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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Diane Ravitch blog

The Very Expensive Mandates of Race to the Top The states unlucky enough to “win” Race to the Top funding are arriving at a startling conclusion: Race to the Top mandates cost more than the money that was awarded to the state and the districts. Ken Mitchell, a superintendent in Rockland County, New York, did the math. Mitchell determined that school districts in his county are spending far more than they receive as they try to implement the mandates. When you consider that Governor Cuomo enacted rigid tax caps on every public school district in the state, it means that costs (for Race to the Top) are soaring at the same time that the district cannot raise new sources of revenue. The result: layoffs, program cuts, larger class sizes. Mitchell writes that in six districts in his county, the cost of RTTT implementation will be $11 million, but the revenues will be only $400,000. This is a deficit of more than $10 million that must be covered by district funds. Where will the money come from? When you consider that there is no research base to support the initiatives demanded by the Race to the Top, this is, as he puts it, “a grand and costly experiment that has the potential to take public education in the wrong direction…” That is putting it politely. The word is getting out. Race to the Top has no research base. Race to the Top is a burden on the states that “won” the money. It will be a burden on the districts that have the misfortune to “win” funding. The United Teachers of Los Angeles were wise to refuse to sign on to their district’s application. If they won, the district would soon by laying off teachers to pay for consultants and experimental programs of no value. Race to the Top makes guinea pigs of the nation’s public schools and their pupils. I will vote for Obama despite this terrible program.

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No research to support future competitive funding

Move On! By David G. Sciarra

Putting aside pronouncements from inside-the-beltway pundits, there is no research to support continuation of competitive grants in general, and Race to the Top (RTTT) in particular. There is simply no evidence that RTTT has improved, or even has the potential to improve, education opportunities and outcomes for the our nation’s students, especially those in attending public schools in high need

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Portland Public Schools postpone RTTT application

I have been an educational evaluation professional, teacher, and author for 35 years. I've published three books and 38 technical articles on teacher evaluation. I directed three U.S. Department of Education teacher evaluation grants, and was president of the national Consortium for Research on Educational Accountability and Teacher Evaluation. I have conducted pilot programs in real schools with real teachers and administrators. It's always a good idea to have the widest community participation in teacher evaluation development. However, at this time because of technical and sociological reasons, I commend the educators of Portland Public Schools for postponing application for Race to the Top grant funding. Race to the Top programs usually feature a kind of student

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Skeptical unions pose challenge to districts’ Race to the Top

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How are state ed departments managing and supporting RTTT reforms? New Research.....

But little research has explored how states are managing and supporting the implementation of these reforms.

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Los Angeles teacher's union passes on RTTT application super disagreed

However, that's not the reason that UTLA president, Warren Fletcher, gave for refusing to sign the application. "Race to the Top costs more than it brings in," Fletcher told the Daily News. "You're essentially setting up a system with a lot of bureaucracy,and those pieces have to stay in place after the grant period." "There were enough issues out there that were complex enough that we could not get to the point where we could get together with the district," he continued. However, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, who tried to come to an agreement with Fletcher and UTLA but failed, had a different account. He said that the teachers union was wary of the grant because of requirements that included “a new, robust teacher evaluation

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LA teachers union didn't sign Race to the Top application: comment

The union is right, the cost of implementing RTTT is more than the grant money the district would receive. RTTT requires way more student testing that costs money and loses time on actual learning. The amount of time needed for professional development is another added cost and more loss to time on learning. The amount of training of in the new methods for evaluations, the additional amount of time needed for additional supervision of teachers is more added costs. The mountains of data collection and storage is costly as well. How do I know this? Because even though my district chose not to sign on the RTTT, we are required by law to implement it because our state did sign on to RTTT. We have to implement by 2014. It's very expensive, the districts that needed the money were eligible for federal funds before RTTT. The RTTT is re-worked federal programs that were formally targeted to needy school districts. Arne Duncan thought of this clever program to spread this money around to even wealthy districts as a carrot to get states to buy into his education policy. A policy that is unproven in terms of raising student achievement. It's all smoke and mirrors. LA teachers made the right choice.

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Should teachers be armed? A national debate, yes or no?

Teachers armed with guns in Texas school

There is a school of thought that staff should be armed in schools, while others continue to believe in gun free zone laws in schools.

If so, should  teachers and administrators  be required to take coursework for certification  that includes training  and workshops in knowledge of second amendment rights, proper use of firearms, and permit to carry a gun in schools?

There are school districts in the nation that quietly allow for  armed staff, teachers and administrators.

Yet to have stopped Adam Lanza it would have taken more than a pistol, but a school security plan that included access to high power weapons locked up ready for use by specially trained school staff to prevent what happened at Sandy Hook and Columbine.

Several years ago, a man  walked into the front office of a school shot his wife.

This scenario is repeated too often in schools across the nation so the question many are asking is how do we prevent school violence?

Should there be a national dialogue about violence in schools that includes security plans for allowing  armed staff?

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Gov. Cuomo negotiates sweet deal with Ralph Wilson amid cash strapped school districts

Although, King Andrew Cuomo imposed a property tax cap strangling state school districts, he allocated  millions of taxpayers funds  to Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson to keep a losing football team in the area.

And included in the sweet deal was $11 million over the life of the lease for operating costs more than in 1998, because the duration of the agreement is shorter.

While, King Cuomo sends his top aides in commercial jets to negotiate these unprofitable and questionable investments across the state, he threatened to deny impoverished and cash strapped school districts an  increase in funding if they  failed  to meet a January deadline to submit teacher evaluation plans to  the State Ed folks in Albany.

Mean while, State Ed is unable to review the flood of evaluations districts are sending in because its still hiring the staff according to the Buffalo News perusal of the website.

The Governor called himself a "lobbyist" for children, but he's more of a mouthpiece for the hedge fund investors that contributed heavily to his campaign "the most hedge fund money – nearly $2.6 million for his 2010 campaign ..." helped by Democrats for Education Reform. They sit on his newly created Education Reform Commission and appoints educational advisors to his staff with ties to these investors, especially charter school advocates. Legal challenges to his education policies similar to the one on the property cap because of its devastating impact on school districts in New York State likewise might be needed with Cuomo's threat to withhold funds for not submitting teacher evaluation plans by January 17.

