Friday, December 21, 2012

Current US Public Education Kills Creativity Video
 The Business Model of Public Education has no use for youthful creativity since it pursues more and more profits to help the 1% maintain and increase their wealth as they maintain the US masses' pursuit of ignoramousness... becoming real life "Dumb and Dumber" characters that do the gruntwork and bidding of the rich and superrich.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What's Wrong With Standardized Tests?

Common Core Assessments: More Tests, But Not Much Better

Under No Child Left Behind, states set standards and developed assessments. NCLB’s failure to spur achievement or close achievement gaps led to unproven claims that national or “common” standards were the missing piece of the education puzzle. With millions in federal Race to the Top money and NCLB “waivers” as incentives, all but a few states have adopted the Common Core standards. Two multi-state consortia—the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)—won federal grants to develop tests to measure the new standards. These tests will be in full use in the 2014-15 school year. Since most states have joined a consortium, it is important to understand what the new exams will mean for our schoolchildren.

More grades will be tested, with more testing per grade. NCLB triggered an unprecedented testing explosion (Guisbond, et al., 2012). The Common Core will compound the problem. SBAC (2012) and PARCC (2012) will continue mandatory annual English/language arts (ELA) and math testing in grades 3-8. In high school, SBAC includes mandatory reading and math testing in 11th grade, while PARCC’s plan is for three years of testing in ELA and math. PARCC also requires high schoolers to take a speaking and listening test. For kindergarten through second grade, PARCC adds voluntary “formative” tests. Both consortia call for two required exams annually, and both encourage states to use consortium interim tests two to three times each year. Preschool testing will come from the U.S. Department of Education’s early childhood version of Race to the Top (U.S. DOE, 2012). As with NCLB, federal mandates create a market for interim tests to prep students for high-stakes exams.

Lured by federal funds, states agreed to buy “pigs in a poke.” The new tests do not yet exist except for a few carefully selected sample items, so it is not possible to judge their quality. Nevertheless, states are committing large sums of taxpayer money for the equivalent of “vaporware”—much hype, little substance. New drugs must be carefully tested before release lest they do more harm than good. Yet, these new measures are being pushed through with at most one year of trials. There’s no guarantee that they will function as advertised and many reasons to believe they will not.

The new exams are a mixed bag, only marginally better than current tests. The new tests will only assess a narrow slice of what students need to know and be able to do.  Mostly administered by computer, the proposed tests will remain largely multiple-choice. Some questions will require written responses, as many states already require, and there will be one performance task. The performance tasks may be well designed, and these items may better assess critical thinking, but many will be “beatable” through coaching. Most prototype items, however, look like current standardized tests (PARCC, 2012; SBAC, 2012). For example, some math questions are simple computation tasks buried in complex “word problems.” Measurement experts fear it will be extremely difficult to write thousands of higher quality items before 2014-15. Samples also suggest the exams may be more difficult than current state tests. But harder is not always better. It is also not clear what the “passing” scores will be or who will set them.

High-stakes misuses of test scores remain unchanged, extending the damaging effects of NCLB. Under Race to the Top and NCLB waiver rules, states must use exam results to evaluate both schools and teachers. As a result, the Common Core tests will still control, distort and corrupt the curriculum. Researchers and testing experts have shown the negative consequences of using student exam results to evaluate teachers (Baker, et al., 2009; FairTest, 2011). Under NCLB, control over teaching and learning largely passed from local districts to the federal government. Under the new tests, parents, communities and even states will lose even more power. In addition, many states and districts are likely to misuse the new tests as a high school graduation or grade promotion requirement. The negative consequences land most heavily on low-income students, those of color or with a disability, and English language learners (FairTest, 2012).

Companies with poor track records will design, administer and score Common Core exams. The same old firms, including Pearson, Educational Testing Service and CTB/McGraw-Hill, will produce the tests. These corporations have long histories of mistakes and incompetence. The multi-national conglomerate Pearson, for example, has been responsible for poor-quality items, scoring errors, computer system crashes and missed deadlines. Despite these failures, Pearson is sharing $23 million in contracts to design the first 18,000 items in the PARCC’s test bank (Gewertz, 2012).

Poor districts will have to cut instructional staff and other basic services to divert money to testing. The move to new standards and tests sets the stage for a huge transfer of resources from cash-strapped schools to testing companies (Samtani, 2012). Federal grants will cover initial test production, but funding for continued development and administration, including scoring, is uncertain. In addition, many schools lack the necessary computer infrastructure (Herbert, 2012). States and districts will have to invest in expensive new equipment, wiring and broadband. Costs will greatly exceed benefits. This money would be better spent on educational essentials such as teachers and books.

Enormous amounts of time will be wasted.  Too few computers are available in many schools. To accommodate all students, testing will have to go on for weeks. This will cause even more disruption as classes are put on hold to allow test-taking. Computer labs will be unavailable for teaching and learning. Test prep will remain a huge time-waster, likely eating up even more learning time than it now does.

