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June 06, 2008

What Do Public Servants Owe the Public When They Make Mistakes?

Imagine that you are a public servant. This year, you've left families in a lurch by centralizing an enrollment system that you lacked the organizational capacity to run effectively. It is June, and kids and families are still in the dark about their middle and pre-school placements for September. ...

June 06, 2008

Isn't It Ironic? Bonuses for NYC Administrators at 4 "F" and 5 "D" Schools

Administrators at four New York City schools that received F’s on their Progress Reports, and five that earned D’s, are eligible for bonuses, which range from $5,500 to $15,000 for principals and from $2,750 to $7,500 for assistant principals. One of my favorite haiku pretty much sums up this st...

June 05, 2008

Move Over Grey's Anatomy! Thursday Night TV With Joel Klein

McDreamy? McSteamy? You decide.

June 04, 2008

Why Has the Education Press Missed the Boat? The Case of Small Schools

With the release of Scott McClellan's tell-all, everyone's been asking whether the press did its due diligence on the Iraq war. Closer to home, last week's Newsweek article provides similar occasion for us to reflect on the press coverage of small schools over the last six years.Let me first throw i...

June 03, 2008

How Much Would Paying Kids for Test Scores Cost?

In the midst of this budget debacle, along comes an estimate of the cost of NYC's student incentive program at full scale - i.e. if all students in grades 4-7 were eligible to receive up to $500 per year. Even a 50% success rate would cost a cool $90 million dollars - not far off from the $99 millio...

June 01, 2008

All Purpose Equity!

Everyone loves equity - the US Department of Education, the New York City Department of Education, insert your hometown Department of Education here. If you've got a shaky initiative in mind, best to back it up with the equity line.

Certainly that's the strategy Joel Klein has used in New York City. Want to change the admissions process for gifted and talented programs? It's about equity! (Even when doing so shuts out poor kids.) Want to close down comprehensive high schools? It's about equity! (Even if the most disadvantaged kids can't access those new small schools.) Want to use dollars that the state legislature specifically earmarked for the most disadvantaged kids to plug holes in a budget you cut yourself? It's about equity! (Even if the number of central employees has increased by 18% since 2004 - a jobs program for the Ivy League.)

When it comes to school funding, what does it mean to treat students "equitably?" Does equity imply treating each student the same by providing each student the same level of funding? Or does equity require a recognition that students bring different levels of disadvantage to school, and as a result, disadvantaged students must be treated differently in order to be treated equitably?

In 2007, when the city was bulldozing through its "Fair Student Funding" program, NYC Chancellor Joel Klein argued that educational equity required differential treatment. Poor students face formidable obstacles to school success, Klein explained, and the allocation of tax-levied funds in New York City should reflect that reality.

It was also in this compensatory spirit that the remedy emerging from New York's adequacy suit - now known as the Contracts for Excellence - was designed. Three rules were applied to these funds. First, these funds must be spent on six program areas, including class size reduction, time on task, teacher and principal quality initiatives, full day pre-kindergarten, middle and high school restructuring, and model programs for English Language Learners. Second, these funds must be spent on those students with the greatest educational needs. Finally - and most relevant to this budget debate - these funds must be used to supplement, not supplant, the city's school funding allocations. The idea is that these dollars represent additional investments New York City's most disadvantaged children.

This budget cycle, fairness and equity, according to Joel Klein, require universalism - specifically, a universal budget cut - not differential treatment. The city has cut tax-levied funds to all schools, which will be offset by Contracts for Excellence funds for the neediest schools. But the city's more advantaged schools are facing substantial cuts because they won't receive more state money. Joel Klein is now arguing that an "equitable" solution to this budget problem is for the state to release the restrictions on these Contracts for Excellence funds so that all schools will take a 1.4% cut. And he claims, with remarkable chutzpah, that it is the state's fault, not the city's fault for cutting budgets in the face of a projected $4.5 billion budget surplus, that some schools will suffer more than others.

Ultimately, if equity can be called upon to support any action - even those that nakedly reallocate dollars set aside to serve the city's most disadvantaged students - then equity means nothing at all.

May 28, 2008

New Verbs to Describe City Council Hearings: Hissing, Spanking, Chasing

Here's a round-up of yesterday's budget hearings: Chancellor Talks of Cuts for Schools, Amid Hissing (NYT), City Council Spanks Chancellor Klein Over School Aid Cuts (Daily News), School Budget Showdown (Gotham Gazette), and Rollback Set in Schooling of the Gifted (NY Sun). (Sidenote on City Counci...

May 27, 2008

In NYC, Tis the Season for Sacrifice

A few weeks ago, a solemn President Bush revealed that he honors our soldiers' sacrifice by abstaining from golf. "I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal," he explained.It was in this spirit that Chancellor Joel Klein appeared before the City Council this morning. Klein dedica...

May 19, 2008

Should State Tests Require Students to Advocate for Specific Education Policies?: NY's ELA Test on Teach for America

A Voice Cries Out reports that this year's high school ELA retest required students to complete the following task:Today’s ’situation’ told students that they were in a leadership team who has been debating ‘whether leaders should have experience in their chosen fields.’ They were instruc...

May 19, 2008

School Closings and Teacher Salaries in New York City: There's Something For Everyone Here

Last fall, the New York City Department of Education graded each of its schools on an A-F scale. Schools were warned that those with Fs – there were 49 altogether - faced closure. Shortly thereafter, the New York City Department of Education announced its intention to close 14 schools. Somewhat p...

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