One official said the total public investment of $226 million between the county and state compares to about $214 million in the 1998 deal. But that older deal only called for about $68 million in stadium investments, with none of the money coming from the team.

In all, when all the pots are added up, the total deal is $271.52 million, Poloncarz said. Of that total, the Bills will pay $44.6 million (16.5 percent), the state will pay $123.5 million (45.5 percent), and the county will pay $103.3 million (38 percent). Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.4

Overabundance of tests in schools sends wrong message

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Adam Lanza and Columbine black battle fatigues and a military vest

Adam Lanza wore black battle fatigues similar to the one the  two Columbine students used when they opened fire in the school cafeteria.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School

I left work on Friday, listening to the Principal of the high school asking us for a moment of silence for the victims, 20 children and 7 adults bodies riddled with bullets from a young man obviously mentally ill using semi-auto weapons at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct. 

My fingers froze on the computer, but it wasn't until I got home and researched the shooting did   I realized the magnitude of what had happened at the school. 

I kept looking for updates on the internet  like so many  in the nation hearing, seeing and reading about the horrific tragedy.

The  20 children  ages 6 and 7 in a  in first grade massacred along with the school principal, psychologist, and the others all teachers some beginning their careers, while two nearing retirement age   7 all women.

And the perpetrator age 20, believed to have killed his mother first at their home located in an  upper-class Newtown neighborhood used her car to transport himself and his weapons to the elementary school where his mother may have worked. Nancy Lanza got custody of her son Adam Lanza after parents divorced in 2009. There is another sibling Ryan Lanza that mistakenly was blamed as the perpetrator of one of the worst massacres in an elementary school in the United States.

Mrs. Lanza got to keep the estate on 3 acres of land along with  child support settlements starting  at $10, 000 monthly to  increase to  over $13,000 at another period in later years.

The father is a tax expert, a VP of a company, and adjunct professor in taxes at a college in Massachusetts. Mrs. Lanza  has been profile as a teacher aide, school volunteer, and substitute teacher, though NYTimes article cited superintendent of the district saying there wasn't any connection. Mrs. Lanza dressed classy, a nice person, while one report said she was rigid.

Mother Jones Magazine featured a store in a video where she shopped, the customers and merchants describing her as a happy person. Adam was portrayed in some  news reports as very bright, an honors student, socially awkward with a disability specifically autism and home school because of battles Mrs. Lanza had with school officials.

It was  eerie to read how the children he shot were his own age, 6 years old when a similar massacre occurred at the Columbine High School. And  the youths involved in the shootings wore similar clothing a "black battle fatigues and a military vest,"and  weapons as though he was mimicking them. 

The reports of why this young man committed this horrific crime on 20 innocent children and 7 adult women at Sandy Hook Elementary School still are being updated on the internet, but mental illness and school safety certainly are going  to be part of the dialogue because Lanza shot his way into a school with a security system that was supposed to be designed to prevent what had happened , while the state of mental illnesses supports has not improved for young people since Columbine.

Mass Shootings: Maybe What We Need Is a Better Mental-Health Policy | Mother Jones

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Can anybody even explain how the Triborough Amendment can be overridden by Cuomo? (For those who don't know, the Triborough Amendment is a New York State law that states that when a municipal contract expires, the rules of that contract stay in place until a new contract is negotiated) Now with the new evaluation there will be unannounced visits, "validators" and only 13% of teachers will be able to appeal ineffective ratings. None of these items are in our current UFT contract. As a matter of fact, none of these items are in any New York State teachers contracts which are all covered by the Triborough Amendment. Can the state simply override these contracts? Don't the rank and file teachers have ANY say in this? 

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New York City no evaluation plan yet

Overall, 633 of the state’s 694 districts have submitted plans, but only 274 have had them approved. The New York City school system, which educates 38 percent of the state’s students, also has not submitted its evaluation plan.

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Yonkers school district no teacher evaluation plan yet

District officials have been unable to reach an agreement with the Yonkers Federation of Teachers, despite all-day meetings on Tuesday and Thursday. State law requires that key elements of the evaluation plans be decided through collective bargaining.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mid year layoffs possible Buffalo schools

Buffalo Public Schools mid year layoffs possibly happening slips being sent out December 17, to meet the required 30 day notice period Super Pamela Brown announced at Wednesday night Board meeting.

Brown told board members last time she talked with BTF union representing teachers was about two weeks ago

The BCSA union reps for district administrators nearer to ironing out an APPR than BTF.

Super Brown asking community to help her rein the BTF back to contract negotiations to work out a teacher evaluation plan acceptable to State Ed officials in Albany before the January 17 deadline.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to withhold school funding unless union officials negotiate  with district a teacher evaluation plan by January 17.

Mean while, district officials in court appealing the involuntary teacher transfer ruling BTF won a few months ago.

The BTF Delegate Council voted to stop negotiating with district until Super Brown complied with court ruling make teachers whole for violating the collective bargaining agreement.

In other board news, school counselors moving along in doing senior reviews, district partnering with UB to help seniors with the financial aid process while Say Yes to Education application is ready and site facilitators selected for the PLA and Focus schools.

District won a $50,000 technology grant yearly for three years for the common core.

Turn out for the redistricting meetings low reported West District Rep. Ralph Hernandez, but there are three plans one to be selected soon in preparation for the School Board district seat elections in May. The nominating petition starts about the last week in February 2013.

State Ed received documents from Buffalo School Board regarding the Chameleon proposal to convert three schools to charters.

School Zone | The Buffalo News

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Is Say Yes to education in Buffalo similar to the Kalamazoo promise?

Ever since, the New Markets Tax Credit bill passed in the second term of the Clinton Administration, rich donors covertly and overtly funded projects in underserved communities. And educational programs emerged as the pet projects for these wealthy donors. In 2005, Kalamazoo public schools superintendent had announced a program funded by mysterious donors to pay the tuition of every high school  graduate in the district to attend a public college. Sound familiar?

Yet, some believe if it weren't for the astronomical tax cuts these wealthy folks received  the last 50 years, there wouldn't be a need for rich donors to step in because many public colleges such as CUNY and the California system would still be free, while students would be less likely to have borrowed loans to pay for their college education.

Now, we have to depend on these donors to partially foot the tuition bill for some college students in the nation.  While they continue to enjoy undeserved tax cuts, the rest of us have to depend on their meager handouts.

The Kalamazoo public schools have one of the oldest tuition handouts  in the nation where mysterious wealthy donors meet in secrecy to discuss and plan the project.

Complete coverage of Kalamazoo Promise: Everything you want to know |

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Access to top elite public schools still a problem for Latinos and African-Americans in New York City

White students access top NYC public middle schools more than minorities.
Inequities continue to exist in the vast majority of public schools in the nation that continue to limit the number of poor children from African American and Latino families. It's a practice that not only impacts high school admissions but also the middle schools as found in a New York City report.

And it's one thing when it happens in the private school sector but for it to continue in the public school sector is not  only shameful, but the practice deprives a vast majority over 70 percent of children from poor families from an equal educational opportunity.

African-American civil-rights organization filed a complaint challenging what they contend are discriminatory practices in public school admissions in NYC schools.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

The elections over, what now?

The presidential election behind us, what now?
Prez Barack Obama didn't promise anything or commit himself to anything except to hire 100 math and science teachers even touted his  Race to the Top  education reform policy as successful in his televised debates.
Hardly was he ever challenged while the nation's leading education unions too busy blindly working behind the scenes on the get-out-the-vote for Obama/Biden democrat team.
Rumors circulated U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan is stepping down, the name of former D.C Chancellor Michelle Rhee surfaced as a possible candidate.
The only thing that has changed is Obama won the election, while U.S. Senate still in Democratic control, U.S. House of Representatives still in GOP hands and U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn at the helm of the House education committee.
There is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) seven years overdue and the issue of the waivers from key mandates in the No Child Left Behind that irked GOP leaders on the House education committee.
Differences in teacher evaluation less federal government intrusion, while more focus on state and district role. Surprisingly, what both Democrats and Republicans appear to be bipartisan on is passing charter school legislation, a pet project  of Prez Obama that helped a Amendment One passed in Georgia election night.
One of the few surprises in Georgia ballot tallies on Tuesday was the startling support given by African-American voters to Amendment One, the measure to permit the state to create a commission that will directly license charter schools.
The African-American community hoodwinked by an ad with Obama encouraging the proposed constitutional amendment though many opposed it based on its re segregation of public schools.
On  a local scene,  six district school board seats are up for election in May along with the board redesigning the district boundaries based on reapportionment. Many of the current members elected in the past because of the  concern in the community  for a net-work of charter schools proposal former school superintendent Marion Canedo hired to implement. It didn't happened as the new school board supported a moratorium on charters in the City of Buffalo.
Things have changed since at the State Department of Education a new state commissioner of education, Dr. John B. King a charter school proponent hired amid a scandal when the previous commissioner David Steiner stepped down after the controversy downstate in NYC surrounding the appointment of Cathy Black NYC Chancellor.
If nothing else, "keep up the faith, baby" the struggle to reform public education in urban schools is an on-going tug-of-war. Don't expect too much from Prez Obama  second term but more havoc from Arne Duncan and once dust settles regarding the federal deficit with a renew bipartisan move to continue the charter movement.
But, "El pueblo unidojamás será vencido," and advocates of public education "están unidos!"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Rampant student absenteeism leaves many high school classrooms sparsely populated in Buffalo Public Schools

"Not only are many classes not fully enrolled, but rampant student absenteeism leaves many high school classrooms sparsely populated on any given day, according to the consultants, who were hired by Say Yes to Education. “Very few of the high school classes we went into had more than nine students,” Scott Joftus, one of the consultants, said during a meeting with The Buffalo News Editorial Board.His firm, Cross & Joftus, sent observation teams into 195 classrooms throughout the district last spring. The five-minute observations were used to analyze systemic issues, he said, not to evaluate individual teachers."
These observers overlooked the attendance offices in the high schools that would have helped them to understand the "sparsely populated classrooms" and the absenteeism problem in the Buffalo Public Schools.
The district laid -off fifteen attendance officers on August 2005, while plans to replace them were inadequate or nonexistent. Thus, schools  were left without a means of enforcing the New York State Compulsory Education laws and students did not benefit from a public school education. This district-wide educational neglect contributed to the culture of absenteeism studied by consultants and cited in numerous reports.
Thus, for a period of six years from September 2005 through June 2011,  the Buffalo Public Schools operated with only two attendance attendance officers.  This was not an adequate number of officers to respond to 37,000 students in the district during this period.
In January 2011, three attendance officers were recalled to work in three high schools  through the School Improvement Grant (SIG). Subsequently, seven attendance officers were recalled on September 2011.
There are now 12 attendance officers, still not an adequate number to respond to the  culture of absenteeism  that  had developed during the six year period from 2005 through 2011 in the district after  the district laid off these officers.
Compounding this problem is the lack of an administrative infrastructure in Central Office in City Hall to handle attendance.
For example, there existed an Attendance Department in Central Office, but it disappeared about 2002, followed by district officials pulling out all the attendance officers from the schools, warehousing them in the old Kensington High School building that no longer had any students except a small program for suspended students.
And three years later, the Buffalo Board of Education voted to lay off  the attendance officers in 2005 over a dispute about health care benefits with the Buffalo Teachers Federation during contract negotiations.
Former Superintendent James Williams threatened to lay off a group of teachers and administrators if the unions didn't accept the single health carrier insurance instead of the multiple plans the contract offered.  Williams continued to stall hiring back the teachers until the school board voted to recall the attendance officers after allocating $500,000 in the school budget.
Meanwhile student absenteeism was rampant and academic achievement the lowest ever in the district coupled with the ever growing number of Buffalo Public Schools on the NYS list of persistently lowest achieving schools.
And so began the lay off of 15 attendance officers in 2005, and the growth of the culture of absenteeism in the Buffalo Public Schools.
Today, attendance offices in the high schools are under-staffed and not operating at the levels they  had been in the past before the attendance officers were laid off.  There are some  high schools that still  don't have fully functioning attendance offices. And  it's a struggle for an attendance officer to develop the infrastructure while overwhelmed at the same time with combating absenteeism and truancy.
The district hired a national attendance consultant in 2010-2011, Hedy Chang, while the Buffalo Teachers Federation produced their own attendance studies during this period.
So why is absenteeism still a problem? What have we learned from the consultants and the studies? Why the district not hiring more attendance officers, and why is it not adequately supporting the attendance offices in the high schools?
We have been inundated with costly reports many collecting dust in some desk drawer in Central Office. Yet, what have we learned and how is the data used to inform decisions?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dr. Peggy Brooks-Bertram, launched her 2nd book of letters