America’s children, teachers, parents, communities and the nation deserve better. High-quality assessment can improve teaching and learning and provide useful information about schools. Examples of better assessments include well-designed formative assessments (FairTest, 2006), performance assessments that are part of the curriculum (New York Performance Standards Consortium), and portfolios or Learning Records (FairTest, 2007) of actual student work. Schools can be evaluated using multiple sources of evidence that includes limited, low-stakes testing, school quality reviews, and samples of ongoing student work (Neill, 2010).

Baker, E., et al. 2009. "Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers," Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper,
FairTest, 2006. “The Value of Formative Assessment.”
FairTest, 2007. “The Learning Record.”
FairTest. 2011. “Flawed Massachusetts Teacher Evaluation Proposal Risks Further Damage to Teaching and Learning.”
FairTest, 2012. “How Standardized Testing Damages Education.”
Gewertz, C. 2012. “Questions Dog Design of Tests,” Education Week.
Guisbond, L., Neill, M., and Schaeffer, R. 2012. NCLB’s Lost Decade for Educational Progress: What Can We Learn from this Policy Failure? (Boston: FairTest),
Herbert, M. July/August 2012. “Common Core Testing Online Without Constant Connectivity?” District Administration.
Neill, M. June 18, 2010. “A Better Way to Assess Students and Evaluate Schools,” Education Week.
New York Performance Standards Consortium.
Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Item and Task Prototypes. 2012.
Samtani, H. 2012. “Common Core Standards Boon to E-Learning Industry,” Schoolbook. The New York Times.
Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. A Summary of Core Components. 2012.
U.S. Department of Education. 2012. Race to the Top -- Early Learning Challenge.
Also, checkout The National Black Education Agenda's  
For Black America-  
We Are “Still A Nation at Risk”
The National Black Education Agenda Responds to COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS
advocated by The Council of State School Officers and the National Governors Association 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why a privatized GED will fail students
Monty Vyse reports on the fallout from the takeover
of GED testing by for-profit Pearson Education--and
what it will mean thousands trying to take the exam
each year.

December 11, 2012--

SINCE THE 1940s, adult learners who have left high school without a diploma have had the option of taking the General Educational Development (GED) test. Nearly 700,000 people took the GED test in 2011--about half are Black or Latino [1].

Test-takers come disproportionally from under-funded, urban school districts. In New York state, for example, 63 percent of GED test-takers last year were in New York City. The average age for test takers is 26, making the GED a vital resource for adult learners in the workforce.

In 2011, Pearson Education, the world's largest for-profit testing company, entered into a "partnership" with the non-profit American Council on Education, the parent organization that created GED Testing Service, which in turn develops and sells the GED to all 50 states and U.S. territories.

What really happened is that Pearson executed a takeover of GED Testing and installed a Pearson executive to run its new "partner," with the test now being developed by Pearson and sold through GED Testing, with the copyrighted GED name.

This is a familiar story in education, as for-profit companies, bolstered by neoliberal think tanks, lobbyists and "strategic philanthropy," have moved aggressively to seize "business opportunities" in charter school operation, testing and test preparation, outsourced school management functions and "distance learning." The result, as in the case of many online universities and "proprietary" (i.e., for-profit) colleges, is that predatory business practices are common, and in all cases, resources are diverted from education to executive salaries and shareholder return.

What Pearson has done, however, is distinguished by the magnitude of its achievement. In a maneuver worthy of a 19th century robber baron or a 1980s junk bond king, Pearson acquired a virtual monopoly on high school equivalency testing.

Virginia GED data--

Pearson's next step was similarly old school. It announced that, effective January 1, 2014, the GED will move almost completely from a paper-and-pencil test to a computer-based test. A transition to such technology has long been expected, but Pearson's use of its monopoly to impose its deadline took the states by surprise.

Even more shocking was the announcement that, as of 2014, the cost per test-taker would be a flat $120 nationwide. This is about double the current cost, which has varied somewhat from state to state. One of GED Testing's customers, New York State Education Commissioner John King, said [2], "We're a capitalist system, but this is worrisome."

Pearson attempts to justify the change by citing the need to align the content of the test to the "common core standards" now being implemented throughout the country, and the change to computer testing.

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IF PEARSON is able to maintain its monopoly, and the number of test-takers remains constant, Pearson would realize about $84 million annually in revenue. But of course, the number of test-takers will certainly decline.

In four states and Puerto Rico, test-takers are not charged a fee for taking the test, or for re-taking the test or any sections they failed. The new director installed at GED Testing by Pearson helpfully suggested that these states consider allowing a fee for test-taking. [3]

In the case of New York, state law prohibits charging a fee, but the state has signaled that it will not increase the $3 million it currently budgets for GEDs. If the cost doubles, therefore, the number of test-takers must halve. People will face longer waits to take the test and, presumably, fewer will end up doing so.

In the majority of states, a fee is charged. Among the states and territories that publish a set fee, the average is $59. If the cost increases dramatically, both because of the GED Testing price hike and the need to invest in new technology, there is likely to be a dramatic rise in fees across the country.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income for an adult with less than a high school diploma was $20,329 in 2011, so this group has little ability to absorb a substantial increase in cost. Many are likely to be unemployed, because the unemployment rate for workers without a high school diploma is nearly double the national average.

Equally significant is the re-test fee, which will be a flat fee per sub-test. Many test-takers pass one or more of the four content area sub-tests and have the opportunity to take the portions they have failed over again. In the states that report a flat fee for re-taking, the average cost is $19.

Pearson hasn't yet announced what the fee will be, but GED Testing offers a computer-based version of its current test to states for $24 per subtest. If it runs true to form, Pearson will substantially increase this cost for its new test. Since the fee is applied not only to the payment to GED Testing but to the cost of administering the test, we can expect the re-test fees charged at the test sites to increase substantially, adding to the burden on test-takers.

Another unknown is the impact on test-takers in detention or correctional facilities. Taking the GED is usually the only way a youth or adult in custody can earn a diploma, and many currently do so. More than 10,000 federal prisoners completed the GED in 2011, and Michigan alone had another 3,000.

The changes Pearson is mandating will require test administration sites to set up networks or configure their networks to ensure the ability to run the test. There are huge challenges for custodial institutions, which either lack classroom networking, or which can't readily be made consistent because of unusual security features.

It's not clear whether corrections departments will be willing to make the investment Pearson is demanding. If they are not, and if no alternative is identified, Pearson will have further restricted the opportunities--already tragically limited--of victims of incarceration.

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TWENTY-SEVEN states formed a subgroup of the National Governor's Association to look for an alternative, essentially seeking to break Pearson's monopoly. So far, only New York has taken the next step of issuing a Request for Proposals to find a vendor for high school equivalency testing. As the largest state that pays the full cost, New York is seeking to use its leverage as a customer to create competition, with other states waiting to see what happens in New York.

It's clear, however, that whoever enters the market will be pricing the test close to Pearson. The development of a new norm-referenced test, with test-taking to begin in a year, is a massive undertaking, and only large for-profit testing companies seem to be positioned to respond. Pearson, moreover, has given them a price to beat that is double the current cost.

The impact of alignment with the "common core standards" is also a significant unknown. The common core is an initiative to develop a consistent curriculum standard in English and math. Some 46 states have signed on, committing to base 85 percent of their curriculum on the standards by 2015.

Pearson, along with any competitors that may emerge, will be aligning the GED (or competing high school equivalency test) to the standards. For the foreseeable future, a significant number of test-takers will have left school years before instruction was aligned to the common core, so some aspects of the test may be extremely difficult, because the common core has changed the approach to the subject matter.

The rapid alignment to the common core will increase the need for test preparation. In New York City, roughly 70 percent of test-takers have not taken a prep course. The pass rate for these takers is considerably lower than for those who take a course, and the gap can be expected to grow with the content changes. Community-based providers of test prep will be stretched beyond their limits, and for those able to pay, for-profit prep companies--some with a record of predatory consumer practices--will see that there is money to be made.

Whatever happens, the introduction of profiteering to the GED will restrict access and opportunity for working-class youth and adults throughout the country. Currently, only about 1 percent of those eligible to take the GED actually complete the test each year. The introduction of profiteering will make it even harder for adults and youth disconnected from school to earn a diploma.

It's vital that parents, students, educators and adult learners organize to resist the "reforms" that are making education a series of emerging markets and profit opportunities. The call for adequate resources for education for learners of all ages should be accompanied by the demand that the system not be gamed to enable those resources to be skimmed by educational robber barons.

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Boys and Girls HS vs DOE -  
Report from Public Meeting 12/4/12 6

                                                          Principal Gassaway with Boys & Girls Students

Approximately 450 parents, students, educators and community leaders attended the December 4 meeting at Boys and Girls High School in Bedford Stuyvesant to respond to the DOE’s “Report to the Community on the Performance of Boys and Girls High School” and its  proposal concerning the future of the school.

Brooklyn HS Superintendent Karen Watts (formerly Principal of Wadleigh HS in Harlem) presented the DOE’s proposal for Boys and Girls HS which resembles the “good” cop, “bad” cop interrogation scenario.  The DOE is considering two “Action Plans” for Boys and Girls. “Action Plan” # 1 involves increased professional development (whoopee!) and removal of Principal Gassaway who enjoys widespread support in the community. “Action Plan 2” involves “Phase out” of Boys and Girls High and opening of new district or charter school(s).  

No video recording of the hearing was permitted and the DOE reps sat at a table in the shadows saying little after their opening statements.

The “Report to the Community on the Performance of Boys and Girls High School” was distributed at the meeting and is probably available on the DOE website. It contains the data on which the DOE is basing it case for intervention.  According to the DOE the schools Progress Report Grade has gone from a C in 2009-10 to an F in 2011-12.

The first speaker, a math teacher at Boys and Girls and long time track coach of numerous city and state championship teams placed the situation in context and set the tone for the rest of the evening.  He was eloquent, calmly passionate and pulled the hood off the DOE’s “data”.

