Mamie Till Mobley

"There was an important mission for me, to shape so many...young minds as a teacher. God took away one child but...(gave) me thousands. And I have been grateful for the blessing." Mamie Till Mobley

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Regents did it for the race to top money obliged to test scores no evidence or research to support decision

American education historian Diane Ravitch called May 16,2011, a dark day in the history of New York State when the Board of Regents approved the plan to evaluate teachers by students' tests scores. And never mind there isn't any research or evidence to support it. 
"To be fair, they did it for the money. New York won a Race to the Top award, so officials obliged themselves to judge teachers by test scores..."  while  at least only three of 17  Regents disagreed.
"...our State Board of Regents, with only three honorable exceptions, are indifferent to research, evidence, and testimony from highly experienced and successful principals and teachers. Indifferent as well to the harm done to those in their care, both students and teachers: These are not the Regents who were once held in high esteem. I suppose they might say in their defense that everyone else is doing it; or that the federal government thinks it's a good idea; but those are not good reasons to do wrong."

Happy birthday Khaair Morrison, a salute to Francis Lewis High School class of 2011!

Khaair Morrison is a student leader at Francis Lewis High School class of 2011, and advocate for student rights.
"My name is Khaair Morrison I am a youth activist, community organizer, and motivational speaker, hailing from Queens, New York. As a senior at Francis Lewis high School in Queens, I have taken a keen interest on educational,  juvenile justice, and immigration issues, which are just a few of the issues that I've fought for and that directly affect my generation. I have also been sought out as a motivational speaker. I have spoken to youths at many events, including an outreach to youth at Hunter college, a panel at Columbia University, and youth organizations around the city.  I enjoy supporting other youth who have ambitions to be young politicians, in  business and whatever field interest them."
I salute the class of 2011, at Francis Lewis High School!
Happy birthday Khaair!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Race to the Top focus on early childhood education, child care and family access

Race to the Top funds getting leaner these days not as much as in yesteryear $200 million up for grabs compared to $4 billion when New York qualified for the school improvement competition last year.  The feds are pumping $500 million for states to compete to raise the quality of  early learning, child care and  to increase the access of families to them. What happens to all the policies states enacted to qualify for the school improvement RTTT competitive grants when the money runs out?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Unsatisfactory evaluation of superintendent Williams...what's next?

In a close door private meeting Friday afternoon the Buffalo Board of Education presented Superintendent James A. Williams an unsatisfactory annual evaluation that has some leaders in the community talking about an interim replacement. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

District responding to questions on school turnaround plans to the state

The State Education Department this week sent out questions to the district regarding the turnaround plans they submitted earlier this month. Meanwhile, Regent Robert Bennett told  Buffalo News on Friday that the Buffalo Schools among the most dysfunctional worthy of a state takeover. His statements troubled some School Board members who responded, "that comes as a surprise," and was "ill-timed.
Also,  Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown scheduled a meeting with stakeholders to discuss the problems in the schools related to the turnaround plans on June 10th. And the School Board plans to submit their evaluation of Superintendent James A. Williams next week on whether to continue his contract that ends in 2014. Williams has been at the helm of the district since appointed in 2005.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Attendance officers coming back to Buffalo Schools contingency funds based on a plan

Although the Buffalo Board of Education voted to approve $500,000 to hire attendance officers in the 2011-2012 budget, the allocation is a contingency fund based on all parties agreeing to a district truancy intervention plan.

