The battle between New York City’s public officials and the members of the teachers union hit its all-time high with a controversial lawsuit.  In an attempt to stop the multiple school closings (and also subsequently stop the charter school take over) the United Federation of Teachers and NAACP filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education earlier today.  Last year the UFT filed a similar suit and kept 19 schools open which were otherwise going to be closed.  “A settlement required the DOE to support the schools the UFT saved, committing the city to working on improving their performance instead of closing them. This year’s suit alleges that the DOE did not provide those resources, instead deciding to move forward with more closures.”  This just goes to show, that even when the system gets directly told what the people want, they continue to disregard it.

And where is Walcott in all of this?  He is “outraged” because he thinks that the union is trying to keep the adults happy instead of the kids—he bases this opinion on the belief that keep failing schools open is worse for the students.  So his solution is to simply close all of the “failing” schools and try to rebuild with charter schools that are not necessarily better just regulated differently.  But the real problem here is as Ken Cohen, regional director of New York State Conference of the NAACP, says: “it’s a matter of equity. ‘The NAACP has worked feverishly to serve the children of New York City,’ he said in a statement. ‘With the focus on education reform we find there has been a rush to judge and condemn schools and not enough effort to provide the quality education that the original case sought’”  This is the second lawsuit for New York City schools, who do you think should win Walcott or the NAACP?

Further Reading:

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/uft_naacp_to_file_suit_to_stop_public_KUZtpfn0c16qRz1R8cjwZK

According to the most recent  audit to the Department of Education  by City Comptroller John C. Lui, although state regents tests, and graduation rates may demonstrate progress, they are difficult to understand. As told by Lui, because the method the grades are calculated has changes multiple times, it is difficult to use those reports to look at a school’s performance from year to year or to determine whether or not those numbers accurately the shift in performance. This is very problematic, because officials decide whether a school stays opened or closed based on the results of  those progress reports. How do they know they are accurate? Not implying that tests are the best way to check performance but can that assert that these measure are accurate? How about not changing the method every year. This flawed method may be the reason why so many schools have had failing grades and have ended up closing. If they have found a system that works, why not just stick to it?

for further reading:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/16/education/16audit.html?_r=1&ref=education

There is a warehouse in Long Island City, a wonderful, wonderful warehouse that hold three ring binders, paint and even mannequins for public schools to use for free. Yes, free. The article titled For Schools, Free Art Supplies, and Much More in the New York Times tells us all about this magical place in Queens. The Materials for the Arts warehouse has been around for 32 years and has now opened its doors to public schools. There is a variety of items up for grabs at the warehouse. Some regular things like filing cabinets and benches along with other items that may not have a clear use like battery operated candles or clear buttons. Many have gone to the warehouse with the mentality that what they are able to base their projects about what they find in the warehouse. It seems to be almost like a treasure hunt. All of the stock in the warehouse is donation based from companies like Macy’s and Coach, even Columbia Pictures. Materials for the Arts is run by the Department of Cultural Affairs along with the Sanitation Department.
This is a wonderful resource for teachers and school officials. This is actually the first I have heard about anything like this in the city and everything is free! The Materials for the Arts warehouse helps teachers get out of the humdrum way of teaching and has them incorporate creativity into their lessons by having to be creative themselves with the finds they have chosen. I hope that this is around when I have a classroom!

The current education crisis doesn’t seem to be getting any better. We have seen various forms of civic mobilization  from the public to to show their dismay for decisions that elites have made.  The public has engaged in protests, sit- ins, and even rallies but what if the public takes an unconventional approach to civic mobilization?  What if the public  used social media as a mean for activism? Experts imply that using Social media in this form can be two things-good or bad!

According to Malcolm Gladwell in his New Yorker article Small Change, using social media as a form of activism is weak. there often tends to be a type of disconnect between the activist and the actual “cause”, “where activists were once defined by their causes, they are now defined by their tools” (Gladwell 3). With this being said, it might be safe to assume that engaging in activism just got easier. He continues by stating that the apparent disconnect between the two, actually sparks more “activism”. “social networks are effective at increasing participation by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires”  (Gladwell 5). With just a click of a button an individual can join a group of their interest and virtually sign petitions that support the groups’ interest.   Is it fair to call social medias revolutionary?

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At least he thinks he’s amusing. President Obama responded to the ever-increasing criticism he has received recently, with opening remarks at the White House Correspondents Dinner (See video above).  In the first two minutes, he took quite a jab at Matt Damon-FYI Obama, the “Adjustment Bureau” was pretty good. Damon went on Piers Morgan’s show (see post below, for video) and spoke about his frustration with Obama, particularly his “education plan.” Now instead of productively responding to Damon’s valid criticism that students are not learning, but rather being taught to memorize-which is highly problematic- Obama decided to insult Damon’s newest film. I personally did not find this amusing, and think that Obama should take Damon’s criticism seriously and respond to it, for it is an incredibly valid concern, that is felt by many, but voiced publically by one successful actor. I was not amused by this, and think that Obama needs to take this criticism seriously, and DEAL with the crisis at hand, instead of taking jabs at Damon. On a side note, the bashing of Donald Trump was actually HYSTERICAL! Matt Damon, your up next…. take your best shot. Team Damon or Team Obama?

