Board's Eye View

Reuters is reporting that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is set to lay off 15,000 teachers in New York City in anticipation of State deficit crunches.

Fifteen thousand teachers!? That is probably more teachers than employed in some of our states.

Granted, this is?only two twenty percent* of the 75,000 teacher workforce in Gotham's one-million student system, but the raw numbers are awe-inspiring. Fifteen thousand teachers laid off!? That's a whole city's worth of unemployed teachers.? I can see the tents now. ?Teachervilles?

The number came from a local?radio interview the Mayor gave.

The scuttlebutt is ? I don't know if it's true or not ? is that the education budget will be cut statewide and New York City's share of that would be a $1 billion cut.

One billion dollars. That's another awe-inspiring number. ?More than some country's GDP, I'm sure.

Much of this, of course, is posturing, with the Mayor painting as unrosy a picture as possible in order to win sympathy for schools in advance of the state's budget negotiations.

Okay, go for it Mayor Mike.? But still, 15,000 teachers? ?Does 10,000 sound better?? Five?


It's not a new sci-fi movie ? but it's a longstanding issue for charter schools: finding space ? that's not outer!

Last Tuesday, according to a Los Angeles Daily News story, via Ed Week, the Los Angeles Unified School District made what the DN said was ?an unprecedented? offer:? allowing 81 charter schools to have 25,000 classroom seats on district campuses.

So why do charter advocates call the LAUSD offer illegal?

As it turns out, California was ahead of the?game on the space issue and in 2000 voters passed Proposition 39, which requires districts to share available facilities with charter schools. And districts, not surprisingly, have danced around the law ever since. According to the DN, California charter advocates have sued LAUSD twice

for failing to comply with Proposition 39, which states that district facilities must be shared `fairly among all public school pupils, including those in charter schools.'?

But even though the current proposal ?would be the largest offer ever made by LAUSD, which houses the largest concentration of charter campuses in the nation,? Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association, tells the DN that at least 24...

If there's a Pulitzer nomination for investigative reporting worth making, it's the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for the work its team of reporters has been doing on the Atlanta Public ?Schools cheating scandal.? (I wrote about it here, in December. See also this August story from the NY Times.)? In fact, scandal does not quite capture what would seem to be a systemic failure of huge proportions.

The paper's latest report, from January 23, is here, and it documents what would appear to be another?in a long line of insults?to this 56,000-student public school system: ?whistle-blowing teachers targeted.? (Georgia teachers, by-the-by,? have no collective-bargaining rights.)

To recap, the Journal-Constitution reported statistically unlikely gains in state test scores (the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test) in Atlanta in October of 2009. The Governor ordered a statewide investigation and ? Wow! ? his analysts found, according to the J-C, ?suspicious erasure marks on thousands of tests from hundreds of classrooms.? Fifty-eight of the Big Peach's 92 schools were ?flagged? for cheating ? it is unclear how much,?if any, was student cheating; the focus of the charges and results of the various investigations, suggest that it was teacher and...

Paul Peterson at Ed Next has done a great job translating the President's State of the Union address comments on education into English?(here).

?Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

There are some subjects that lend themselves to free association more than others.? Tenure, for instance, is not one of those subjects, for me.? Collaboration, however, is. And if I let my mind wander too far, I'll end up singing Kumbaya.

And so I cringed when I spotted the headline over Randi Weingarten's ?column? (actually, a regular advertisement) in Sunday's New York Times, ?Collaboration Trumps Conflict.?? (You can read it on the AFT site.)

In my experience in schools, talk of?collaboration, like its step-sibling team player, is usually used as a decoy and when I hear the word I?instinctively ?adopt a 3-card monte defense: watch the cards, don't listen to the rap.? (This is a variation of ?trust, but verify.?)

?Sometimes it seems as though public education has become a contact sport,? writes Weingarten, ?with proponents of a take-no-prisoners style of `education reform' duking it out on talk shows and ever-present on the conference circuit.?

Watch the cards. Watch the cards.

Before anyone rushes to make collaboration the next silver bullet, it is crucial to note that this approach in and of itself does not create meaningful systemic change. Even...