He noted, to wide applause, that Boys and Girls received a B in 2008.  In that same year Chancelor Klein closed Erasmus, Clara Barton, Tilden and other Brooklyn High Schools.  1800 students were transferred to Boys and Girls High School from the closed schools with less than 10 credits.  Many had less than 5% attendance rates. “F students were flushed out of these schools to massage the numbers.” The policy of Boys and Girls was to accept all students who wanted to attend.  The B went to a C went to a D went to an F. “What happened is that the DOE set up Boys and Girls HS for an F because we are a community HS that aims to serve all students.”

Parents, alums, teachers, current students spoke passionately in support of the school and their Principal.  What emerges from the evening was an inspiring story of how a school community beset by many challenges has taken in all students and strove to heal and uplift young people cast off by the DOE.

Over the next 21/2 hours over 60 parents, students, alumni a community and business leaders went to the mics in support of Boys and Girls HS and its Principal Bernard Gassaway who appears to be the immediate target of the DOE. Gassaway also spoke and was very warmly received. As a former Superintendent who came out of retirement to take over  Boys and Girls after the sudden death of the  former long term principal Mickens, Gassaway said he knew what he was coming into and he knows all about what the DOE is up to and how they operate. He was modest and said “this is not about me.”

He told one story that will be of particular interest to UFT members.  He explained how the DOE had  made ATRs move from school to school every week to punish them and force them to find a job but this system had backfired because some ATRs were content to just bounce around from school to school and go wherever the DOE tells them to report.  With out naming any names Gassaway said that the DOE, today, prior to this meeting, had assigned an ATR to Boys and Girls HS who acted, in his words simply “out of their mind”.  This teacher was shouting at Gassaway in the hallway in front of students aggressively waving papers in Gassaway’s face.

The students were shocked and angered at this aggressive behavior directed at their Principal but Gassaway calmed them and sent them away and instructed the teacher to leave the building.  He later learned that the teacher had been in a rubber room for 10 years.  He told this story because he felt that it summed up the DOE’s attitude towards Boys and Girls HS.  If the DOE had sent a teacher to the rubber room for so many years, why then would the DOE send that very same teacher to a school that is according to the DOE’s own evaluation in so much trouble?

The Bed Stuy community is prepared to defend Boys and Girls HS and its Principal. In the immediate future the DOE would not likely get away with closing Boys and Girls HS without facing a full scale revolt.  It seems at this stage they are aiming for Gassaway.  The slice and dice and privatization will follow.

The immediate issue raised by the DOE‘s action plans for Boys and Girls HS is  who chooses Black educational leaders; Bloomberg or the Black community?  Bloomberg has skillfully and consciously manipulated and essentially bribed many Black administrators to follow his mandates or at least keep their opinions to themselves.  He has also used the charter school “choice” to pit parent against parent particularly in the Black communities.  As a lame duck, Bloomberg appears to be going for broke and to crush the few remaining outposts of Black institutional power within the Board of Education.  Just like Mississippi cops had a Black trustee inmate nearly beat Fannie Lou Hamer to death while they watched on before the 1964 Democratic convention, Bloomberg has Black professional flunkeys to do this dirty work.   I think this effort to eliminate independent Black professional leadership in Boys and Girls HS, one of the last outposts, is the elimination of whatever remains of parent and community power as the only obstacle to privatization. This is the reason behind  mayoral control.  The struggle for Boys and Girls High combines past and present struggles for school community empowerment and social justice.  It deserves the full attention and support of parents, student and UFT members across the city.  

Submitted by Sean Ahern, parent and teacher,

Boys & Girls leader steals the show at lively pre-closure meeting

by Geoff Decker,

In a fiery, off-the-cuff speech delivered to supporters on Tuesday, outspoken Boys and Girls High School Principal Bernard Gassaway reiterated charges he has leveled for years: The city is keeping him from turning around his long-struggling school.

Just that afternoon, he recounted, he confronted and sent away an unwanted teacher assigned to him by the Department of Education.

"They sent a nut job here," Gassaway said, to cheers from the crowd who turned out a meeting held by the department as part of a process to determine whether the school should close.

"But that's what they think about kids," he added as part of the 11-minute address. "You don't think that's not done intentionally?"

With a 37 percent four-year graduation rate and a 2.4 percent college-and-career-readiness rate, Boys and Girls ranks as one of the lowest-performing schools in the city and has for years. Demand for the school has also waned, as enrollment has dropped 40 percent — from 2,000 to 1,200 — since 2010. Related Stories

Second straight F puts Boys & Girls High's future on the line November 26, 2012 13 After bumpy start, Boys & Girls basketball to aid school's reform May 2, 2012 1 Jamaica HS union leader says teachers saw closure coming December 3, 2009 27 Week's school closure hearings include at least one talent show January 23, 2012 5 Students to learn inside the Sonia Sotomayor room at Girls Prep July 28, 2009 2

Department officials have publicly pledged support for Gassaway and last spring spared the school from undergoing a grueling turnaround proposal that ultimately failed in courts earlier this year. But after another year of low performance — and an "F" grade on its latest progress report, the second in a row — the city is taking a closer look and will soon decide if it should receive the same fate as other comprehensive high schools that have shuttered under the Bloomberg administration.