Unfortunately for Mayor Bloomberg, the departure of controversial- anyone remember her birth control quip? – former school Chancellor Cathleen Black has done nothing to help his approval ratings regarding education. Wait a minute, you mean in the midst of an education crisis, where nothing seems to be done by officials, people aren’t thrilled with Bloomberg? SHOCKING! According to Quinnipiac University’s survey 64 percent of registered voters are unhappy with how the Mayor is handling the school system, while 25 percent approve. However, it is not all bad news for Bloomberg; public support is sky high for Bloomberg’s initiative to lay teachers off based on performance NOT seniority. Finally, the same poll also shows that half of registered voters and more than 50 percent of parents with children in public schools said they expected Walcott to “make substantial improvements.” I’m all for optimism, but my question is HOW? What will Walcott do that will be so different? Should we just wish him to do wonderful things and then sit around waiting for them to happen? OR should parents mobilize and make their demands heard? I vote for the latter… Optimism is great, but I will not hold my breath on this one.

Check out the full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/AP9979b06ff76745fb8b2f890e72d0eccc.html

While this is a little dated- Damon was on Piers Morgan’s show in March- he has a valid point. This constant testing is highly problematic, and I worry that Damon could in fact be right, that instead of teaching children, we are “training them.” Obama are you listening? DO SOMETHING. Thoughts?

 

Last Friday Mayor Bloomberg proposed a budget plan that would layoff 5 % of city workers. Among those 5% workers that are getting laid off are public school teachers.  Under the budget plan Mayor Bloomberg 4,100 New York City teachers are scheduled to get the ax. Teachers who came through programs such as Teach for America and New York  City are vulnerable to layoffs, but according to elite figures repesenting those programs most of those teachers who came through them are safe, because their jobs were the ones the city had most difficulty filling (because they low functioning areas). According to a model that the city prepared in February, a couple of hundreds of those teachers that are facing layofs will have taught  less than 5 years, about 650 of them are only in their first or second year. When are political  figures going to get their priorities straight? Why is it that when the city is  in a state of emergency and budget cuts need to be made, education seems to be the fisrt one to get the ax? Alhtough New York city is known for its progressiveness and good schools, it is also known for having a poor public school education department. Only in New York will  public schools be looked at in a negative light, perhaps the the situation above could be one of the reasons why.

For further reading:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/11/nyregion/new-idealistic-teachers-face-layoffs-in-bloomberg-budget.html?_r=2&ref=education

Finally there is someone who is actually doing some good for the education system, and her name is Cami Anderson.  She is a new superintendent in Newark, New Jersey and so far she has been a great boost for the community.  Her credentials include: working as a teacher for ten years, being the executive director for Teach for America, and the chief program officer for New Leaders for New Schools.  She believes the entire community needs to work together in order to improve education.  She said: “I don’t believe in lonely heroes winning the day.  I actually believe in teams, I think it’s the athlete in me … Education is not an individual sport.”

She does face many problems going into a state with a failing K-12 education system (Being one of many in the United States today).  Of Newark’s 40,000 public schools only 50% of them have an adequate graduation rate.  This achievement gap is not the only issue; its average spending rate is about $25,000 per student.  Pedro Noguera, a New York University education professor, emphasizes how Anderson needs to “put out some goals … [The people of the community] need to see that Newark can start to move forward in the right direction.”  So far she has laid out some possible reforms to help the disjointed system of education—and has made serious efforts to work with disconnected youth.  Her view on the role of charter schools is that they should only close failing schools when “children and literally their lives were at stake.”  Although, she does believe that “multiple pathways” for education is a necessity for success.  The most immediate decisions that she faces is: what to do with the $100 million gift from Facebook’s Zuckerberg and to make budget negotiations that include layoffs for up to 400 school employees.  Hopefully, these decisions will result in bettering the Newark community and not make me regret this post.

Further Reading:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/09/cami-andersons-big-test-i_n_859688.html

The following is an experience written by Christopher, a newly returned Peace Corps Volunteer in Guyana specializing in Education. I thought it would be cool thing to see how education is perceived in another country. Enjoy!

Teaching in Guyana was an experience I couldn’t have anticipated.  Of course there are certain universal characteristics to teaching no matter where you are in the world, nevertheless it was the unexpected challenges I faced in a particular culture I was exposed to that made teaching overseas such a fascinating and unique experience.

We know that students all over the world love affection and at a young age, children soak up education and affection at a seemingly endless rate. In Guyana, I was exposed to such an appetite for learning at the primary school level that every time I returned to a classroom, the students were out of their seats with eagerness to learn something new.  It did not matter whether a teacher was teaching or sitting idle, students wanted to learn.  If I visited a classroom where the teacher did no work at all, the students would be wide-eyed and ready to experience something new: anything different from the memorization schemes they repeat every day.  Comparatively, if I visited a very skilled teacher who used a variety of teaching methods, her children would still be jumping up and down in anticipation.  So what is the big deal?

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