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Court Rules City Can’t Regulate Pre-K at Charter Schools

New York Post

The state’s highest court on Tuesday struck down as illegal a New York City edict to regulate pre-kindergarten programs operated […]

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Jim Manly: Parents Deserve the Best Customer Service on the Planet

02/13/2012

By Maria Newman

In Principal’s Office, a regular feature of SchoolBook, a city school principal is interviewed for insights into school management and the life of a school leader. What do you think makes a good principal? Join the conversation below.

To work for the Success Academy Charter Schools is to be both target and instigator of the ever-churning battle in New York over the direction of the public schools. Jim Manly has been in the line of fire the longest of any Success principal since Eva S. Moskowitz, the hard-charging former city councilwoman, founded the network in 2006.

Ms. Moskowitz has become the lightening rod for the charter school controversy in New York, with her relentless push to expand the network to 40 schools, and each new opening has unleashed opposition, anger and lately law suits. (Earlier this month, a lawsuit was filed to try to stop the Success network from opening a school in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, which would be the 12th in the network.) But parents who send their children to her schools applaud the philosophy, which Mr. Manly describes as “joyful rigor — that you can have a balance of creative, critical thinking and high standards. That you can love school and still achieve at high levels.” The school has a longer day and school year for its scholars, as they call their students.

Mr. Manly, 45, started his work in education as a teacher at a Harlem middle school. His school, Harlem Success Academy 2, has 625 students in grades K-4, and plans to expand to eighth grade. He is a survivor of both the many skirmishes involving charter schools — and his network in particular — and of the hands-on, relentless style of Ms. Moskowitz. His salary is $140,000 a year. This interview was edited and condensed.

Q. You were a teacher in two more traditional public schools in New York City, and then worked for Teach for America and now the Success network, with people who have changed modern education. What have you learned from your experience working closely with Eva Moskowitz and Wendy Kopp and other reformers?

A. I see a lot of similarities in Eva and Wendy’s drive and determination. There are so many people willing to say you’re going too fast or you’re being too bold or too aggressive and these things are incremental. For me there’s a real urgency to this work. Both Eva and Wendy have been very helpful in making me understand that if you continue to listen to everybody’s take-it-slow approach, we won’t be there at the end of the day. They’ve been big influences on me in terms of how I want our teachers to view their work with their scholars, that there isn’t always tomorrow. That this is day we’ve been given. Some people say, give the public schools more time. We’ve been hearing this for generations. These kids don’t have more time. They don’t get to say I’ll wait five or six more years for this school to get fixed. By then they’ll be in eighth grade, reading at a third grade level.

Q. You’re a very demanding school, but surely not all your kids will meet up to your standards. How do you deal with failure compared to how other schools might deal with it?

A. I think it does matter that they chose us. In Harlem, over half the parents in District 5 apply to be in our school, so it’s not like we’re creaming. We have an established product. If a child isn’t doing well, we say to the parents, listen, this is a true ticket for your child to redefine their academic expectations. This is an incredibly rare opportunity, and you’re blowing it. Your kid is coming to school at 12:30 in the afternoon, or they’re missing three days in a row for no other reason than you felt tired or you didn’t feel like coming to school. We can’t throw anybody out, but we sit parents down and say there is a waiting list a mile long of people who want in to this school, and you have this spot and you’re throwing it away. You’re not bringing your kid in on time, you’re not making sure they do their homework, you’re allowing them to disrupt lessons. We need your help. We see some pretty remarkable turnarounds. The parents will say you’re right. I hear your message. I’m messing this up. I’ve had some parents drop out, which is heartbreaking — ‘This is too much, I can’t handle it.’

Q. How different is this school from other Success schools? In other words, how much are you allowed to bring your own individual style to a school in this network?

A. It is standardized. Eva wants it that way. But Eva is open to seeing other ideas. If I bring something to her, she almost always says, absolutely, go give it a try and if it works we’ll roll it out everywhere. And frankly most of our other principals are 15 to 20 years younger than I am. I’ve been here since the school opened so we have a very strong connection with families here. Our school got the bulk of the protests when we started up, more even than Harlem Success Academy 1. We had people picketing our front door and kindergartners couldn’t walk in. Just awful stuff, but it really bonded our families in a deep way to our school, there was some element of feeling like we were the Little Rock 9, some parents feel like, ‘I finally have a school in my neighborhood that works.’ But I do feel that it sets it apart, that. I as the principal have been here since the beginning.

Q. You seem to know a lot of your kids’ names.
A. I get a binder at the start of the year where we take every kid’s picture and I sit down and my daughter helps me and I just work on their names until I have every single one of them. And I go down first thing every morning and I shake every scholar’s hand and I say good morning by their name.