?Bone-chilling cold? was how the AP reported it. But I didn't read that report until just now?yesterday I was too busy trying to unfreeze frozen pipes (according my LL Bean indoor/outdoor digital thermometer it was ten degrees BELOW zero outside) and listening to the car's starter go, aaah-ah aaaah-ah aaa-ah ah thlllltttttllltttl. My plumber said, ?Make a mental note: if it's below zero, turn up the heat.?? Thanks.? Then the email from the school superintendent?thank God the Internet doesn't work with water?saying we used our last snow day.? And we haven't even hit February yet.

Okay, if we can't move all schools into the temperate belt (that is somewhere near the beltway, though I know what happens to D.C. when it snows?try to find a cab), what do we do?

Jamie covered the territory pretty well in December.? Writing about new Ohio Governor John Kasich wanting more ?calamity days? (is that really what they call them in Ohio?) in the school calendar (from 3 to 5), she quotes outgoing governor Ted Strickland (who had wanted to extend the school year by 20 days!) who said that if ?the state pays for a day of...

The Times has some kind words for Randi Weingarten today?in an editorial called ?Reform and the Teachers' Unions.?

It praises her and her union, the American Federation of Teachers, for having ?wisely chosen to work with state legislatures and local school districts? in releasing ?a plan for speeding up disciplinary hearings.??(See here.)

The Times calls this ?a good starting point for more discussion.? And indeed it is.?In fact, teacher training and evaluation is at the center of Race to the Top incentives and many states have worked with unions to break the ?firewall? between evaluations and student performance.?But, says the Times,

many members of her union are resistant to the idea of accountability systems, which they say can be far too easily manipulated.

That may be, but readers should read Weingarten's January 12 speech, ?A New Path Forward: Four Approaches to Quality Teaching and Better Schools,??to?get a flavor for the politics of the thing. ?She takes right out after the ?Industrial Age model? of educating and says that NCLB ?has made it worse, creating the equivalent of a factory?reducing the learning experience to a conveyor belt of rote prep sessions...

From the beginning, charter schools have been sold as a vehicle of choice for the poor ? and they have done a remarkable job, for the most part, providing that outlet.? Now, according to this morning's New York Times, public school choice may be coming to a more affluent neighborhood near you.

Or so Eva Moskowitz, former New York City Council member, scourge of Gotham's teacher unions, and founder of Success Charter Network, proposes. She wants to put a charter on Manhattan's Upper West Side, not known for its poverty, saying, ?Middle-class families need options too.?

But Moskowitz has found herself, according to the Times report, running into some stiff resistance since announcing her new charter last fall*:

Ms. Moskowitz is known for an aggressive style, and perhaps no neighborhood spoils for a fight more than the Upper West Side?.? Opposition to the charter school, named Upper West Success Academy, has been as structured and relentless as the school's own marketing campaign, and it has already chased the school out of two proposed locations, on 105th and 109th Streets. The local community education council, which represents District 3 public school parents, has mobilized council


A few months ago, chatting with my brother-in-law, a former executive at the National School Boards Association, I suggested we collaborate on a book called Saving School Boards.

There was a pause. ?Do they need saving?? he asked.

Head spin.

We've come a long way since the Kerner Commission (1968) concluded that the nation was ?moving toward two societies, one black, one white ? separate and unequal? (though many of our inner cities would beg to differ), but I do believe we have a two societies problem with regard to school boards: ?Love ?em or leave ?em.

Jay Matthews has a a typically terrific Who Needs School Boards? squib up on his Washington Post blog; this one highlight's a fellow scribe's new book, School Boards in America: A Flawed Exercise in Democracy. Its author, Gene Maeroff, a former New York Times reporter, ?made the sacrifice,? as Matthews says, ?of getting himself elected to the school board in Edison, N.J.? (where I used to live, not far from where the light bulb was invented). ?He is still there,? quips Mathews, ?enduring soporific meetings and nasty e-mails, convinced that, despite its...

For all of you test faithful, so long cowering in the shadows of ?critical thinking skills? and free range blah-blah, ?you can come out now.

In a big boost for common sense ? ie. tests are a good way to encourage learning and to test its?staying power?? the NY Times is reporting on a new study that finds that ?taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know,?? but ?actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.?

Thank God, the pendulum still swings.

?Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow