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Last night, Advocates For Children's executive director, Kim Sweet, presented to the Citywide Council on High Schools about the challenges facing high school kids with special needs. She said the small schools trend, coupled with the DOE's new policy requiring special education students to apply to high school through the regular admissions process, has made it more likely that students with special needs wind up with an inappropriate placement.
Sweet also said kids aren't being made aware of their diploma options, and especially of the fact that IEP diplomas are essentially meaningless; the DOE fails to help kids prepare for life after high school; and that the DOE has fallen short on creating programs for overage and undercredited kids with limited literacy. Look for more details about Kim's presentation in the next Insideschools alert.
The big news for teachers last week -- that the city is planning to build two low-rent apartment buildings in the Bronx for teachers only -- will ultimately affect only a very few of them. The 234 units will start at about $800 for a studio and will be available by lottery to middle-income teachers and their families. Unlike other union-backed housing development efforts, however, the Bronx development will stay small because expanding it would cost the city and the teachers union retirement plan too much. If only the city had invested in this solution years ago, it wouldn't have had to compete with deep-pocketed developers for land in the Bronx and Brooklyn!
The Times' Elissa Gootman asks whether teachers will really want to live with the same people they work with all day. The UFT's Randi Weingarten says she isn't concerned about demand. Teachers work so hard and are home so little, though, that the development seems ripe for a resurrection of the (possibly apocryphal) New York City apartment time-share.
With a split vote yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a decision made in a New York appeals court that allows parents of kids with special needs to receive tuition reimbursement for private schools even if they do not first enroll in a public school.
The facts of this particular case made it a flashpoint for debate -- the parent who was seeking reimbursement is a multi-millionaire -- and the Supreme Court's action is a good one. The appeals court decision protects kids in special education and their families, who are free to seek the placements that are right for them quickly and without interruption to their schooling. The decision applies in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.
In addition to paying for private placements for 7,000 kids whose needs the DOE agrees it cannot meet, the city is now paying $57 million a year in private school tuition for more than 3,600 kids whose parents have enrolled them in private school without first going through the DOE, the Times reports, and these numbers are up significantly in recent years. Ignoring the DOE's spotty track record in educating kids with disabilities, the DOE's lawyer told the Times, "This [decision] detracts from schoolsâ€™ abilities to work with parents for the best possible educational outcomes for children with disabilities."
Today I don't have to liveblog the City Council hearing because the New York Times is doing it. Check out Jenny Medina's coverage of the hearing on school safety, which has been going off and on since 10 this morning and may last all night, judging from the number of students who are lined up to testify. We'll have a summary tomorrow, but for now you can read along at home.
The city is gearing up to open 50 more charter schools in the next few years, and it needs a charter schools leader to fill a void in the "Office of Portfolio Development" (formerly the Office of New Schools). Yesterday, Chancellor Klein announced that he has hired Michael Thomas Duffy, the executive director of a pioneering charter school in Boston, to fill that position, reports the Sun today. Duffy is familiar with the bureaucratic challenges of getting charter schools up and running and told the Sun that he is relieved that Klein and Mayor Bloomberg will support his work; the leadership in Boston is less charter-friendly.
Duffy also told the Sun, "All of the easy options for charter schools to locate in city space have been taken. We're going to have to get more creative about the locations for these schools." We'll have to wait to find out whether that statement is ominous or open-minded.
Just a reminder that the City Council is holding a major hearing tomorrow about school safety. The hearing is a joint endeavor of the council's committees on education, public safety, and juvenile justice and is being held in two sessions, one from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and the second from 3 p.m. until the end of the day. Map
We'll be reporting on what happens, but if you are concerned about safety issues at your kids' schools, you might want to consider testifying. To get on the docket, speak to the sergeant-at-arms at the beginning of the hearing. If you can, bring copies of what you plan to say. Given the persistent issues surrounding school safety and the interaction between safety agents and students â€” just yesterday, the principal and an honors student at East Side Community High School were arrested in a confrontation with safety agents â€” it's important that the council hear from students and parents.
Last year, the DOE imported inspectors from Great Britain to teach New York City educators how to conduct Quality Reviews of schools. The Quality Review initiative is now in its second year in New York, and for British pundits the time has come to take inspiration from the largest urban school system in the world. In the last few days, the Guardian has run two pieces arguing for New York-style reforms to be implemented in England. David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, wrote that he wants to give schools greater "autonomy" (sound familiar?) and hopes to see a version of New York's "real school choice" take hold in England. A Guardian writer also reports on New York City's small schools movement and concludes:
All the evidence suggests that the small schools work. The question for Britain is: can we afford it without large helpings of Microsoft money? There again, perhaps the better question might be: can we afford not to?
It's an interesting read. My favorite part? The writer's characterization of the "five Hogwarts-style heraldic shields" signaling the multiple schools in the John F. Kennedy High School campus.
On Friday I went to the inaugural conference of the Research Partnership for New York City Schools. The conference was as wonky as you can get, replete with powerpoints, bar graphs, and correlation coefficients, and the attendees were the education elite of the city.
Conference-goers heard from leaders of the Chicago research group on which the new partnership is based. Researchers also presented three papers as examples of the work the consortium will do. The first looked at the movement patterns of ineffective teachers, concluding that weak teachers in weak schools leave teaching entirely while weak teachers in strong schools transfer to positions at weaker schools. The second paper examined demand for high school programs based on the numbers reported in the high school directory. Those researchers found that a school's reputation is the strongest determinant of how many applications a school will receive â€” no surprise there for parents and kids who have applied gone through the high school application process! A third paper rehashed some of the data about school funding that the chancellor cited earlier this year when introducing the Fair Student Funding formula, with the researchers recommending that evaluation of the funding change should start now.
One panelist noted with pleasure that contrary to her expectations, the research papers did not solely focus on test scores. Given the role test scores have grown to occupy in driving the city's reform efforts, I agree that it was a relief to hear other issues discussed for a change. But I wonder whether conducting research on the periphery of the DOE's reform agenda will preclude the consortium from having a real impact on it. At the very least, the fact that test scores weren't on the rada may indicate a gulf between researchers and reformers. I agreed with Chancellor Klein and UFT President Randi Weingarten, also on the panel: the challenge of the research group won't be to ask interesting questions and mine the data for answers â€” that will be the easy part â€” but to make the research findings intelligible and useful for teachers, principals, parents, and students.
This past Thursday, I visited my first specialized high school. Before I even arrived at the open house, I already had an issue about the school: it's about an hour away from my apartment by car or subway, which would take a huge chunk of time out of my day. However, as soon as I walked in the doors, all my concerns about the travel time fell away, and I fell in love. The building was huge and beautiful, and there was a massive mural painted across the front entrance wall. Students were masterfully playing soft classical music in the corners of the room, and upon entering the auditorium, it was plain to see that the entire school was going to be just as grand as that front entrance.
All of the classrooms looked fantastically equipped with state-of-the-art computers, science equipment, and literature, and every wall was littered with ribbons and trophies from past victorious competitions. Each club had its own display somewhere along the hallways: robotics, boat crafting, and cooking, to name a few. Some of the best features, in my opinion, were the vast courtyard behind the school, the planetarium on the top floor, and the animal room, complete with a range of live animals.
After touring this school, I am pretty sure that itâ€™s the right one for me. However, I have to decide if the trip is going to be too much for me, and I still have to pass the Specialized High School Admission Test.