Q. What difference do you think this makes?
A. At some of these protest hearings where we had to go argue for space, our parents would get up and they would say, ‘I went to school for 12 years, 13 years in New York City and there wasn’t an administrator who ever knew my name. Mr. Manly knows my child, knows how they’re doing.’ And it really made an impact on me. This is important and I need to make sure that I get to know each of these little kids. I tell parents, ‘you deserve the best customer service on the planet. We have your most prized possessions, more important than your iPod, your car. This is the customer service that should outshine anything else. We have your child.’ I pride myself on knowing who your kid is, figuring out who they are as a learner. And providing them with the best service.

Q. Are you at this school for the long haul?
A. I made a commitment to parents who started with us the first year, ‘My plan is to be with your kids through 8th grade.’ We’re starting middle school here next year. My goal is to be K-8 principal for those kids and then maybe we can look at other opportunities within the Success Network.

Q. What about teacher burnout? You ask a lot of your teachers. We saw it in the book “Class Warfare,” where one of the Success teachers, Jessica Reid, left mid-year because the work is so demanding.
A. It’s one of our bigger problems. I don’t know that it’s quite as bad as we got featured in “Class Warfare.” I don’t think she’s the typical case; I have lots of folks who have managed to be here four, five years and we’re getting better at figuring that out. We’re continually trying to figure out ways for people to be more successful here and to support them for the long haul. We have a lot of folks who are 27, 28 years old and getting engaged. I really want to be upfront with them about my life. I have two kids. It’s a big deal that they see that not all principals are 31 and working til 7. I go home early for my daughter’s plays. I go home to coach my son’s basketball team. If you work smartly you can do that. I’m often clearing people out of here at 6 o’clock.

Q. So your teachers aren’t staying until all hours of the night?
A. I’ve tried to teach them that you should be taking care of yourself regardless, and I don’t want them here til 6:30. I’ve felt like that’s often where we went wrong. When I first worked for Teach for America that was a rite of passage. People would see that Wendy stayed til 1 o’clock and then they would say, I was here til 11:30. For me that’s like a failure.

I don’t look at that as a badge of courage.

Q. How often do you see Eva?

A. Once a week at least. About once every other week she comes and does a tour with me. She’ll focus in. She might say, ‘let’s go see fourth grade read-aloud.’ She’ll debrief with me, what did I see, what did I see, what am I happy about, what am I worried about. She takes a very active role in the teaching and learning aspect. We also have weekly meetings with all the leaders.

I feel that part of my role is to be the eternal optimist. I remind her of what we have accomplished already. I say let’s not forget to celebrate all the incredible things we have done and then she laughs and say you’re right. She’s really good at making me never be complacent, that even though we got 75 percent of the kids to pass the test, she’ll constantly say, what about the 25 percent, what did we do wrong?

Q. Can you tell her she’s wrong?
A. You can. I’m more comfortable doing it than some of the other leaders who have been there less time. You need to be very well prepared with arguments and she’s going to battle back. She may not agree with you right then. We’ll go back and forth on an issue, like changing the math program. And I’ll walk out of there thinking, ‘boy, I didn’t move her an inch.’ And then a day later we’ll get an e-mail, ‘Like what you had to say. Want you to try it out in your third grade, give me a report in three weeks on how it’s going. I’m going to come see it in four weeks.’

We ended up switching the entire math program, and it was rolled out just that way.

Q. I told myself that I wouldn’t treat you like the spokesman for the reform movement, but you seem to see yourself that way.

A. I do understand there are other issues, like job security and pensions that are real issues that that deserve an adult discussion. But at the same time, they’re saying here’s this evil empire trying to privatize schools? No, we’re not. We’re just trying to do this the right way for kids who for so long have been denied a quality education. Don’t close us down. Don’t make it impossible for kids to have an opportunity that they could only have dreamed about a few years ago. If they could come here they would see. We are getting dramatically different results. Sure, you could explain away 5 percentage points to parents being a little more motivated. But it’s not even close. We pass 75 percent of our kids in the third grade test. The co-located school below us passed 22 percent. It’s not even in the area code. It’s a dramatic, dramatic difference. I’ve become more passionate about it. This should be more widespread.

In education-packed speech, Bloomberg vows to bypass UFT

1/12/2012

By Philissa Cramer

Mayor Bloomberg is attempting to breathe new life into his enervated education agenda today with an ambitious and startling list of proposals that include paying top teachers $20,000 bonuses and bypassing the union to overhaul struggling schools.