Dr. Peggy Brooks-Bertram,  co-editor of Go, Tell Michelle, a collection of letters to the First Lady, proposed a similar project to Say Yes to Education only this time it was for the new superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools.

So, she asked the residents of the City of Buffalo to respond to her call for letters.

Her idea for the book she wrote, "...preceded selection of a new superintendent by at least two months," as well as "to support Say Yes to Education, Buffalo efforts to enhance education..." in the community.

Dr. Brooks-Bertram attended the superintendent search forums in the community saw a low turn out wanted to engage more stakeholders in the process with an opportunity to respond.

Say Yes embraced her idea provided the funds to compile and edit the book with over 100 letters called, Letters to the Superintendent, a Community Responds published on October 2012.

And over 100 city residents attended the launching of the book tonight at the Daemen College International Center for Excellence in Animation at the Tri-Main St. Bldg in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy.

Board members Mary Ruth Kapsiak, Sharon Belton- Cottman, Dr. Barbara Nevergold, co-editor, Go, Tell Michelle, and Uncrowned Queens, and Lou Petrucci and Superintendent Dr.Pamela C. Brown attended the gala affair.

Also, present were David Rust, Jennifer Parker, President Edwin G. Clausen, Daemen College,  Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, Pres. Buffalo Community Foundation.

Notables in the audience writers Gary Earl Ross, and Karima Amin, Dr. Tammy Alsace, Multilingual Ed. Director, PBS, Dorothy Hill, Elena Cala Buscarino, PBS, Public Relations, and others.

Pictured above is Dr. Brooks-Bertram, standing in front of the exhibit she also served as curator, featuring letters from her book, holding a special recognition award from David Rust, Director Say Yes to Education.

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Billionaire attempts takeover of Bridgeport, CT Ed Board

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Hedge fund operator got state to take over schools

Hedge fund operator got state to take over schools

Edited Aug-05-11 by roxiejules

The parties were put together by a group funded by $1.3 million from the Walton Family Foundation. It appears the public voice was left out of the discussion.

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Wealthy donors and state wrongfully attempted take over a Connecticut public school

a group of wealthy donors, which in December created the Bridgeport Education Reform fund with $400,000, in part to bring in Paul Vallas, the former New Orleans schools chiefs and a national figure in education reform, to help run the district as interim superintendent didn't succeed because the Ct State Supreme Court ruled state take over violated the rights of board members to be trained first.

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Mississippi agencies sued over 'school to prison pipeline'

Mississippi Agencies Sued Over 'School-to-Prison' Pipeline By Nirvi Shah on October 29, 2012 12:14 PM | No comments The U.S. Department of Justice sued several government agencies in Mississippi last week, saying they systematically violated the due process rights of juveniles and are thus operating a "school-to-prison" pipeline in the area. The Justice Department said children in Meridian, Miss., are routinely jailed for minor offenses, including school discipline incidents, and are punished disproportionately without due process. Black students and students with disabilities are especially affected.

Printed from Education Week

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Time to negotiate a contract, eight years too long for teachers to wait

The logjam that exist between the Buffalo Public Schools and the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) is resolvable. And it has to happen in order to bring both parties back to the negotiating table.  All eyes are on Superintendent Pamela C. Brown to make it happen.
The  Council of Delegates approved unanimously a Resolution "that the BTF cease participation in the APPR discussions until the Superintendent (Pamela Brown) and the Board of Education agree to abide by the contract it approved."
 That is an arbitrator ruled in August the district violated the collective bargaining agreement when teachers were screen inappropriately and involuntary transferred from three low-performing schools--Futures, Drew Science Magnet  and Bilingual Center #33. The district had  to cease and desist with "the Turnaround-related involuntary transfers of teachers," while, a State Supreme Court justice affirmed this decision in September.
A case dealing with former Super James Williams denial of voluntary transfers occurred  in 2010. The arbitration results on July 25, 2011, again supported the collective bargaining agreement that the district had to honor the transfers.
This time there were teachers that could not voluntary transfer because of how the involuntary transfers handled in this case.
And Super  Brown offered to settled the case by giving $2,500 each to both groups of teachers with the condition  the union accept one of the teacher evaluation models the State Ed folks had approved in other districts such as in Syracuse and Binghamton.
But the union rejected the offer because it contended it had won two prior cases on the matter, an arbitration decision and State Supreme Court affirmation of the decision, stating they should be compensated not "ask them to do more," said BTF President Philip Rumore.
The Buffalo News wrote, "... this is the first major test of the new superintendent’s ability to negotiate a major agreement of any sort with the union – seen by many observers as an indication of her ability to hammer out a new contract to replace the one that expired eight years ago." And there is a pile of state and federal funds at stake over $50 million.
Is it possible for  the district to negotiate with the union to make the teachers whole and move beyond the logjam?
Yet, both groups are back in court  again this time the Appellate, while  the district appeals the State Supreme Court ruling that  affirmed the arbitrator's decision.
While, there may be teachers that don't want to return to the schools they were involuntary transferred and that might help to solve some of this issue, what about those who want to return and those that were not able to transfer contrary to the CB, how are they made whole?
While the real culprit some say are the U.S. Department of Education and New York State Education Department imposing on districts four turnaround school models that use tactics contrary to the collective bargaining agreements.
And of course there is Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatening to deny districts additional school aide if they don't submit a timely teacher plan  a deadline he set for January 17,  2013.
Also, some skeptics believe Gov. Cuomo reasons for supporting educational reform has more to do with acquiescing to the privatization forces that donated money to his campaign such as Democrats for Education Reform, The New York Times reported on May 9, 2010, than any genuine interest in appointing an education reform  commission.
The reform commission  he established was criticized for being"... rigged for pre-ordained outcomes" on the Perdido Street School blog.
Meanwhile there is the teacher step case still making its way through federal court though a judge ruled in favor of the district in February, affirming the earlier March ruling of  the NYS Court of Appeals.
And there is still the millions of dollars accumulating in the district coffers related to the step case when teachers were denied their contractual salary steps after the wage freeze was lifted in 2007. The district only provided one step so this battle continues in federal court.
It would be interesting to know what are the court costs on both sides dealing with these various legal challenges through the years, a sum certainly that would be more than whatever crumbs the feds and the state allocated to the district under their turnaround plans. It's the irony of these tug of wars some say.
Besides the teachers who deserve to be paid, it's the children harmed the most when the funds from the feds and state diminish yearly for the turnaround plans until there isn't any more money to support the educational policies the privatization zealots have imposed on public schools in the nation.
And there is en election looming,  if  Barack Obama isn't elected, what happens, do we continue to turnaround or "bend down" or take ownership of public education again?
Still, it's time to negotiate the contract

