Search News & Views
News and views
The DOE has just posted the testing schedule for the upcoming school year, and it's a doozy. With a host of "predictive assessments," the expansion of the calendar to reflect No Child Left Behind testing requirements, and the city's new science test for grades 3 and 6, it looks like at least some kids will be taking a test nearly every day next year. May 17 and 18 look pretty clear -- maybe that's when schools will be able to fit in required arts instruction.
Joseph Berger, in today's "On Education" column, discusses the pros and cons of DOE Chief Equality Officer Roland Fryer's plan to pay pay some kids for their performance in school. Berger found parents to mostly rehash familiar arguments about the plan, but he also talked to Manhattan Institute scholar Sol Stern, who suggested an alternative that makes a lot of sense to me: putting the earnings not into kids' hands but into college funds they can access when they graduate from high school.
I can't imagine a few hundred dollars a year, spent immediately on games and play items, making a sustained difference in a child's will to learn, but having a couple thousand dollars in a bank account could make all the difference in the world to a motivated kid for whom college might feel out of reach financially. And this alternative plan would signal that the DOE is concerned with the long-term growth and success of its students, not just the annual testing and attendance bottom line.
I've heard of school officials being censured and fired for all sorts of reasons, but this, reported by the Associated Press, is by far the oddest:
Maritza Tamayo, principal of the Unity Center for Urban Technologies, paid a woman named Gilda Fonte to lead several Santeria rituals at the Manhattan school during midwinter break in 2006, when students were not there, according to Richard Condon, the special commissioner of investigation for city schools. Tamayo coerced staff members to participate in and help pay for the cost of the ceremonies, investigators said.
The coercion, not the fact that she paid for chicken blood to be sprinkled on her school, is the reason for Tamayo's firing, DOE officials said. She has been the principal since 1997 and oversaw the school's transition from a transfer alternative school to a regular high school. Evidently, the transition did not make a difference for the troubled school, as the AP reports that "there was a running joke at the school that sage should be used to cleanse the building because many of the students were ill-behaved."
You might not have noticed, but for the last couple of weeks we've had a small poll in the sidebar of the blog. Only nine of you answered this first poll, which asked, "Do you think the reorganization is going smoothly?" Seven of you answered that it's going "somewhat" smoothly, and two of you thought it's not going smoothly at all. No one answered that the reorganization is going "very" smoothly -- which was no surprise to us at Insideschools; we're spending this week trying to figure out just how to reach our contacts at the DOE.
Be on the lookout for a new poll soon!
If you haven't already seen the city's Department of Youth and Community Development "Summer Fun Guide," you should definitely check it out. The department compiled free and low-cost events for every day of the summer, beginning in June and running through Labor Day. Just this weekend, there's an origami workshop for kids in Staten Island, a Shakespeare performance in Inwood, a family science fair at the Bronx Zoo, and the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in Flushing, among many, many other exciting events. The guide also contains a comprehensive list of family-friendly city spaces, such as pools, libraries, and parks -- a perfect resource for these long, hot August days.
Spherion Technologies, the contractor hired to run the DOE's computerized high school application process botched the applications of kids from a Flushing Catholic school, the New York Daily News reports today, costing some of those kids spaces at their top-choice schools. After City Council member John Liu intervened, the kids got their applications reconsidered and their placements adjusted; one even got into Townsend Harris High School, one of the most selective schools in the city.
But it does make you wonder how many other applications might have been botched and how many kids without the wherewithal to enlist their City Council representative as an advocate might be winding up at the wrong schools. The contractor was hired in one of the many no-bid contracts that has led Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum to complain that the DOE is "throwing taxpayer dollars out the window."
UPDATE 8/3: Andy Jacob from the DOE's press office just called us to let us know that the article had a couple of factual errors. Most important, he said, is that Spherion's contract, which was originally issued in 2001, is not a no-bid contract. In fact, the contract process was fully competitive then and will be again in 2008 when the Spherion contract comes up for renewal, Jacob said, noting that the DOE plans to request proposals from other vendors as part of the renewal process.
The man behind a Florida charter school that features Hebrew language instruction wants to replicate the school in New York and eventually nationwide, the Sun reported yesterday. Ben Gamla Charter Academy, which is opening this month with a kindergarten through 8th grade, will teach Hebrew language one period a day and offer another period of Hebrew-English dual language instruction. The school's founder hopes to bring a Ben Gamla clone to New York in the next couple of years, taking advantage of the recent lifting of the cap on charter schools.
Ben Gamla NYC sounds like a controversial prospect. Opponents of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a public secondary school focusing on Arabic language and culture set to open in September in Brooklyn, have accused the school of being a "public madrassa." In fact, they recently filed Freedom of Information Act requests to find out whether the curriculum will have Islamic content, even though DOE officials have repeatedly assured critics that the school will be using standard curriculum packages. So are those same people worried that Ben Gamla NYC could be a "public yeshiva" that will inculcate students with Jewish culture and religion?
Those who have said they are opposed to all schools that cater to a single population don't like the idea of a Hebrew charter school, and the Anti-Defamation League told the Sun it's concerned that Ben Gamla may be skirting the line between church and state. (It's unclear how many Ben Gamla students are Jewish. About 20% of students are transferring from Jewish day schools. The school has been eager to mention the fact that 20% of students self-identify as Hispanic; of course, those kids might also be Jewish.)
But many of the most vociferous Khalil Gibran opponents don't see a problem with Ben Gamla. A member of the "Stop the Madrassa Coalition" told the Sun, "It's just so much different with Arabic because there's so many instances of the language being wrapped up with the religion, whereas Hebrew it's not." Right.All kids should have the opportunity to learn foreign languages and about other cultures. Arabic and Hebrew are just as worthy of being taught in the city's public schools as Spanish, French, or Latin. But it's a serious problem for the city if controversy over schools' themes distracts from discussion about how the schools are going to serve their kids before they even open, and if the only language kids can choose to learn is the one their grandparents speak. I'm willing to bet that most parents would rather enroll in a school with a number, rather than a fancy themed name, if it meant their kids would get a well-rounded education free from angry protest.
The Times today published a story on teacher Austin Lampros, who resigned from his post teaching math at Manhattan's High School for Arts and Technology after the school's principal overruled his decision to fail a student. The Times's Samuel Freedman writes:
Mr. Lamprosâ€™s introduction to the high schoolâ€™s academic standards proved a fitting preamble to a disastrous year. It reached its low point in late June, when Arts and Technologyâ€™s principal, Anne Geiger, overruled Mr. Lampros and passed a senior whom he had failed in a required math course.That student, Indira Fernandez, had missed dozens of class sessions and failed to turn in numerous homework assignments, according to Mr. Lamprosâ€™s meticulous records, which he provided to The New York Times. She had not even shown up to take the final exam. She did, however, attend the senior prom.
The full article is well worth a read.
"Many New York City students would like to have someone to whom they can turn," but their schools don't provide mental health services, writes a high school student in an article first published in New Youth Connections and reprinted by the Gotham Gazette. The author, April Daley, writes that kids might be more likely to seek out help if it's available at their schools, but many schools don't have on-campus health centers and even those that do don't always have staff members trained in mental health issues.Daley also notes that City Council member Gale Brewer and others pressed this year for funding for school health centers and mental health professionals for every school. They were not successful but plan to try again next year.Does your school have a counselor on staff? What can kids do if they feel, as Daley says is common, like they "need someone to talk to"?
Last month the real estate site Curbed reported that Two Trees development company was using the promise of a 300-seat neighborhood school to convince DUMBO residents to support the controversial 20-story residential tower it's planning to build in the area. Curbed commenters called the plan a ploy to get support for a project that doesn't fit into the neighborhood; one wrote, "With 8,000 new people moving into the neighborhood we will need new public schools. But to basically claim we can only get a school if we agree to this proposed monstrosity sounds like blackmail to me."
The Times article doesn't make it sound like the DUMBO school is a done deal at all -- a DOE spokeswoman said District 15, home to PS 8, has more middle school seats than students. But if the district does get a new middle school, it might not be the only option tailored to serve middle-class families opting into secondary public education in the city for the first time. Over in Park Slope, parents have proposed a charter middle school to open in the fall of 2008.