The school's status under Gassaway has been unsteady for years, but he has enjoyed the support of the Bedford-Stuyvesant community, including many influential political, business, and religious leaders. The school's advisory board includes City Councilman Al Vann, State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, Regent Lester Young, Rev. Conrad Tillard and Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation President Colvin Grannum.

That support was on display Tuesday night. Vann, Robinson, Young, and Tillard joined U.S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and about 200 others to voice their opposition to closing the school.

"There's a lot of history here. This is part of who we are as a community and a people. You can't close that," said Vann.

Dozens of speakers laid out familiar arguments for why the school should be saved. Many of them said other school closures in Brooklyn and Queens had caused a large concentrations of high-need students at Boys and Girls.

"We now have to bear their burden," said Anthony Jones, a graduate who now works with the school's track team.

"It's not the school that's failing at all," said Deanna King, a student. "It's the people who sit there and bring 1,800 students who are terrible and bring them into our school."

Since ex-Chancellor Joel Klein handpicked him to lead the school in 2009, Gassaway has publicly stated a desire to get rid of teachers that he considered subpar, and recently he has begun criticizing the city for not helping him do that. Still, many teachers have left under his leadership, he said, adding, "I'm feeling more optimistic with the staff we have in place now."

Supporters said changes Gassaway has made would take some time to have an impact. Vann said younger students will be the first to enjoy the real benefits of the reforms, which include a partnership with Long Island University, where students earn college credits.

About 25 sophomores are part of the program's first cohort. One of them, Armando Dunn, enrolled in the program so that his mother would allow him to attend Boys and Girls and join the basketball team. Both of his older sisters had attended ultra-selective city high schools.

"I can't send you to a school where I see statistics saying that it's failing," Lisa Dunn recalled telling her son.

Now, Lisa Dunn is president of the school's parent association and said she believes Gassaway should have more time to turn the school around.

Principals of schools facing closure usually keep a low profile at the city's "early engagement" meetings, which are run by district superintendents. But after about 90 minutes of testimony, Gassaway appeared in front of the stage and addressed the crowd.

Gassaway began by saying he was done assigning blame.

"What we can't do, and what I may have been guilty of in the past, is we can't point fingers," Gassaway said. "There are powers that be that would love to have me stand up here and bash this group or bash that group. I'm not going to do that."

But soon Gassaway was ripping the department for its deployment of teachers from the Absent Teacher Reserve, a pool of teachers who lost their jobs through budget cuts or school closures. Gassaway said that just hours earlier he was involved in an incident with an ATR teacher who had refused to resume teaching until a disruptive student was removed from the class.

"I looked at my kids. I tell them, 'don't fight', so I couldn't fight," Gassaway said. "But I said to myself, let me get him out of here."

"He's not coming back," Gassaway added, to cheers.

Hey DOE! It's Kind of Your Fault Boys and Girls High School is Under-Performing, Community Says

By Jason Lewis Wed., Dec. 5 2012

Principal Bernard Gassaway urges the community to play their part in ensuring that kids get educated.

Those advocating to preserve the current structure of Boys and Girls High School say the New York City Department of Education has failed to calculate the role it has played in contributing to the school's drop in performance in recent years.

The historic Bedford-Stuyvesant high school is facing the prospect of being phased out, radically redesigned and divided into several different district or charter schools -- after receiving poor performance grades from the DOE for the last three years.

Members of the Boys and Girls family, politicians and members of the surrounding community passionately reminded the DOE -- at a community meeting held at Boys and Girls last night -- that the school has admitted nearly 2000 underachieving students from around the borough in the last three years.

"You cannot ask a school to absorb 1800 students from all over the borough, who themselves have been dislocated, and expect that they will come together under one roof and...really function at optimal capacity," Congressman-elect Hakeem Jeffries told District 16 Superintendent Karen Watts and another DOE representative at last night's forum.

The influx of the 1800 dislocated students is a result of the DOE's decision to phase out a number of large high schools across Brooklyn in recent years -- including schools such as Canarsie, South Shore, and Tilden. The year prior to the infusion of students, the school earned a B grade from the DOE.

"The department of education created a climate of confusion here at Boys and Girls, and that's the reason why we're seeing the school not necessarily hit some of the performance measures," Jeffries said. "What we're asking is that the department of education take a very hard look at what it has done to hurt the progress here at Boys and Girls."

Watts insisted that no final decision has been made on phasing out the school. The DOE may instead opt to implement an intensive assistance program for the remainder of this school year to try and help boost the school's performance to a satisfactory level.

It's unclear how realistic it is to expect an assistance program of any capacity to lift up the school's performance in just a few short months. But, that appears to be the only alternative option available to the school if it hopes to remain intact.

