Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fewer Children Entering Gifted Programs


The number of children entering New York City public school gifted programs dropped by half this year from last under a new policy intended to equalize access, with 28 schools lacking enough students to open planned gifted classes, and 13 others proceeding with fewer than a dozen children.

The policy, which based admission on a citywide cutoff score on two standardized tests, also failed to diversify the historically coveted classes, according to a New York Times analysis of new Education Department data.

In a school system in which 17 percent of kindergartners and first graders are white, 48 percent of this year’s new gifted students are white, compared with 33 percent of elementary students admitted to the programs under previous entrance policies. The percentage of Asians is also higher, while those of blacks and Hispanics are lower.

Parents, teachers and principals involved in the programs, already worried at reports this spring that the new system tilted programs for the gifted further toward rich neighborhoods, have complained since school began that they were wasteful and frustrating, with high-performing children in the smallest classes in a school system plagued by pockets of overcrowding.

“They took the knees out of a program that was working,” complained Christopher Spinelli, president of the Community Education Council for District 22 in southeastern Brooklyn.

[Entire Article]

Friday, October 24, 2008

As Schools Face Cuts, Delays on Data System Bring More Frustration

Apparently only teachers, and studnets are held accountable by Mr. Three Term. Outside contractors are held to lower standards.


An elaborate $80 million data and information system that was supposed to be ready in September to allow New York City public school parents to see things like which courses their children need to graduate, or how their test scores compare with citywide averages, has been unavailable even to school principals so far this fall. In its absence, 21 principals have used up to $13,000 in school funds for a more bare-bones data-management program that was developed by staff members at a Brooklyn high school eager to track their own data in an age of accountability.

The status of the information system — known as ARIS, for Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, developed by I.B.M. and a group of subcontractors — is touching a raw nerve as schools throughout the city brace for $185 million in budget cuts.

Ernest A. Logan, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, the union that represents the city’s principals and assistant principals, said that he had had “major concerns” about the progress and cost of ARIS, and that this had been the topic of “ongoing conversations” with Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein.

“For something that would supposedly be a resource for schools and school leaders, it really has not come through as it should have,” Mr. Logan said. “I can understand the desire to have something that is supposedly helping, but I’m now looking at the amount of money that we put into this thing, especially when we’re thinking about cutting back.”

One Brooklyn elementary school principal — who, like a half dozen other principals interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the Education Department, said in frustration:

“Principals are held accountable for everything, as you well know, but I.B.M. isn’t held accountable for $80 million that they’ve been paid for a system that they haven’t been able to get working?” A March 2007 news release announcing the I.B.M. contract described ARIS as a “first-of-its-kind data management system” that would “make innovations at one school available” to others, and projected that data would be available to teachers and administrators that September and to parents a year later.

James S. Liebman, the Education Department’s chief accountability officer, said on Thursday that the project was “proceeding in an appropriate manner” and “in the way we anticipated.” He said that parents would begin gaining access to the system in December, and noted that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in his State of the City speech in January, said that ARIS would be online by the fall, not September specifically.

Mr. Liebman said that 7,500 to 9,000 school employees, including principals, certain teachers and central Education Department staff, had access last year to ARIS, which at that point included basic demographic information, as well as data used to compile the city’s A through F report cards, like credit accumulation, attendance and scores on Regents exams and other state tests.

He said that the system was shut down in July for an upgrade and that it would be back online for principals by the first week of November with more detailed student information as well as interactive functions like blogs that would allow educators to share information about reading curriculums or innovative ways to teach first-graders addition.

He said teachers would gain access to the system in November as well, with enhanced capabilities allowing them to compare data for all their students.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Teachers to Be Measured Based on Students’ Standardized Test Scores


New York City is beginning to measure the performance of thousands of elementary and middle school teachers based on how much their students improve on annual state math and reading tests.

To avoid a contentious fight with the teachers’ union, the New York City Department of Education has agreed not to make public the reports — which described teachers as average, below average or above average with various types of students — nor let them influence formal job evaluations, pay and promotions.

Rather, according to a memo to principals from Chancellor Joel I. Klein and Randi Weingarten, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, sent on Wednesday night, the reports are designed to be guides for the teachers themselves to better understand their achievements and shortcomings.

“They won’t be used in tenure determinations or the annual rating process,” the memo said. “Many of you have told us how useful it would be to better understand how your efforts are influencing student progress.”

Still, even without formal consequences for teachers, the plan is likely to anger teachers and parents who are already critical of the increasing emphasis on standardized test scores as a substitute for judging school quality. It follows the city’s much-debated issuance of report cards labeling individual schools A through F largely on the basis of student improvement on state exams.

The State Legislature this spring prohibited the use of student test scores in teacher tenure decisions. The new measurement system — called “teacher data reports” — is an expansion of a pilot program that the city began in January involving about 2,500 teachers at 140 schools. The pilot program was so controversial that several participating principals did not tell teachers they were being monitored.

Christopher Cerf, the deputy chancellor overseeing the program, said it was important to get teachers “comfortable with the data, in a positive, affirming way.”

“The information in here is a really, really important way to foster change and improvement,” he said. “We don’t want people to be threatened by this.”

Entire Article

So let me get this straight, we are going to compare teachers using standardized test scores, scores are not going to be published, not going to be used in job performance evaluations, and not going to be rewarded with pay. Why are we spending money on this research if we are not going to use the results? Does three term mayor guy know someone with a compnay who has a contract in data crunching?