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

State ed directs school board members to hold public hearing on charter schools

Florence Johnson, at large school board rep. voiced her  concerns at the Buffalo Board of education meeting tonight about the latest State Ed requirements that Buffalo Board of Education permit a public hearing for Chameleon to present their proposal for converting Waterfront and East High School into a charter schools, because they already have a EPO through John Hopkins set to start in January part of the Promise neighbourhood initiative.

Board memberJohnson asked "how can we have a hearing on an EPO school we've already approved? How can we have a charter presentation on a school the board has already approved as an EPO?"

State Ed response makes one wonder if anybody in Albany knows what it is they are doing in the Race to the Top initiative. It gets more illogical daily,as confusing as, the evaluation plan the  district has to develop in partnership with the  unions.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

It's time to move Leonardo da Vinci

Although, there is support on the school board to reconfigure Leonardo da Vinci High School from a 9-12 grade to a 5-12 grade model as North District Rep. Jason McCarthy advocated, the other option is a 7th to 12th grade reconfiguration at the renovated Grover High School. The building is shaped like the letter "Y" possibly could incorporate a model to house the junior high school on one side and the high school on the other. This an opportunity for the Buffalo Board of Education to move the Leonardo da Vinci High School located in a cramped space in a former residential hall at D'Youville College to the newly renovated Grover Cleveland  High School. The board should stand by its own resolution passed back in April 2011 not to renew the lease at D'Youville College. And State Ed folks will not continue to fund it at $857k, the chief financial officer reported at finance and operations committee meeting last Wednesday, October 17. While students at da Vinci have access to the college, it is limited to the library, gym, pool and for classes on campus for the few students enrolled in courses for college credit. On a personal level, when my daughter attended da Vinci she was not allowed in the college book store though she wanted to buy school supplies there. She didn't have access to the college cafeteria that served better food. Students should have more access to the D'Youville College campus, including any study-abroad programs. If the mission of da Vinci is to prepare students for college why not provide to them the experience by opening up the college campus, especially to many students coming from families where they are the first to attend higher education? I told my daughter a former graduate of da Vinci about the plans to to move the school. She responded, "oh great, now the students can breathe!" "It was so cramped for us in what used be a dormitory,"she said. Secondly, Grover is within walking distance to the college so students still can take courses for credit there. Thirdly, the building at Grover is larger with a capacity to enroll 900 students instead of 299 at the D'Youville site. This will allow the district to provide access to a college preparatory curriculum to more students meeting the criterion for admissions at da Vinci from International Prep and Early Middle College, as well as, other students during open enrollment. Finally, the board has an opportunity to not only to  continue Leonardo da Vinci, but to expand this innovative high school in one of its own buildings, providing access to a high performing school  to an ethnically diverse student population on  the West side It's cost effective and students will have ample space to participate in traditional high school activities not available to them in the cramped space at D'Youville College. It's time to go home for da Vinci to a renovated Grover now called Leonardo da Vinci High School. Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.4

Saturday, October 20, 2012

School board member McCarthy supports moving da Vinci expanding opportunities for more families at high performing schools

Jason McCarthy, best known for his advocacy and development of the first dog park in the City of Buffalo, at the school board finance and operations committee meeting Wednesday supported that Leonardo da Vinci High School move to a newly renovated old Grover Cleveland High School building on the West side.  Back on April 2011,  the Buffalo Board of Education approved a resolution not to renew the leases of Early Middle College High School and Leonardo da Vinci High School. Instead supported the district end its expensive lease at D'Youville College renovate Grover move the students. And CFO of the district Barbara Smith at the committee meeting added, that the state already said they're not going to give us aid on that lease $857K (at da Vinci). Something has to be reduced to pay for it." So, Boorady, a community superintendent offered they are resubmitting to State Ed for lease aid because da Vinci is located on a college campus. Doesn't the State Ed folks already know it? It's exciting for the Buffalo Board of Education to expand the student enrollment at da Vinci  in one of the few college preparatory  high schools with the largest population of black and Puerto Rican students in the district. Yet, school officials advocated International Prep and  Early Middle College  High School instead be housed at Grover both former College Board schools no longer funded by this entity. And the questionable academic performance of these latter two schools some say why continue to invest in them? The community superintendent overseeing I-Prep reported at the Buffalo Board of Education Committee meeting Wednesday, Oct. 17 the school has, 515 students, 29 percent graduation rate for Class of 2010, 50 percent for Class of 2011, 30 percent for '12, while Early Middle College had 297 students with a 54 percent grad rate for class of 2010, 65 percent for Class of 2011, 64 percent for '12. Besides, Early Middle College once it moves from its downtown location away from  Erie Community   College,  what happens to its mission of providing a unique 5 year high school program where students obtain both a high school diploma from Buffalo Public Schools and a college degree from ECC and its relationship to ECC ?  So why keep a model that lacks a mission with a graduation rate of hovering between 54 and 64%, though better than the district average of 50%? And, International Prep with an enrollment of academically talented international students will add more diversity at a newly expanded Leonardo da Vinci High School at the old Grover building where they had been originally housed. Yet board member Sharon Belton Cottman, West Ferry Rep. supports da Vinci remain at D'Youville College with more space. Also, Middle College and International prep students who meet the criterion for admissions at Da Vinci in an expanded and larger high school building at Grover provides these students mostly black, Latinos and International an opportunity to access a college preparatory curriculum similar to City Honors. Buffalo News Blogger Mary Pasciak reported how "McCarthy argued passionately for the district to stick to the plan to move da Vinci to Grover and expand it to begin in fifth grade, rather than ninth grade. Da Vinci is one of the most highly regarded high schools in the district. Belton-Cottman said da Vinci should remain on the college campus and push to get more space there." There are different opinions from board members about what to do even after they had approved a resolution not to renew the leases of Early Middle College and Leonardo da Vinci. Yet moving da Vinci to a newly renovated Grover Cleveland High School with a model reconfigured   for grades 7th through 12th is another viable option cost effective and the building has a capacity to house 900 students. And board member McCarthy views it as an opportunity to offer parents more choices to access high performing schools in the district as well as to provide the students in a newly reconfigured Leonardo da Vinci an opportunity to create another City Honors High School. But whatever is decided it must be quickly, the engineers advised for construction.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Inside the 'Genius School'