Yet Williams statements to the media immediately after the  Board  voted that it's better to rely on 18 to 24 year old volunteers from Americorps was troubling to some Board members and others in the community questioning his sincerity or whether an agreeable plan is going to happen now when he supports  a  plan  simply "knocking on doors getting children out of bed" as a solution.
And in a statement to the Buffalo News earlier this week, Williams said, hiring attendance officers is a "waste of time." And he added,  "We’ve tried this for years, and it’s not working,” he said of the attendance teachers. “It never worked.”  
His views are troubling and some say disingenuous because the truancy officers he laid-off in 2005 immediately after his embattled appointment had been very successful particularly in the high schools where before Williams  hardly any schools ever had the low attendance rates recorded after his six-year tenure. Some high schools now have attendance levels as low as 72%, something that never existed when the attendance officers were present in the district before Williams approved the laid-off plan in 2005.  And in the 2007-2008 district attendance figures 30% of the elementary school children missed 20 or more days of school.
Many residents wonder whatever happened to Williams motto, "be here, behave, be on time," while his appointment was under consideration in 2005. It seems the superintendent has either forgotten or forsaken his "be here" mantra for one where he alleged its a "waste of time" to use truancy officers. Interestingly,  in many of the Buffalo Schools appearing on the state list of persistently lowest-achieving schools one of the things they all share in common was they have the lowest attendance rates in the district.
What to do? The Board of Education should seriously include improving attendance on its checklist of items for evaluating the Buffalo Superintendent of Schools. In this way the superintendent would not only be more agreeable to a plan that includes attendance officers, but ensure more funds are allocated to the truancy budget since $500,000 is a pittance in a nearly $800 millon budget to combate a serious truancy problem allowed to fester from 2005-2011 after the attendance officers were laid off and the district didn't have  any other viable attendance plan to fill in the void.
Correction: Video incorrectly implies attendance officers also have the powers to arrest parents. They have the powers to arrest truants only secton 3213 of NYS Education Law.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Buffalo School Board approved a contingency budget for attendance officers

The Buffalo Board of Education approved a contingency budget for reinstating the attendance teacher laid-off in 2005. The $500,000 contingency fund is based on district officials developing a plan. In an interview on WIVB-TV4, Superintendent James A. Williams told  George Richert they are looking at many plans. He mentioned the Harlem Street Academy use of AmeriCorps volunteers to go door to door  in place of attendance officers.  In a Buffalo News story yesterday Williams called using attendance teachers to combat truancy as a "waste of money" saying, "We’ve tried this for years, and it’s not working,” he said of the attendance teachers. “It never worked.” 
The ambivalence in his statements makes the public wonder how sincere he is about reinstating the laid-off attendance teachers when he believes what they do is a waste of money.  
Although a board member from Central District Ruth Kapsiak asked for more time to discuss the budget, the chief financial officer Barbara Smith responded "...waiting would not be a good idea. Because 30-day employee layoff notices need to be sent out."  And Williams responded that Smith would not be here because she was going on vacation this week .  District officials are sending out  lay-off notices before the new fiscal year starts on July 1, to 74 teachers  from the  300 cuts slated in the 2011-2012 school budget. So with only 5 board members voting they approved a nearly $800 million dollar budget, laying off teachers and reinstating the attendance officers under a contingency plan. Ruth Kapsiak, Central District and Rosalyn Taylor, Ferry District voted against approving the budget.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

School budget for the sixth year eliminates attendance teachers/truancy officers

While Superintendent of Schools James A. Williams believes"attendance is necessary for success...attendance is a problem to begin with and one of the key indicators as to why so many of our children are underachieving," in a statement  three weeks ago, his budget for 2011-2012 does not include reinstating the attendance teacher or truancy officers laid-off in 2005.
Meanwhile the head of the Buffalo Teachers Federation called the absenteeism rate in the district elementary schools from the 2007 through 2009 as  "staggering," "numbing" and "horrendous" in a report he released to the media  today.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Masten District Council Member voice support for reinstatement of truancy officers in Buffalo schools

Masten  Council Member, Demone A.  Smith, said the district should reinstate the truancy officers in the Buffalo Public Schools. He was one of the speakers at the rally yesterday in front of City Hall. The District Parent Coordinating Council organized it after a parent boycott of the Buffalo Public Schools where nearly 10% less  students attended  the half day of school on Monday.

In 2005, the Buffalo Schools laid-off 15 attendance officers in a dispute with the Buffalo Teachers Federation over the single health care insurance that took court action to resolve it. Still, the cadre of professional truancy officers were never reinstated despite the yearly dip in attendance rates even though the district had committed to reinstate them.

Meanwhile thousands of school children either failed to show up in school daily or had so many absences it contributed to higher drop-out rates, academic failure, as well as, one of the major causes for the high number of Buffalo public schools on the state "persistently low-achieving" list.

Buffalo News education blogger Mary Pasciak wrote in, Lessons from the boycott:
Despite the nearly universal agreement that the district must take steps to increase student attendance, the proposed 2011-12 Buffalo Public Schools budget does not include reinstating attendance teachers or truant officers across the district.
The attendance statistics she listed from the various schools for May 2, in the district are dismal at best especially at all of the academic high schools, including McKinley, Hutch Tech and Leonardo Da Vinci considered  the top tier high schools in the district.  And Pasciak wrote, " It's hard to imagine how anyone could see that as anything but major cause for concern.
Here attendance rankings of the schools on May 2
When the BTF threatened not to sign off on the Race to the Top grant application to the State Education Department last year,  the district included three truancy officers, but the attendance in the district has decreased  drastically since the truancy officers were laid off  six years ago that additional attendance teachers needed.

