Tag Archives: Michael Mulgrew

Eight Queens schools chosen for new program


| editorial@queenscourier.com


JANAE HUNTER

Eight Queens public schools have been named to participate in an innovative redesign that bends the traditional protocols, officials announced on Monday.

School Chancellor Carmen Fariña and Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), announced that 62 schools citywide were selected to participate in the Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence (PROSE) program for the 2014-2015 school year.

The PROSE program was created as part of a new contract between the UFT and the Department of Education (DOE). The program allows participating schools to deviate from the rules and regulations of the UFT and DOE, and allows them to implement their innovative plans, such as staggering the school days to meet student needs, changing the contractually required student-to-teacher ratio, and using a new teacher rating system.

“Real change happens when educators are empowered to develop the best, tailored strategies to help their students succeed,” Fariña said. “At dozens of schools across the city, these educators have come forward with new, innovative practices that can serve as a guide for all of our school communities and brighten the classroom experience for every child.”

Fariña and Mulgrew, along with First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris, launched PROSE by inviting all public schools to apply. By May 1, 107 schools had applied and after being reviewed by a panel of representatives, 62 schools were chosen. Support teams at the DOE will closely monitor the selected schools to make sure that proposed plans will be implemented successfully, and that any proposed plans benefit the teachers and students and comply with relevant state regulations.

“I’m proud of the New York City public school system and all the schools that took part in the PROSE program,” said Mulgrew. “Innovations like this will move education forward not just in New York, but around the country. Teachers, principals, parents and the entire school community working together will truly advance education.”

The Queens schools selected are:

  • Academy for Careers in Television and Film
  • International High School
  • Middle College High School at LaGuardia Community College
  • North Queens Community High School
  • PS71 Forest Elementary
  • The Flushing International High School
  • The International High School for Health Sciences
  • Voyages Preparatory South Queens

 

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Decision to keep NYC public schools open despite snow creates more controversy


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Updated 4:30 p.m. 

Parents of public school students are telling city officials, they failed.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Wednesday night that the Department of Education will keep all public schools open Thursday, despite the forecast of 8 to 12 inches of heavy, wet snow.

The total attendance at city schools was only 44.65 percent, according to a preliminary report from the DOE released Thursday afternoon.

Although, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the snow came down “heavier and faster” than what was predicted by the National Weather Service, he said the right decision was made.

“Based on our knowledge, we were convinced kids could get to schools this morning,” de Blasio said. “So many families depend on their schools as a place for their kids to be during the day.”

Schools have been canceled only a total of 11 times since 1978, according to de Blasio.

“It’s a rarity and it’s something we do not do lightly,” he said.

Both the mayor and schools chancellor said they want to open up communication so parents understand the thinking that goes into making the decision to keep schools open.

“It’s our obligation to run a school system,” he said. “Given what we knew, we knew our children could get to school safely.”

Yet, even as Fariña said it had turned into a “beautiful day” after the morning snow, parents were outraged with the idea that their children’s lives were put in danger.

“I decided to not send my kids to school because it is too dangerous out there. The roads, at least by me are bad, buses are getting stuck and I don’t want to risk it,” said Michelle Rojas, mother of two from Flushing. “[City officials] are not thinking. They can make the days up.”

Sara Alvarez, mother of three, said she learned her lesson from the last snowstorm and did not want to go through the “chaos” once again.

“One day less of class doesn’t matter, what’s most important is the security of our children,” she said. “The last snowstorm was chaos and can you imagine when it comes to dismissal? It’ll be a whole other chaos.”

One local school bus operator, who wished to remain anonymous, said that although all her “dedicated” workers made it in and every bus went out on its route to pick up students, she is still concerned about the conditions on the road.

“I am livid. This is a very dangerous storm,” she said. “I am very concerned about school buses driving in this condition. I will not be happy until all the buses come back today.”

Fariña said students and staff would have excused lateness during such snow emergencies, but absences would still not be excused.

“I understand the desire to keep schools open. The only thing that trumps that is safety,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. “Having students, parents and staff traveling in these conditions was unwarranted. It was a mistake to open schools today.”

Field trips, after-school programs and PSAL activities, however, are all cancelled today.

 

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Teacher evaluations shed light on effectiveness


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


Grades given by the Department of Education (DOE) show more than 500 teachers may have failed to effectively educate their students.

According to published accounts, the DOE’s Teacher Data Reports have identified 521 English and math teachers who produced the smallest student gains between 2007 and 2010.

The reports, which use a value-added approach to illustrate how much progress individual teachers helped students make in reading and math over the course of a year, also classify 696 instructors as aiding children towards the biggest achievement gains over the same four-year period.

Roughly 12,000 teachers in grades four through eight were assigned ratings during the 2009-2010 school year – some based on their performances dating as far back as 2007.

In an op-ed piece, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott called the reports “valuable tools” in identifying teachers’ strengths and weaknesses, but warned against using the data as the sole instrument by which to measure an educator.

“The data is now two years old, and it would be irresponsible for anyone to use this information to render judgments about individual teachers,” wrote Walcott. “Teacher Data Reports were created primarily as a tool to help teachers improve, and not to be used in isolation.”

Walcott continued by stating that the reports “don’t tell the full story about a teacher’s performance,” and they include instructors “who don’t even work in our schools anymore.” The chancellor also acknowledged that many teachers’ performances may have changed since the data was assembled.

While the rating system is no longer utilized by the DOE, similar calculations will account for 20 percent of a teacher’s rating – with the remaining grade composed of other measures, such as classroom observations – in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recently-established statewide teacher evaluation program.

Despite the protests of hundreds of school faculty and parents, the data reports were released after several media outlets filed Freedom of Information Law requests and the state’s courts ruled the DOE was “obligated” to make them available.

United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew, who was against the release of the Teacher Data Reports, believes the ratings to be highly inaccurate.

“The Teacher Data Reports are based on bad data and an unproven methodology with a huge margin of error,” Mulgrew said. “They are not an accurate reflection of the work of any teacher. Their release is particularly inappropriate in view of the fact that the DOE has already announced that they will be discontinued and replaced with a statewide program.”

The UFT noted the rating system has error margins as high as 54 out of 100 points – meaning a top scoring teacher may be below average or an educator deemed subpar could be among the best. The federation also said some teachers were rated on subjects or students they did not teach, and one educator was given a score for a year she was on maternity leave.

Many teachers have objected to the release of the reports, claiming they will be unfairly judged based on inaccurate statistics.

“If the public wants to see what we do in the classrooms, then an outside agency – not the UFT, not the city – should come in and observe and rate the teachers,” said one Queens educator. “There are a lot of factors that go into education, and these ratings aren’t enough to judge a teacher by.”

Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters, a citywide advocacy group campaigning for smaller classes, believes the reports could be disastrous for the teaching profession as a whole.

“I think the releasing of the data is indefensible,” said Haimson. “I think it has the potential of wrecking the teaching profession. I don’t think anyone would go into teaching knowing this kind of data could be released, that is both unfair and unreliable and could put them at the mercy of the tabloids for being publicly shamed and denounced.”

Based on the data, media reports have also suggested the best ranked schools have the highest percentage of top rated teachers, while the struggling institutions have many instructors with below average marks.

UFT opposes mayor’s merit pay for teachers


| brennison@queenscourier.com


Mayor Michael Bloomberg believes the skinny on retaining top teachers is handing them a fat check.

During the mayor’s State of the City speech, he outlined a plan that would reward teachers rated as “highly effective” in consecutive years with a $20,000 salary increase.

“Our teachers deserve that — and so do our children,” the mayor said.

The plan, along with his offer to pay off up to $25,000 in student loans, the mayor says, will help the city recruit and secure first-rate teachers.

On its most recent report card, The National Council on Teacher Quality gave New York a D+ on its ability to retain effective teachers.

The report pinpoints the weaknesses in the state’s ability to keep top teachers as not discouraging districts from basing salary schedules solely on years of experience and advanced degrees and not supporting performance pay or additional compensation for relevant prior work experience.

“We will continue to improve our schools for our 1.1 million students by recruiting, rewarding and retaining the best educators, and providing students with the support they need to thrive,” Bloomberg said. “Our administration is not going to stop until there is a great teacher in every classroom and a great school in every neighborhood.”

The United Federation of Teachers believes the mayor has his head in the cloud when it comes to merit-based pay.

“The mayor seems to be lost in his own fantasy world of education, the one where reality doesn’t apply. It doesn’t do the kids and the schools any good for him to propose the kind of teacher merit pay system that has failed in school districts around the country,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement. “If he’s really interested in improving the schools his administration has mishandled, he will send his negotiators back to the table to reach an agreement on a new teacher evaluation process.”

The teacher’s union and the city have been at an impasse in negotiations since the end of 2011 over evaluations of teachers.

The UFT has proposed a system that would be expanded from satisfactory/unsatisfactory to four categories: highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective.  The mayor is looking for a system that allows ineffective teachers to be removed from the classroom more easily.

If the two sides cannot come to an agreement on a negotiate teacher evaluation system by 2013, Governor Andrew Cuomo can withhold his proposed four percent increase in school aid.

P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott faces closure by DOE


| brennison@queenscourier.com


One Queens public school faces a permanent summer vacation after finding itself on the Department of Education’s (DOE) list of schools slated for closure.

P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott in Far Rockaway received an “F” on the most recent progress report released in September.  The school is joined by 18 other schools around the city that may shut their doors for good.

“This announcement represents another stunning failure of DOE management. Rather than doing the hard work of helping struggling schools, the DOE tries to close them, making sure that the hardest-to-educate kids end up concentrated in the next school on the closure list,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew. “It’s playing three-card Monte with children’s lives and education. It’s wrong, and if our attorneys find that the DOE is violating state law in this process, we’ll be seeing them in court.”

The final decision will be made by a Panel for Educational Policy vote in February.

Three other Queens schools — Law, Government and Community Service High School, P.S. 181 and Peninsula Preparatory Academy — were on the original DOE list of 47 schools at risk of closing.

Schools targeted for closure will be phased out and replaced, not closed down completely.