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Murdoch company access to new student database riles parents

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BPS Distinguished Educator Plan Oct 2012

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Millions dollars funding for alternate transportation to schools....

Federal funding is available to make walking and biking to school less dangerous. The Safe Routes to School program will award millions of dollars in grants this year, including more than $1.6 million in Western New York. The regional office of the state Department of Transportation is reviewing 21 applications for funding, according to spokeswoman Susan Surdej. The program is intended to promote walking and forms of transportation to school other than motor vehicles. Projects, such as new sidewalks, crosswalks and signs within a two-mile radius of an elementary school, could be fully funded. There also is funding for non-infrastructure improvements, such as crossing guard training and materials, she said.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Buffalo public criterion schools criticized in report for lack of reserved seats during open enrollment

There are a number of Buffalo public schools that require an admissions  test but it is the high performing ones that appear to be exclusionary.

And these include just three--- School #64, the Olmsted now housed at newly renovated old Kensington building, and City Honors.

There are others Hutch Tech, Emerson Culinary, Mckinley,Buffalo Academy of Visual Performing Arts and Da Vinci.

Yet it's City Honors the most exclusionary in admissions requirements that appears to favor white students nearly 70%, in a district where they make up less than 26%, while black and Latinos make-up over 80% of the Buffalo Public Schools student population. And the 28 failing priority schools in the district except for South Park High school enroll the majority of these minority students.

The principals of Olmsted and City Honors appeared at a school board meeting explaining and justifying the admissions process in their schools, yet it left one board member Sharon Belton Cottman still puzzled by the lopsided lack of ethnic diversity at these two high performing schools.

While distinguished educator, Dr. Judy Elliot report to the State Ed officials criticized the lack of reserved seats in the criterion schools during open enrollment that relegated the vast majority of students to the priority schools.

And these schools become dumping grounds for overage students, with few credits and behavioral problems.

She said criterion schools – those that require students to meet certain admissions requirements – do not have any seats reserved for open enrollment. Because of that, priority schools end up with a disproportionate number of students who lack credits, have lower skills and often have behavioral problems.

Elliot cited placement as a problem in her report how these priority failing schools enrolled a disproportionate number of students whose native language is not English and they don't have the supports to help them.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Absenteeism a pervasive problem says distinguished educator Judy Elliot

• Student absenteeism is a pervasive problem that requires a multi-agency effort at the city and county levels to effectively address it.

This is what distinguished educator, Dr. Judy Elliot wrote in her report to Commissioner John B. King at the NY S Education Department in Albany as part of her review of the 28 priority schools she oversees in the Buffalo City School District after she had a few telephone conversations and had spoken to  some district office officials  and community leaders.

Elliot who resides in Florida appointment as a consultant  back in August was contentious as board members argued the merit of her role as a distinguished educator.

And there was  concern about who picked up the tab for her work as a consultant at fees many viewed as exorbitant in a cash strapped district.

The district had studied the absenteeism problem hired a consultant last year, while the Buffalo Teachers Federation issued its own report on the problem.

As a result of these efforts,  the district recalled attendance officers laid off in 2005, after a dispute on the single carrier insurance with the teachers union.

This issue  not only became embroiled in the courts for three years, but   the attendance officers continued laid off for six years from September 2005 through August 2011.

So, the Buffalo Board of Education voted to abolish the positions of 15 attendance officers left only two to serve over 35, 000 students.

This absence of attendance officers in the Buffalo Schools over a six year period is correlated to the absenteeism problem.

So if  students had no one to compell them to  attend school for six years, this caused the high absenteeism problem in the district today.

While 15 attendance officers had been laid off in 2005, only 6 were recalled and two newly hired for a total of eight teachers.  Four were recalled in 2004, funded through the SIG grants in the four high schools labeled persistently failing.

Still, there are 28 priority schools and eight attendance officers not enough to provide adequate coverage for these schools. Unless more attendance officers hired, the absenteeism will not only persist, but  the academic failure of children.

Dr. Elliot should read the reports both the district through the consultant it hired Hedge Chang wrote in 2011 and the BTF study on absenteeism to address the issue.

The first step is to hire additional attendance officers, especially in the 28 schools Elliot oversees in addition to the "multi-agency" efforts she had recommended in her report. And it's not only the leadership in central office that has to be scrutinized, but the appropriateness of the district wide leadership currently in place.

Elliot should also review all the reports the district commissioned in the last ten years collecting dust on a central office shelf to better assist her to understand the problems. Also, recommend Super Pamela Brown study the reports as well costing the district thousands of dollars yet collecting dust in City Hall.