Cuomo wants to force faster teacher & principal evaluations or threatened to exclude districts from his competitive grant program

Governor Andrew Cuomo last Friday "... said he will also try to force school districts to use the evaluation system faster, even over teacher union opposition, or they won't be included in Cuomo's competitive grant program for schools that improve performance.

Monday, May 16, 2011

NYS Board of Regents appoints Deputy Commissioner John King Jr., charter schools advocate new commissioner of education

NYS Board of Regents appointed Dr. John B. King, Jr. as ,  NYS Education Department Commissioner of Education to replace Dr. David Steiner stepping down in June to return to his former position as Dean of the School of Education at Hunter College."
"I moved back to New York City – both because of the opportunity to create 
better educational opportunities for students in the community where I grew up
 and because the New York State charter law, New York’s rigorous authorizing process, Mayor Bloomberg, and Chancellor Klein had created an educational environment that fosters innovation" King said in 2009. 
Uncommon Schools, where I now serve as a superintendent of a small net work  of charter schools, has as its mission starting and managing urban charter public schools that aim specifically to close the achievement gap and prepare low-income students to graduate from college." Testimony of Dr. John B. King, Jr. ,U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor June 4, 2009 Deputy Commissioner,
It's sad and unfortunate, Dr. King lost both of his parents to illnesses before age 12.
He testified at the June 4, 2009 Congressional Committee on Education and Labor, "
I--the son of two career New York City public school educators. My father, who grew up in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn in a family just  a couple of generations removed from slavery, served as a teacher, principal, and eventually Deputy Chancellor over the course of a nearly forty year career with the New York City schools. My mother came to the Bronx from Puerto Rico as a small child with her single mother and was a teacher and guidance counselor in some of the most challenging schools in NYC. My parents provided an extraordinary example for me of dedication to public service.  However, I did not get to know them well because they passed away when I was in elementary and middle school. During that difficult period, fantastic teachers in NYC public schools make a huge difference in my life. My experiences at P.S. 276 and Mark Twain J.H.S. led me to believe 
deeply in the power of public education to transform lives.   

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Detroit's Catherine Ferguson Academy slated to close

Imagine closing a school with an almost 100% attendance rate, 90% graduation rate where all of the students  transition to college for either a two or four year degree? Yet in the mad rush to close and to privatize public schools around the nation there are  many excellent and innovative programs such as Catherine Ferguson Academy on the West side of Detroit that is  providing  a well-rounded educational program for pregnant and parenting teens, an idea created over 25 years, including a school based  farm with animals that are being shut down as well.  And a petition is circulating to help the school.

One of the comments regarding the closure of this school:

My God! When did Democracy die? When did Evil rise up and win power???Here is a school with a 90% graduation rate and some idiot wants to CLOSE IT DOWN???? We in Nevada struggle to raise our 56% grad rate and have been struggling for 40 years now with little rise in that %. And the fool in Michigan WANTS TO CLOSE THIS SCHOOL THAT PROMOTES EDUCATION, CHILDREN, LIFE AND all that is good? Who is allowing dictatorship? Did Michigan drop out of the United States? Or did the United States drop Democracy? gh
  • #5.2 - Mon Apr 25, 2011 6:47 PM EDT

Monday, May 9, 2011

Massive teach-in and Solidarity March Thursday City Hall on Broadway

A coming together of many groups in NYC for a solidarity march and massive teach-in to protest cuts in the education budget and lay-off of teachers on Thursday, May 12, 4-7 pm in front of City Hall, 260 Broadway.
"There are $515 million in threatened cuts to NYC schools, which will mean a loss of over 6,000 teachers and countless other programs including after school programs, arts programs, tutoring, sports, counseling, professional development, other essential services and an increase in class."
Over 111 have sign up as attending on Facebook.