The high school will have to improve upon its poor attendance rates, a 39 percent graduation rate for four-year students, low college matriculation rates and back-to-back F's from the DOE.

The DOE issued a report to community members stating that the department has given "considerable support" to the high school, "but unfortunately [the DOE's] best efforts have not turned the school around."

Boys and Girls Principal Bernard Gassaway -- who received much praise yesterday from parents, students and alumni -- said he envisioned that the high school would ultimately meet this crossroad.

"God has given me the prophecy to see this day three years ago. I knew this was coming," he told the audience. "We were not going to reject any of our young people who wanted to come to Boys and Girls High School."

Alumnus Lee Church declares the school is here to stay. 

Students told stories of how Boys and Girls has helped boost their self- confidence, improve their academic performance, provide them with a since of belonging and guide them through tough times. Deanna, a senior student whose father has suffered numerous strokes in recent months, said the school has been a haven during her troubled times.

"No one understands the fact that this is our home, and I'm here until 9 p.m. at night doing my work or doing something educational. Why do people have to take this away from us?" she asked.

A number of speakers accused Bloomberg and the DOE of targeting the school, and others like it, for economic reasons and the real estate its campus occupies.

"It's about real estate and it's about money," Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, whose kids and grand-kids attended Boys and Girls, said. "Our children are not a business. We want to educate our children just like everyone else wants to educate their children."

Lee Church, former Boy's and Girls basketball star and current representative to Jeffries, made it clear that the Boys and Girls community will fight to preserve its school.

"You're not here coming into a school that doesn't have a plan. We don't need Mayor Bloomberg's plan. We don't need Dennis Walcott's plan," Church said. "We're here to prove a point and show the point that we are here to stay... [Bloomberg's] agenda will not, as much as I can stand in the way, happen here in this building."

...And Let Us Not Forget the Bronx Battle to Save DeWitt Clinton High School
Student speaks out against closing Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx
by Mark Torres

Greetings and peace,

My name is Jonathan Espinosa and I am an alumni from the Macy Honors Program in class of 09...2000 not 1900. I currently am a 4th year student in SUNY New Paltz with plans to graduate next semester. I am sad to say that I saw this coming. We heard rumors before that Dewitt Clinton would close, and there was always resistance, especially from the alumni association, one of the largest in the world. Dewitt Clinton High School is one of the biggest public schools in the Bronx and New York City, and has had the privilege of graduating notable people, from Stan Lee, to James Baldwin. In the beginning, Clinton was populated by predominately white students, yet over the years it has become increasingly saturated by students of color, predominately Black and Latino.

Not surprisingly, as more students of color, like myself, entered the school, the quality of education diminished, achievement gaps grew, teachers and counselors fled, and police force expanded. Meanwhile, the city has a specialized "public" school, the Bronx High School of Science, on the other side of the same block, with predominately suburban "white" and Asian students who arrive here from districts away, and a solar panel on its roof. Down the block, you have Lehman Studies High School, with a similar configuration. Those students have all the books they need, all the tutoring they need, all the safe spaces they need to achieve, absent of any metal detectors and police officers, except for a few security guards who turn their heads away when students admittingly smoke marijuana across the street, on the harris field steps.

Who is to blame for clinton's failing grade? The students? Well to blame the students is to blame the victim, because no matter what laws or policies passed that give us the right to vote, or that supposedly protect us from being discriminated when applying to schools and jobs, people of color continue to be overwhelmingly discriminated and disadvantaged through color blind policies and practices, such as residential segregation, high stakes testing, tracking, stop and frisk, incarceration, the war on drugs, high rates of poverty, low rates of health insurance coverage, malnutrition, and misrepresentation in the government. It is more than just students failing or not wanting to achieve. That argument is too simple. There are other factors to consider. For example, why is it that in 2011, the NYPD reported arresting, on average, 5 students per day in public schools, while 90% were Black or Latino? Who is implementing a school to prison pipeline in our public schools, and for what purpose? Why are there more police officers in Clinton than there are counselors? why were already low performing students increasingly admitted into Clinton with less and less expectation to help them achieve? I believe it was to justify its inevitable closure. I believe there is a hidden agenda behind this closure, like possibly the city's desire for more land space, considering Clinton High School is one of, if not the, largest schools by size and population in the Bronx. Or maybe leaders and achievers of color are not welcomed into circles of power where they have an impact in the way public schools function.

In conclusion, I would like to end on a positive note. As a clinton student, I enjoyed receiving an education that was worthwhile, one that would take me somewhere far by helping me go to college. I had counselors and teachers who supported me, who inspired me to be educated and be a leader in my community. these were people who showed me that with the help of one's community, anything is possible. And yet mayor Bloomberg has proven that it has no intention to provide quality education for all students as Bloomberg's education policies stigmatizes, targets, de-funds, attacks, and purposefully closes public schools. So I share this with you all to emphasize that we as a people in our communities must control our public institutions. we as alumni, parents, students, teachers, principals, even bodega owners, must fight for and protect our children's education so that something like this doesn't happen again. If this letter doesn't stop Clinton's closure, then it will plant seeds among people in the audience to make some moves in resistance to this attack on public education.