It may be that it's not the centralized decision making in City Hall, but the overall quality of this leadership district wide leaders put in positions as one board member had been quoted in the local media ..."highly paid, but don't know what they are doing."

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

John Hopkins site visits to Buffalo schools new EPO

John Hopkins is in town visiting with the priority schools in the Buffalo it won the contract to serve as the educational partnership organization (EPO).

Consultants are at Lafayette and East high schools  this week meeting with school leaders and staff as they prepare to manage and operate the two buildings in January. Distinguished educator Dr. Judy Elliott seen in the Library at Lafayette is  visiting too.

Talent Development Secondary is comprehensive, on-site support focused on building a strong and safe school environment, creating and refining effective professional learning communities, and ensuring effective teaching and learning in every classroom. Talent Development also helps create and manage an Early Warning Indicator data tool and multi-tiered student support process.

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Distinguished educator report calls for more decisions made in schools less at central office

And decision-making for everything from staffing to budgeting has been happening in City Hall – not in the schools, as it should be, Elliott wrote in her report, which the state Education Department released to The Buffalo News on Wednesday.

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Buffalo board of ed voted to allow super Pamela Brown to settle case of involuntary transfer teachers

The Buffalo School Board voted, 7-1, Wednesday to authorize the superintendent to decide how to proceed in the court case regarding involuntary teacher transfers at three schools.

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Buffalo News opinion page on district cancelling K-6th grade summer school

The district canceled summer school this year for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, mainly in an effort to save $4.1 million that would have been spent over a four-week program. Federal stimulus funds were non-existent and Title I funds that had been used in the past for summer school instead went to additional teacher assistants in kindergarten classes throughout the district during the regular school year.

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Prez Obama credits Race to Top in presidential debate

Prez  Obama still talked about wanting to hire 100,000 math and science teachers, but never explained why in a presidential debate where Romney showed superior debating skills and image. Prez Obama cited the success of his failed  Race to the Top education reform policy, while Romney talked about how Massachusetts public schools best in country after he was governor of the state.

Romney wants to diminish role of the feds in education views it as state and local.

Romney said," all the federal funds I'd have follow the child, and have the parents and child decide where they want to go to school." "I think [the government] has a significant role to play in education..." while Obama continues to show ignorance on public education, including on his RTTT policies, when he credits it for improving education.

Prez Obama needs a better debate coach cite more specific successful education reform policies in public education with data to support  it or risk being a one term president.

A record 36 elementary and middle schools now in danger of shut down

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Parent facilitators back in schools again as stipend volunteers

Mary Pasciak provided information on new changes on how parent facilitators are viewed and paid.

Will Keresztes, associate superintendent said:

We're ready to assign parent facilitators. This year, they will be regularly scheduled volunteers who received a stipend. Last year, they had individual contracts. They will be eligible for stipends that are $40 per day for a minimum of four hours per day, for a maximum of $2k a year. SIG schools had budgeted for much more. Parents at those schools would be eligible to receive up to $5k per year.

To be assigned, parent volunteers would complete a one-page application, interview with the principals and go through a background check. My goal is to have them in place in October. Under the old system, parent facilitators did not go through a background check. Under this one, they will. Licata is asking if something is being done to let parents know about these opportunities. I do expect principals to let their parents know. We'll do the things we usually do to get the word out -- ConnectEd calls, etc. But we're really leaving it up to the principals to get the word out. Volunteers are scheduled by the principal. The parent facilitators are not independent of the principal. That will be very clear to them. They will work the hours the principal stipulates. I cleared that up. If there is any challenge, I'd like to get personally involved and settle that.  We want parent facilitators in all our schools.

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Buffalo schools deficit will increase

Buffalo News education Blogger Pasciak last week  covered the school board finance committee meeting in City Hall.

CFO Barb Smith said  how "the baseline deficit for 2013-14 was $40.7M. The deficit will increase $7.3M based on current projections. And Smith said the district could have saved about $3M by changing bell times for some of the schools, but that didn't happen. She said the teachers were polled, and they weren't in favor of it.

McCarthy asked why the teachers get to decide. Smith: It's in the contract. McCarthy: Well, that'll handcuff us. Cottman: So what ideas do you have, Barbara, to fix this (deficit)? We need help. Smith: I have a lot of ideas, it's just whether they're actionable or not."

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Buffalo schools student placement application ready online

Student placement applications are now accepted online only. Families who don't have internet access can go to the student placement office on Ash Street and use one of the computers there."

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New State Ed rules for priority schools reform plans

Buffalo school official stated at Wednesday's committee meeting "The new rule states that we must have at least two-thirds of our priority schools put in a plan or in the middle of a plan for the 2013-14 school year, and the rest have to put in a plan for '14-15. We could put in for school innovation funds, which is a whole new reform model. CTE, looking for partners, is one model. Arts is another model. There are six models to choose from. The basic idea is we need the schools implementing some type of whole-school reform plan. We would need a minimum of seven new plans needing a new plan for '13-14. Waterfront would have to be among them."

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Buffalo Board committee meetings last night

The executive affairs committee of the Buffalo Board of Education, West District Rep. Ralph Hernandez chairs, met last night to discuss the redistricting committee, layoffs of cook managers, whether to allow a group present a proposal to convert Waterfront Elementary School and East High School into charter schools after the plans had been submitted to State Ed officials, and new priority schools plans must be submitted to State Ed using an innovative format focused on whole school plans in six areas that include CTE, the Arts, etc by Oct. 1. There are nine members on the redistricting committee its plan must be submitted before February 2013, when board members in district seats hit the pavement with petitions for reelection. The charter group Chameleon associated with Tapestry were not allow to present its controversial proposals to convert Waterfront and East High because Super Brown mentioned district had its own plan for Waterfront in Albany. And except for North District Jason McCarthy, the other board members protested the group previously presented its plans for the two schools to State Ed before sharing them with the board. And district lawyers added it was not a good idea or fair to other groups.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Charter school proponents invitation to present controversial proposal to school board gets little support