Perhaps most interesting is the way that he is outlining, in his 10th State of the City address right now in the Bronx, to resuscitate stalled efforts to transform 33 struggling schools — and still receive the $58 million in federal funds that were supposed to support them. The state cut off the city’s access to those funds last month, arguing that Bloomberg’s failure to reach a deal with the teachers union on evaluations of teachers made the city ineligible for them.

But today Bloomberg argued that the city could still get the federal support without a deal. His plan is to change the city’s approach to overhauling those schools, using the “turnaround” model. That model requires that up to 50 percent of a school’s teachers be removed.

“We believe that when we take this action, we will have fulfilled the state’s requirements and the schools will be eligible for the $58 million in funding,” he is set to say.

The city had originally wanted to use the turnaround model, one of four federally mandated options, to overhaul the 33 schools. But it turned to backup models, “transformation” and “restart,” because the union would not agree. Today, Bloomberg says he believes the union’s current contract permits turnaround, according to his prepared remarks.

In a telephone call before the address, a union official said immediately that that was not the case, auguring a fight that could drag on or even wind up in court.

The proposal is one of several surprising and bold education plans that Bloomberg is outlining today at the city’s oldest high school, Morris High School in the South Bronx. Fully half of his State of the City address is devoted to education.

Other proposals include a $20,000 raise for teachers who get the top rating on the disputed evaluations for two years in a row and $25,000 to pay off student loans for new teachers who come from the top of their college class.

Those policies are designed to attract and retain good teachers, and Bloomberg is arguing that he expects the union’s support for them. The proposals, of course, depend on evaluations that the city and the union have not yet agreed on. And the $20,000 bonuses also represent individual merit pay for teachers, which the United Federation of Teachers has rejected in the past.

The mayor said the city is ramping up plans for the new schools that Chancellor Dennis Walcott introduced in September. Bloomberg said the city will open 100 new schools before he leaves office in 2013, including 50 charter schools. The city will help some charter networks — such as KIPP and Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy schools — grow faster and also bring in new charter school operators to the city. One of those, a chain called Rocketship that focuses on the technology-infused “blended learning” model, has already accepted the city’s invitation, Bloomberg announced.

And Bloomberg announced new efforts to push students along the path to college, by helping them get financial aid, and careers, through new schools with a vocational focus and a mentoring program involving local businesses.

Bloomberg left lots of questions unanswered: How does the workaround at the 33 struggling schools resolve the conflict over teacher evaluations? Will the state start federal funds flowing now, even though the switch to turnaround wouldn’t happen until September? Where will the funds for raises and loan repayments come from? Are the charter school networks Bloomberg mentions prepared to scale up faster?

We will be trying to find answers to these questions and others this afternoon.

In chronological order, according to the prepared remarks, Bloomberg proposed to:

  • Give new teachers who come from the “top tier” of their college class $25,000 to pay off student loans.
  • Raise the salaries of teachers who are rated “highly effective” for two years on new evaluations by $20,000
  • Use a turnaround program in state law to remove half of teachers at SIG schools, to get federal funding back
  • Open 100 new schools in the next two years, including 50 charter schools
  • Speed the expansion plans of charter networks such as KIPP and Success Academy
  • Recruit new charter school operators to come to the city, such as Rocketship, which has committed
  • Open three new grade 9-14 schools and at least a dozen new career and technical schools and programs
  • Ask local business and companies to offer mentoring and internships for students; Bloomberg LP is in
  • Help students apply for federal financial aid, using assistance from the Obama administration
  • Lead the charge for the New York State Dream Act to help undocumented students attend college

High-Performing Success Academies To Open Elementary Schools In Cobble Hill And Williamsburg

Two schools will help meet surging parental demand in Brownstone Brooklyn for high-quality public school education
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More than 1,500 Cobble Hill residents sign petition saying they’d be interested in applying to a Success Academy School

(BROOKLYN): The high-performing Success Academies network will open new public charter schools in Cobble Hill and Williamsburg for the 2012-2013 school year, school officials announced today.

Both Success Academy Cobble Hill and Success Academy Williamsburg will begin with a kindergarten and first grade comprised of roughly 190 children and grow by one grade each year until the schools serve students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

“One look at all the strollers on Court Street and Bedford Street provide all the proof you need that both Cobble Hill and Williamsburg have gone through a true baby boom in recent years,” said Eva Moskowitz, Founder and CEO of the Success Academies. “While these neighborhoods do indeed have some good schools, they’re quickly filling up, and we’ve repeatedly heard from parents that they’re worried that their kids won’t have good school options. Success Academy Cobble Hill and Success Academy Williamsburg will give parents another great public school option.”