New York state budget slashes education, health care and taxes on the rich

Andrew Cuomo has his own nifty program "Education Performance and Efficiency Grants" for school districts in New York State similar to the one his protege, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan concocted in the department of education.  "The budget establishes “Education Performance and Efficiency Grants,” which will be awarded on a competitive basis to school districts that demonstrate significant improvements in student performance and to districts that undertake long term structural changes to reduce costs and improve efficiency. In other words, districts will be forced to compete over which can make the most drastic cuts in order to receive meager additional funds.
New York state budget slashes education, health care and taxes on the rich

Friday, May 6, 2011

Arne Duncan considers teaching an honorable profession as long as they agree to "Race to the Top"

"I consider teaching an honorable and important profession, and it is my goal to see that you are treated with the dignity we award to other professionals in society. In too many communities, the profession has been devalued." 
U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan wrote an open letter to the teachers of America in honor of teacher appreciation week this month. What do you think about what he is saying? Read his letter.

Buffalo Public Schools under two models

Districts were invited to apply for School Improvement Grants under Section 1003(g), in order to support implementation of one of four intervention models prescribed by the USDE. To receive funding for the 2011-2012 school year, districts with identified schools must implement one of the following prescribed intervention models:

RESTART MODEL: Convert a school or close it and re-open it as a charter school or under an education management organization.
TURNAROUND MODEL: Replace the principal, screen existing school staff, and rehire no more than half the teachers; adopt a new governance structure; and improve the school through curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time, and other strategies.
TRANSFORMATION MODEL: Replace the principal and improve the school through comprehensive curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time and, by the end of the 2010-11 school year, amend any existing collective bargaining agreement as necessary to require that teachers (or building principals where applicable) assigned to these schools be evaluated in the 2011-12 school year and thereafter in accordance with recently enacted legislation pertaining to principal and teacher evaluation.
SCHOOL CLOSURE: Close the school and send the students to higher-achieving schools in the district.
Buffalo Public Schools opted for 7 Restart and 2 Transformation models yesterday at the committee meeting of the Buffalo Board of Education. But some problems ahead as the Parent Coordinating Committee Council plans to send a letter to state education officials contending they were excluded from the process. And it may present problems for  district officials  when they review the models they voted to implement under the SIG application, on May 9.

Time to talk about charter school conversion superintendent Williams says

As the Buffalo Public Schools move forward in its plan to submit the new changes to the state by May 9,  the School Board unanimously voted on at the committee meeting last night to turn nine  PLA schools into either a transformation or models using an educational partnership organization (EPO), Superintendent James Williams said its time to talk about charter conversion especially when the state education department will identify three to six more schools on the persistently failing list.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Buffalo School Board voted unanimously to approve district plans for persistently lowest achieving schools

At a special Buffalo School Board committee meeting tonight that lasted 28 minutes Buffalo News education blogger, Pasciak shared on live blog, Buffalo School Board voted unanimously to approved the plans for the persistently lowest achieving schools. The State Improvement Grant application (SIG), the superintendent of schools James A. Williams is sending out by the deadline date, Monday, May 9th, includes two schools under transformation-Burgard High School and Riverside High School along with seven  under the supervision of an Educational Partnership Organization (EPO) and the School Board--BEST School #6, Bilingual Center #33, Futures Academy #37,  Drew Science Magnet #59, Waterfront #95, Lafayette, and East High School.
While five Board members voted to allow, the vice-president of the District Parent Coordinating Council, Sam Radford  to speak for 10 minutes, three Board members, Louis J. Petrucci, Park District, John B. Licata, at-Large and Florence D. Johnson at-Large voted no to his request to address the committee. Pasciak is working on a live chat for Monday morning at 11am for anyone interested in asking district officials specific questions about the plans.
DPCC boycotting schools on May 16, a half-day of school and they plan to send a letter to state education department to protest the PLA plans the district submitting on Monday, May 9, for not including them in the process when selecting the models according to VP of group Mr. Radford.

Superintendent changed the plans for persistently lower achieving schools, teachers no longer removed

Whitney Tilson (3rd background)

Whitney Tilson (3rd background)
"Let’s be honest: we need a lot more well-off, well-educated white folks with a personal stake in both charter schools and education reform in general if we’re going to take reform to the next level, both politically and operationally.Whitney Tilson, hedge fund manager and major funding angel for the school privatizing Democrats for Education Reform, thinks there’s not enough rich, educated white folks.( Preaprez) click photo to his blog.

Arne Duncan

Arne Duncan
U.S. Secretary of Education, click photo