director of the Value-Added Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which studies teacher measurement but was not involved in this study. “This study skips the stages, and shows differences in teachers mean differences in earnings.”

The study, which the economics professors have presented to colleagues in more than a dozen seminars over the past year and plan to submit to a journal, is the largest look yet at the controversial “value-added ratings,” which measure the impact individual teachers have on student test scores. It is likely to influence the roiling national debates about the importance of quality teachers and how best to measure that quality.
Many school districts, including those in Washington and Houston, have begun to use value-added metrics to influence decisions on hiring, pay and even firing.

Supporters argue that such metrics hold teachers accountable and can help improve the educational outcomes of millions of children. Detractors, most notably a number of teachers unions, say that isolating the effect of a given teacher is harder than it seems, and might unfairly penalize some instructors.
Critics particularly point to the high margin of error with many value-added ratings, noting that they tend to bounce around for a given teacher from year to year and class to class. But looking at an individual’s value-added score for three or four classes, the researchers found that some consistently outperformed their peers.

“Everybody believes that teacher quality is very, very important,” says Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and longtime researcher of education policy. “What this paper and other work has shown is that it’s probably more important than people think. That the variations or differences between really good and really bad teachers have lifelong impacts on children.”
The average effect of one teacher on a single student is modest. All else equal, a student with one excellent teacher for one year between fourth and eighth grade would gain $4.600 in lifetime income, compared to a student of similar demographics who has an average teacher. The student with the excellent teacher would also be 0,5 percent more likely to attend college.

Perhaps just as important, given the difficulty of finding, training and retaining outstanding teachers, is that the difference in long-term outcome between students who have average teachers and those with poor-performing ones is as significant as the difference between those who have excellent teachers and those with average ones, the study found.
In the aggregate, these differences are potentially enormous.

Replacing a poor teacher with an average one would raise a single classroom’s lifetime earnings by about $266.000, the economists estimate. Multiply that by a career’s worth of classrooms.
“If you leave a low value-added teacher in your school for 10 years, rather than replacing him with an average teacher, you are hypothetically talking about $2,5 million in lost income,” said Professor Friedman, one of the coauthors.

To do the study, the researchers first tackled the question that has swirled controversy in so many school districts, including New York City’s: whether value-added scores are in fact a good measure of teacher quality. Mr. Jones might regularly help raise test scores more than Ms. Smith, but maybe that is because his students are from wealthier families, or because he has a harder-working class — factors that can be difficult for researchers to discern.
While Professor Rockoff, at Columbia, has previously written favorably about value-added ratings, the Harvard pair were skeptics of the metrics. “We said, ‘We’re going to show that these measures don’t work, that this has to do with student motivation or principal selection or something else,’ ” Professor Chetty recalled.

But controlling for numerous factors, including students’ backgrounds, the researchers found that the value-added scores consistently identified some teachers as better than others, even if individual teachers’ value-added scores varied from year to year.
After identifying excellent, average and poor teachers, the economists then set out to look at their students over the long term, analyzing information on earnings, college matriculation rates, the age they had children, and where they ended up living.

The results were striking. Looking only at test scores, previous studies had shown, the effect of a good teacher mostly fades after three or four years. But the broader view showed that the students still benefit for years to come.
Students with top teachers are less likely to become pregnant as teenagers, more likely to enroll in college, and more likely to earn more money as adults, the study found.

The authors argue that school districts should use value-added measures in evaluations, and to remove the lowest performers, despite the disruption and uncertainty involved.
“The message is to fire people sooner rather than later,” Professor Friedman said.

Professor Chetty acknowledged, “Of course there are going to be mistakes — teachers who get fired who do not deserve to get fired.” But he said that using value-added scores would lead to fewer mistakes, not more.
Still, translating value-added scores into policy is fraught with problems. Judging teachers by their students’ test scores might encourage cheating, teaching to the test or lobbying to have certain students in class, for instance.

“We are performing these studies in settings where nobody cares about their ranking — it does not change their pay or job security,” said Jesse Rothstein, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, whose work criticizing other value-added assessments unions frequently cite. “But if you start to change that, there is going to be a range of responses.”
Many other researchers and school administrators say that even if imperfect, well-calculated value-added scores are an important part of evaluating teachers.

“Very few people suggest that you should use value-added scores alone to make personnel decisions,” Dr. Hanushek, of Stanford, said. “What the whole value-added debate has done is push forward the issue of how to evaluate teachers, and how to use that information.”
The new study found no evidence for one piece of conventional wisdom: that having a good teacher in an early grade has a bigger effect than having a good teacher in later grades.

Judge issues setback in effort to make charter schools pay rent

01/03/2012

By Geoff Decker

A judge today rejected a midyear effort to collect more than $100 million in rent and facility fees from co-located charter schools.

The ruling is at least a temporary blow for parent activists who filed a lawsuit last year that challenged a long-standing Department of Education policy to give rent-free public school space to charter schools. The judge hasn’t ruled on that larger issue, but he said today that the merits of the lawsuit weren’t strong enough to immediately force the DOE to begin collecting rent before a final decision is made.
“It would be extremely harmful to wrench charter school students from their school of choice during a school year, should any charter school be unable to pay for renting public school space, forcing these students to seek placement elsewhere,” New York State Supreme Court Judge Paul Feinman wrote in his decision today.

About two-thirds of the city’s 136 charter schools are currently sited in public space and the lawsuit claims that the DOE has an obligation, based on state law, to charge rent. Class Size Matters’ Leonie Haimson, a lead plaintiff on the lawsuit, has estimated that the DOE has lost out on more than $100 million, which she has said could be used to reduce class sizes by hiring more teachers.
New York City pioneered the co-location policy under former Chancellor Joel Klein and it is still one of the only districts in the country that offers rent-free public space to charter schools. Charter school groups have defended the policy, saying that while charters schools are publicly funded, they don’t receive money for facility costs.

Charter school operators named on the lawsuit are defending themselves independently from the DOE, using the same high-powered law firms it used for another lawsuit. Today, one of those operators lauded the decision.

“Today’s ruling is a major victory for New York City parents and children who would have suffered the catastrophic consequences of this misguided lawsuit,” said Success Charter Network CEO Eva Moskowitz, whose schools exclusively operate in public school buildings.

Moskowitz said she hoped the lawsuit would be dismissed, but Feinman warned against such premature perceptions.

Feinman said in his closing statements that the denial “should not be misinterpreted” to mean he would ultimately side with the DOE. Feinman added that the DOE should not use the ruling for any site planning decisions it makes in the future.

Haimson said that Feinman’s specific caveat was a good sign that the lawsuit was being taken seriously.

“I thought that statement was very strong and I’m very hopeful,” Haimson said.

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