More than 1,500 residents in District 15 where Success Academy Cobble Hill will be located signed a petition requesting that a Success Academy come to the neighborhood.

“Every parent wants to send their child to a great school and in our neighborhood, those schools are bursting at the seams,” said Lisa Melmed, a Brooklyn Heights parent. “I’m excited to learn that Success Academies is planning to open a school in Cobble Hill so that parents have another great option to consider, one that has an exceptional track record and where kids can get a high-caliber education without a private school price-tag.”

Members of the community are also eagerly anticipating the school’s arrival. “Our community is strengthened by the presence of as many high-quality schools as we can have,” said Melissa Benson, President of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue. “The Brooklyn Heights Synagogue has grown enormously in the past few years, in part due to improvements at P.S. 8 that have made it possible for more families to stay in the neighborhood. More good public schools will no doubt bring similar benefits.”

“The demand for school options in this community is incredible” said Eliza Rossman, a parent and board member of Heights and Hills, an organization with deep roots in the community. “Like many other families, we moved to Brooklyn because it seemed like a great place to raise children. Our community would benefit tremendously from a new school option.”

School applications will be available in mid-October (the school websites will launch by October 17th at www.successacademies.org/schools/cobble-hill/ and www.successacademies.org/schools/williamsburg/). The Department of Education will work with the community to determine which of several underutilized schools in both Districts 14 and 15 can best accommodate the schools.

“We look forward to closely working with the Department of Education and the community to open these schools,” Moskowitz said.
All four Success Academy Schools that received progress reports this year were given “A’s,” and students have received among the best test scores in all of New York City.

Big Study Links Good Teachers to Lasting Gain

01/06/2012

By Annie Lowry

WASHINGTON — Elementary- and middle-school teachers who help raise their students’ standardized-test scores seem to have a wide-ranging, lasting positive effect on those students’ lives beyond academics, including lower teenage-pregnancy rates and greater college matriculation and adult earnings, according to a new study that tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years.

The paper, by Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia, all economists, examines a larger number of students over a longer period of time with more in-depth data than many earlier studies, allowing for a deeper look at how much the quality of individual teachers matters over the long term.
“That test scores help you get more education, and that more education has an earnings effect — that makes sense to a lot of people,” said Robert H. Meyer, director of the Value-Added Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which studies teacher measurement but was not involved in this study. “This study skips the stages, and shows differences in teachers mean differences in earnings.”

The study, which the economics professors have presented to colleagues in more than a dozen seminars over the past year and plan to submit to a journal, is the largest look yet at the controversial “value-added ratings,” which measure the impact individual teachers have on student test scores. It is likely to influence the roiling national debates about the importance of quality teachers and how best to measure that quality.
Many school districts, including those in Washington and Houston, have begun to use value-added metrics to influence decisions on hiring, pay and even firing.

Supporters argue that such metrics hold teachers accountable and can help improve the educational outcomes of millions of children. Detractors, most notably a number of teachers unions, say that isolating the effect of a given teacher is harder than it seems, and might unfairly penalize some instructors.
Critics particularly point to the high margin of error with many value-added ratings, noting that they tend to bounce around for a given teacher from year to year and class to class. But looking at an individual’s value-added score for three or four classes, the researchers found that some consistently outperformed their peers.

“Everybody believes that teacher quality is very, very important,” says Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and longtime researcher of education policy. “What this paper and other work has shown is that it’s probably more important than people think. That the variations or differences between really good and really bad teachers have lifelong impacts on children.”
The average effect of one teacher on a single student is modest. All else equal, a student with one excellent teacher for one year between fourth and eighth grade would gain $4,600 in lifetime income, compared to a student of similar demographics who has an average teacher. The student with the excellent teacher would also be 0.5 percent more likely to attend college.

Perhaps just as important, given the difficulty of finding, training and retaining outstanding teachers, is that the difference in long-term outcome between students who have average teachers and those with poor-performing ones is as significant as the difference between those who have excellent teachers and those with average ones, the study found.
In the aggregate, these differences are potentially enormous.

Replacing a poor teacher with an average one would raise a single classroom’s lifetime earnings by about $266,000, the economists estimate. Multiply that by a career’s worth of classrooms.
“If you leave a low value-added teacher in your school for 10 years, rather than replacing him with an average teacher, you are hypothetically talking about $2.5 million in lost income,” said Professor Friedman, one of the coauthors.

To do the study, the researchers first tackled the question that has swirled controversy in so many school districts, including New York City’s: whether value-added scores are in fact a good measure of teacher quality. Mr. Jones might regularly help raise test scores more than Ms. Smith, but maybe that is because his students are from wealthier families, or because he has a harder-working class — factors that can be difficult for researchers to discern.
While Professor Rockoff, at Columbia, has previously written favorably about value-added ratings, the Harvard pair were skeptics of the metrics. “We said, ‘We’re going to show that these measures don’t work, that this has to do with student motivation or principal selection or something else,’ ” Professor Chetty recalled.