Thank you all for this opportunity, and for all who listened. peace and love to all.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Promise of Things to Come to NYC: Florida botches release of new data on teacher evaluations

By Curtis Krueger, Marlene Sokol, Jeffrey S. Solochek and Danny Valentine, Times Staff Writers

Published Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Florida's Department of Education on Wednesday rolled out the results of a sweeping new teacher evaluation system that is designed to be a more accurate, helpful and data-driven measure of how well teachers actually get students to learn.

And then, within hours of releasing the data, the department pulled the numbers off its website and sheepishly admitted that much of it was wrong.

State officials late Wednesday said thousands of teachers were mistakenly double-counted because they had more than one "job code" in computerized records. That skewed the results.
Department spokeswoman Cynthia Sucher acknowledged it was "distressing" for the agency to learn that the information turned out to be incorrect.

The new evaluation system has been stressful for teachers. Even though it appears that the vast majority have been rated as "effective" or "highly effective," many have been downgraded. Critics of the new system said the problem did not surprise them.

"Garbage in, garbage out," said Bob Schaeffer, public education director for Fair Test, which opposes excessive testing. "The teacher evaluation system is ideologically driven and not ready for prime time . . . When you rush to put a shoddy system in place, you get ludicrous results."

"We told you so," said Marshall Ogletree, executive director of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.

The Florida Legislature approved the comprehensive new system and moved to implement it so quickly that it amounted to "trying to do something that's impossible to do at breakneck speed," he said.

It's not the first time the department has botched the release of important education data. Earlier this year, the department admitted to giving incorrect school grades to 200 schools, including some in Pinellas.

Also, the state decided to toughen the FCAT writing test, but the Board of Education later decided to temporarily lower the passing mark for the test after conceding poor communication could have contributed to an unprecedented drop in writing scores.

On Wednesday, the department posted the data at 10:30 a.m. and at 11 started a conference call for nearly an hour with news reporters from across the state. By early afternoon, Hillsborough County school officials had noticed the state said it employed 23,970 teachers — but the real number was less than 15,000.

"The numbers don't look right, and it's not just us," Hillsborough schools spokesman Stephen Hegarty said. "We have asked the DOE to look at them."

"They were the first to notice it and they called our people," Sucher said later. Department officials then noticed that some other districts, but not all of them, also had data that was double-counted.

Sucher did not say if it was the department's fault for giving school districts faulty information about how to supply the data, or if the school systems had failed to follow instructions.

Asked how such an error could occur in such a high-profile project, Sucher pointed out that it is a brand-new system, with preliminary data that is scheduled to be finalized later. Also, individual school districts had some latitude in creating their own evaluation systems, so there are differences from county to county.

Therefore, when looking at data supplied by the school districts, "you're not comparing apples to apples, you're comparing apples to grapes," Sucher said.

Today, the department plans to try again to release the data. It should show, on a school by school level, what percentage of teachers have been rated as "highly effective," "effective," "needs improvement," "developing" or "unsatisfactory."

However, individual teacher scores will not be immediately released.

Jeffrey S. Solochek and Danny Valentine contributed to this report.

 Teacher Evaluation FactSheet

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Shocking Details of a Mississippi School-to-Prison Pipeline
Monday, November 26 2012

NOTE: This is about Mississippi's role in the school-to-prison pipeline economic and social policy. We know that in New York City, there are tens of thousands of young Black, Latino along with increasing numbers of young Asian men and women that are being driven out of school and into prison because of the racist public education system's structural criminalization of youth of color.

Cedrico Green can’t exactly remember how many times he went back and forth to juvenile.

When asked to venture a guess he says, “Maybe 30.” He was put on probation by a youth court judge for getting into a fight when he was in eighth grade. Thereafter, any of Green’s school-based infractions, from being a few minutes late for class to breaking the school dress code by wearing the wrong color socks, counted as violations of his probation and led to his immediate suspension and incarceration in the local juvenile detention center.

But Green wasn’t alone. A bracing Department of Justice lawsuit filed last month against Meridian, Miss., where Green lives and is set to graduate from high school this coming year, argues that the city’s juvenile justice system has operated a school to prison pipeline that shoves students out of school and into the criminal justice system, and violates young people’s due process rights along the way.

In Meridian, when schools want to discipline children, they do much more than just send them to the principal’s office. They call the police, who show up to arrest children who are as young as 10 years old. Arrests, the Department of Justice says, happen automatically, regardless of whether the police officer knows exactly what kind of offense the child has committed or whether that offense is even worthy of an arrest. The police department’s policy is to arrest all children referred to the agency.

Once those children are in the juvenile justice system, they are denied basic constitutional rights. They are handcuffed and incarcerated for days without any hearing and subsequently warehoused without understanding their alleged probation violations.