I strongly urge the Buffalo Board of Education to NOT allow Chameleon to present at the Executive Affairs meeting on September 19th as it is in my opinion a violation of the well prescribed method by which we select partners for our schools and as such, I submit that we are exposing the district to liability on a variety of fronts from the litigious to the potential loss of funds for improper practice. I am not anti-charter school and believe that under the present methodology used to select models for our low performing schools, a charter may be our only option. That being said, we are allowing a group to present to the board and we have not presented that opportunity to all the other parties that were previously interested, much less those that may have an interest now. That is why we use an RFP/RFQ so that individuals know that we are seeking partners. We have not issued either to my knowledge. I have had conversations with SED. SED will only approve a charter school or EPO that the board has approved first. BY going directly to SED, Chameleon is not complying with the established protocol. The prescribed method is to gain local approval first. They applied and were rejected. Unfortunately points were not awarded for persistency. Furthermore as Chameleon was not approved previously by the method the Buffalo Board of Education established by permitting them to present directly to the board, we undermine our own actions. I cannot support this as currently presented to the board and urge in the strongest terms possible that my fellow board members do the same. Sincerely, Lou Petrucci

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Buffalo teachers win court battle on involuntary transfers

Judge rules teacher transfers violate BTF contract - City & Region - The Buffalo News

A State Supreme Court justice upheld today, the ruling of an arbitrator that the Buffalo Public Schools violated the collective bargaining agreement of teachers when district officials involuntarily transferred 54 teachers.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chicago teachers close to reaching agreement

‘Framework’ to end Chicago teachers' strike

Teachers in Chicago last strike was in 1987 for 19 days, they are close to reaching an agreement that includes teacher evaluations based on other things besides test scores, and many other concerns especially teacher respect, laid off instructors with seniority having first pick at available openings in schools. 

The Mayor resisting wants principals to decide. Chicago teachers strike garnered support and popularity around the nation.

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Prez Obama speech on education at Democratic convention disappointing

"But teachers must inspire; principals must lead; parents must instill a thirst for learning, and students, you've got to do the work. And together, I promise you – we can out-educate and out-compete any country on Earth."
"Millions of students are paying less for college today because we finally took on a system that wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on banks and lenders.

Indeed, this is an important achievement for the Obama administration.

Whatever else Prez Barack Obama said about education didn't make any sense. For, example, why did he call for more math and science teachers when so many are being laid off along with dwindling school budgets? The Prez said,"help me recruit 100,000 math and science teachers in the next ten years..." Why?

His signature Race to the Top school reform agenda has caused more havoc than its worth implementing. And needless to say , all the court battles and legal challenges are draining urban public school districts of needed dollars.

It was disingenuous for the Prez to say his reform educational agenda has turned around the failing schools  across the country. Again the Prez said,..."some of the worst schools in the country have made real gains in math and reading." Really, never mentioned what districts.

In the  Buffalo public schools there is a costly court battle brewing between what the feds believe is the right course for the schools, the NYS Education Department support of its reform agenda and a local teachers' union defense of collective bargaining rights.

Four short paragraphs in an eight-page speech dedicated to his reform plan in education certainly confirms that Prez Obama has done more to dismantle public education than any other president.

Yet, Mitt Romney offers  a worse alternative with a platform to cut federal spending on social programs, including the education budget. The Repubs want to abolish the U.S Department of Education!

The education community would like to see U.S. Secretary of Education ex-Australian basketball league player with only a B.S. degree in sociology   replaced or gone along with all his cronies few educated enough to be driving or formulating any reform agenda in education for the nation.

It seems all the educational rhetoric exalts the leaders with less credentials in education and experience, while their reform agendas require highly educated teachers and administrators in the schools. Even the education commissioner in NYS many have alleged doesn't have the experience in education to formulate policies to sustain a culture of academic achievement in the public schools in the state. Race to the Top in NYS is overly represented by a cadre of white policymakers far removed from the cultural diversity of the public schools.

It's hard to predicate what's happening in education the next four years,  yet the Obama reform agenda must be challenged now. He must appoint a new U.S Secretary of Education, because the basketball team under Arne Duncan has missed too many hoops, and its time for a new team and leader.

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Prez Obama be or not to be

"...speakers at the convention have largely avoided dwelling on some of the cornerstone policies of Obama's education agenda, which have angered some teachers and the unions who represent them. Those policies—which have drawn rare praise from some Republicans at the state and national level—have included charter school expansion, merit pay for teachers, and support for tough steps for turning around schools.

Photo Credit:AP

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Brown ..."evidence turn-a-round model can be effective..."

Superintendent Pamela  Brown " Well we have an obligation to comply with federal and state regulations. We also remain committed to turning around the three schools that were slated to go through the turnaround model. We know 80 to 90 percent of the studnets in these schools have failed for eyars, and that’s not an acceptable proposition to the board or myself. We believe it’s important to appeal the decision and move forward with the plan. " In Philadelphia there were 13 schools that went through turnaround process. All of those schools showed more academic gains than the districtwide averages. Obviously it depends on the plan in place and how well the plan is implemented. There is definitely evidence the turnaround model can be effective and has been effective.

Mary Pasciak, Buffalo News, live coverage, board committee meeting tonight

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Buffalo Board of Ed committee meeting tonight Buffalo News live coverage

" The Buffalo Public Schools will move forward with an appeal of a recent arbitrator’s ruling that a transfer of 54 teachers, as designated in the New York State Department of Education plan for failing schools, was in violation of the teachers’ contract. Superintendent Dr. Pamela C. Brown states, “The appeal is the best way to move forward in the interest of the children we serve to educate.

The current arbitration calls for the District to cease and desist with implementation of the transfers in a plan that was approved by both the Board of Education and the State Education Department, in order to improve the academic achievement at these schools. By appealing the award, the District remains eligible to receive over $5 million in State funding for 3 Persistently Lowest Achieving schools. This money is intended to directly support the classrooms at each of the 3 schools. A decision to implement the award without exercising the District's right to appeal all but guarantees that the District will be ineligible to receive the greatest amount of funding available from the State of New York for the current academic year.

Mary Pasciak, live coverage, Buffalo News

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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