But controlling for numerous factors, including students’ backgrounds, the researchers found that the value-added scores consistently identified some teachers as better than others, even if individual teachers’ value-added scores varied from year to year.
After identifying excellent, average and poor teachers, the economists then set out to look at their students over the long term, analyzing information on earnings, college matriculation rates, the age they had children, and where they ended up living.

The results were striking. Looking only at test scores, previous studies had shown, the effect of a good teacher mostly fades after three or four years. But the broader view showed that the students still benefit for years to come.
Students with top teachers are less likely to become pregnant as teenagers, more likely to enroll in college, and more likely to earn more money as adults, the study found.

The authors argue that school districts should use value-added measures in evaluations, and to remove the lowest performers, despite the disruption and uncertainty involved.
“The message is to fire people sooner rather than later,” Professor Friedman said.

Professor Chetty acknowledged, “Of course there are going to be mistakes — teachers who get fired who do not deserve to get fired.” But he said that using value-added scores would lead to fewer mistakes, not more.
Still, translating value-added scores into policy is fraught with problems. Judging teachers by their students’ test scores might encourage cheating, teaching to the test or lobbying to have certain students in class, for instance.

“We are performing these studies in settings where nobody cares about their ranking — it does not change their pay or job security,” said Jesse Rothstein, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, whose work criticizing other value-added assessments unions frequently cite. “But if you start to change that, there is going to be a range of responses.”
Many other researchers and school administrators say that even if imperfect, well-calculated value-added scores are an important part of evaluating teachers.

“Very few people suggest that you should use value-added scores alone to make personnel decisions,” Dr. Hanushek, of Stanford, said. “What the whole value-added debate has done is push forward the issue of how to evaluate teachers, and how to use that information.”
The new study found no evidence for one piece of conventional wisdom: that having a good teacher in an early grade has a bigger effect than having a good teacher in later grades.

Judge issues setback in effort to make charter schools pay rent

01/03/2012

By Geoff Decker

A judge today rejected a midyear effort to collect more than $100 million in rent and facility fees from co-located charter schools.

The ruling is at least a temporary blow for parent activists who filed a lawsuit last year that challenged a long-standing Department of Education policy to give rent-free public school space to charter schools. The judge hasn’t ruled on that larger issue, but he said today that the merits of the lawsuit weren’t strong enough to immediately force the DOE to begin collecting rent before a final decision is made.
“It would be extremely harmful to wrench charter school students from their school of choice during a school year, should any charter school be unable to pay for renting public school space, forcing these students to seek placement elsewhere,” New York State Supreme Court Judge Paul Feinman wrote in his decision today.

About two-thirds of the city’s 136 charter schools are currently sited in public space and the lawsuit claims that the DOE has an obligation, based on state law, to charge rent. Class Size Matters’ Leonie Haimson, a lead plaintiff on the lawsuit, has estimated that the DOE has lost out on more than $100 million, which she has said could be used to reduce class sizes by hiring more teachers.
New York City pioneered the co-location policy under former Chancellor Joel Klein and it is still one of the only districts in the country that offers rent-free public space to charter schools. Charter school groups have defended the policy, saying that while charters schools are publicly funded, they don’t receive money for facility costs.

Charter school operators named on the lawsuit are defending themselves independently from the DOE, using the same high-powered law firms it used for another lawsuit. Today, one of those operators lauded the decision.

“Today’s ruling is a major victory for New York City parents and children who would have suffered the catastrophic consequences of this misguided lawsuit,” said Success Charter Network CEO Eva Moskowitz, whose schools exclusively operate in public school buildings.

Moskowitz said she hoped the lawsuit would be dismissed, but Feinman warned against such premature perceptions.

Feinman said in his closing statements that the denial “should not be misinterpreted” to mean he would ultimately side with the DOE. Feinman added that the DOE should not use the ruling for any site planning decisions it makes in the future.

Haimson said that Feinman’s specific caveat was a good sign that the lawsuit was being taken seriously.

“I thought that statement was very strong and I’m very hopeful,” Haimson said.

  • Stay in Touch!


    Prospective Parents: If your child will be entering Kindergarten through 4th grade for the 2018-19 school year, please register below to receive more information regarding your neighborhood Success Academies.

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    Prospective Parents: Register below to be notified when the application for the 2017-18 school year becomes available and to receive more information about Success Academy Charter Schools.