“[D]efendants engage in a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct through which they routinely and systematically arrest and incarcerate children, including for minor school rule infractions, without even the most basic procedural safeguards, and in violation of these children’s constitutional rights,” the DOJ’s 37-page complaint reads. Meridian’s years of systemic abuse punish youth “so arbitrarily and severely as to shock the conscience,” the complaint reads.
The federal lawsuit casts a wide net in indicting the systems that worked to deny Meridian children their constitutional rights. It names as defendants the state of Mississippi; the city of Meridian; Lauderdale County, which runs the Lauderdale County Youth Court; and the local Defendant Youth Court Judges Frank Coleman and Veldore Young for violating Meridian students’ rights up and down the chain.

The DOJ’s complaint also charges that in the course of its eight-month investigation the city blocked the inquiry by refusing to hand over youth court records. Attorneys for city officials deny that claim, and say they are bound by law to protect the confidentiality of youth who’ve been through the system and so cannot share their records with the federal government.

‘Judge, Jury and Executioner’
The DOJ’s lawsuit, despite its bombshell revelations for the rest of the country, has been a long time coming. Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the NAACP have been concerned about Meridian for years.

The SPLC’s inquiry into Meridian began in 2008, when attorneys started hearing reports of “horrific abuse” of youth housed in juvenile detention centers, said Jody Owens, managing attorney of the SPLC’s juvenile justice initiative in Mississippi. Advocates learned that 67 percent of youth in detention centers arrived there from the Meridian school system, Owens said. In between school and detention, students were denied access to counsel and due process, and many were never made aware of what they were even being arrested for. “The administrators were the judge, jury and executioner,” Owens said.

This practice has also appeared to target black students. Meridian, a city of 40,000 people, is 61 percent African-American. But over a five-year period, Owens said, “There was never once a white kid that was expelled or suspended for the same offense that kids of color were suspended for.”

Among the infractions that landed Green, who is black, in juvenile detention were talking back to a teacher, wearing long socks and coming to school without wearing a belt. He was behind bars for stretches of time as long as two weeks, and the real rub, his mother Gloria said, is that weekends didn’t count as days served. A 10-day suspension stretched to 14 actual days; time for Meridian juvenile justice officials apparently stopped on weekends. All that back and forth out of school and in juvenile took a real toll on Green’s education, and he was held back from the eighth grade.

“It was mind-boggling,” Gloria Green said. “My son loved school and to be kicked out as much as he was, one year he just couldn’t catch up.”

“We did everything we know to do. I went over to the school and got make-up work, and he still failed two subjects and at that point I didn’t know which way what my child was going to go.”

“We talk about the school to prison pipeline and it’s often an abstract thing,” said Shakti Belway, an attorney who worked closely with families on the Meridian case for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “But here it is literally happening over ridiculous, minor charges.” Indeed, children as young as elementary school students have been taken directly from school and forced to serve school suspensions inside a jail cell. In its complaint, the DOJ charged the city’s police department with operating a de facto “taxi service” shuttling students away from school and into youth jails.

Studying While Black
But Meridian doesn’t have a monopoly on this kind of injustice. Every which way a person can look—from elementary to high school, at a national level and on down to the most local—black students are far more likely to be punished and to be punished more harshly than all other students.

A 2010 study by Russell Skiba, a professor of education policy at Indiana University, looked at four decades of data from 9,000 of the nation’s 16,000 middle schools. It found that black boys were three times as likely to be suspended as white boys and that black girls were four times as likely to be suspended as white girls. It is a serious, endemic issue.

The federal government’s case raises troubling questions about the racial disproportionality that school discipline policies produce broadly. Zero tolerance policies, which crack down on school-based infractions with automatic, harsh punishments, are the mandatory-mimimums of the school discipline world. But whatever their merits and drawbacks, said Skiba, they shouldn’t generate racially disparate outcomes. “I think what this suit says is: Whatever you do in a school district, why would it be that there would be racial and ethnic disparities? If we’re going to choose suspensions and expulsions and police presence, why are students of color overrepresented in that?”

Research shows that if the intent behind zero-tolerance policies is to discourage misbehavior and foster good learning environments, they don’t do the job. A sweeping 2006 study (PDF) conducted by the American Psychological Association found that zero-tolerance policies don’t actually make schools safer, and in fact can work to push students away from school. If, however, the intent is to push students of color out of school, away from their educational futures and into the criminal justice system, there is also a body of evidence that suggests that zero-tolerance policies are rather effective instruments.

For Gloria Green, the lawsuit is the answer to prayers she repeated over and over when her son was going back and forth to jail. “It was degrading to me because I was like, ‘My son is not a criminal. Why is he behind bars?’ “

“I would always say, ‘Dang, I wish there was somebody that could help me,’ because I didn’t know what I could do and I was afraid that if I went to his school and stood my ground it’d make things hard for my child.” She’s fully supportive of legal action now, but not just because she wants belated justice for Cedrico. “I’m excited because I have a 13-year-old coming up in the Meridian Public Schools as well.”