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April 8, 2011
Bloomberg files formal request to make Walcott schools chief
The city's official request that Dennis Walcott be allowed to become schools chancellor even though he doesn't meet all of the state's requirements is now in Albany. Bloomberg sent the waiver request letter to outgoing State Education Commissioner David Steiner last night, city officials said. Until the waiver is approved, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky is legally the city's chancellor, according to city officials. State law requires district leaders to fulfill a host of requirements, including holding a superintendent's license, which Walcott does not have. But the law also allows state officials to grant exceptions to the requirements for prospective district leaders who have "exceptional training and experience" in education. Bloomberg's letter to Steiner emphasizes Walcott's training and experience. The deputy mayor has a master's degree in education and significant experience in city education policy, as well as a year and half of experience as a kindergarten teacher in the mid-1970s. Former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein received a waiver based, in part, on teaching experience that was shorter. Steiner approved a waiver for ex-Chancellor Cathie Black only after she agreed to make Polakow-Suransky, a longtime teacher and principal, her second-in-command. Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch told GothamSchools yesterday that the state had not yet received a waiver request for Walcott, but that she had promised Bloomberg quick approval once it did.
April 7, 2011
David Steiner, top state ed dep't official, to leave at year's end
David Steiner. Photo courtesy of State Education Department. Yet another top education official is making plans to vacate his position — this time at the State Education Department. SED Commissioner David Steiner will leave the department at the end of the school year, he announced today. Steiner appears to be leaving entirely of his own accord. People close to him described him as less interested in the "nuts and bolts" work of implementing the vision he helped the state set out for education. They said that Steiner, a former education school dean, is considering returning to the quieter and less political territory of academia. The news outdid Mayor Bloomberg's announcement this morning that his deputy mayor, Dennis Walcott, will replace Chancellor Cathie Black — at least in the department of rattling surprises. Even Steiner himself did not know that he would be announcing his departure today, according to people close to him. "The only reason the announcement came today is because there clearly were rumors, and then after the Susan Arbetter show, and she raised those rumors, it felt like we needed to address them because we didn’t want to have rumors continue to percolate and circulate over the next few days," a source at the state education department said. Asked about rumors that Steiner might resign on that show, Capital Pressroom, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said that Steiner was "exploring other options" after less than two years in Albany. Tisch appeared on the show to discuss teacher evaluations but also addressed the resignation of Cathie Black as New York City schools chancellor. Steiner became commissioner in July 2009, replacing 14-year veteran Richard Mills. Steiner had been chair of the School of Education at Hunter College, where he pioneered the practice of videotaping teachers as they worked and then critiquing their performance. Improving teacher evaluation emerged as one of the main themes of Steiner's tenure as commissioner, with the state reaching an agreement with teachers unions on a plan to change how teachers are assessed. That plan has yet to go into action because it requires individual school districts to develop their own assessments and have those assessments approved by local unions. Recommended guidelines for the local assessments were released only this week. "With the anticipated approval of a final teacher evaluation program in the coming months, I have informed Chancellor Tisch and members of the Board of Regents that I intend to leave the State Education Department later this year," Steiner said this afternoon in a statement. "Together we will begin to plan for a seamless transition." People close to Steiner said he had grown disinterested in the job of commissioner.
April 1, 2011
At Brooklyn's PS 9, state overturns a space-sharing plan, again
For the second time in less than a year, State Education Commissioner David Steiner is putting a kibosh on a city charter school siting. Steiner yesterday annulled a contentious February Panel for Educational Policy vote to place Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School inside the PS 9 building in Prospect Heights. His 16-page decision sides with seven parents who filed a lawsuit alleging many failures in the Department of Education's proposal, including that it had not provided mandated details about how the colocation would affect the use of common spaces such as the building's gym and cafeteria. "I am unable to conclude that DOE's failure to comply with the statute's requirements in this respect was harmless error," Steiner wrote. The decision bars the city from trying again to site a charter school in the PS 9 building until it releases a new plan that includes the missing information. Because state law requires that any plan be approved six months before a new school moves in, it's unlikely that the city could get permission to place Brooklyn East Collegiate inside PS 9 this fall. Meanwhile, another school already open in the building, MS 571, is set to start phasing out due to poor performance, and PS 9 administrators say they will push to add middle school grades.
November 29, 2010
Steiner grants Black waiver she needs to become chancellor
As expected, State Education Commissioner David Steiner has granted publishing executive Cathleen Black the waiver she needs to become the city's next schools chancellor. Steiner's decision follows a deal struck between city and state officials, the details of which emerged late last week. The agreement called for Black to promote Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky to a new position of Chief Academic Officer and was designed to ameliorate Steiner's concerns about Black's lack of experience in the education field. Under state law, the commissioner is allow to waive the requirements for education experience and certification if the chancellor candidate's experience is "substantially equivalent." In his letter today, Steiner cites the waiver that his predecessor, Richard Mills, gave former Chancellor Harold Levy 2000. In that case, Mills wrote that the chancellor's experience did not need to mirror the required credentials, but rather that the candidate's experience has prepared her for the chancellor's job. "After careful review of the record before me it is my judgment that, when viewed in its entirety, Ms. Black's training, background and experience are substantially equivalent to the certification requirements set forth in law," Steiner writes.
November 26, 2010
Black will receive waiver after city vows to promote Suransky
Cathleen Black will receive the state waiver that lets her become the next New York City schools chancellor, following a Thanksgiving deal between the city and the state, an official familiar with the deal confirmed today. PHOTO: GreenleeShael Polakow-Suransky, the man whose promotion allowed Cathie Black to become chancellor The deal calls for Black to give a major promotion to Shael Polakow-Suransky, an education official who has sparred with Chancellor Joel Klein's top deputies, even while working alongside them. Suransky, currently deputy chancellor for "performance and accountability," will now hold two titles: senior deputy chancellor and chief academic officer. Suransky engaged in especially vigorous debates with James Leibman, the official who created Klein's controversial school report cards, according to department officials. He successfully lobbied to give schools the opportunity to create their own assessments rather than follow state tests. The disagreements didn't stop the two men from respecting each other. When Leibman left the Department of Education to return to Columbia University, Klein promoted Suransky to succeed him as head of the accountability office. An official said that Leibman promoted Suransky to the position. Suransky is also one of a small number of top Department of Education officials who regularly refers to "instruction" as the part of education he would like to change — a trait he holds in common with Steiner and his top deputy, John King. Like King, Suransky is also a former teacher and principal. He has worked closely with state education officials on their main project, the reforms they are creating with their federal Race to the Top funding. Suransky has taken an especially prominent role in creating new assessments designed to make it harder for teachers to "teach to the test."
November 23, 2010
Look, but don't speak, State Ed tells reporters about Black panel
Update: Maura sends this picture of the assembled panel. From second man on the left they are: Bernard Pierorazio, Kenneth Slentz, Louise Mirrer, Susan Fuhrman, Commissioner David Steiner, SED staff member Erin O'Grady-Parent, Jean-Claude Brizard, Andres Alonso, and Michele Cahill. Not pictured: Ronald Ferguson. And because high school never really ends, all of the panel members who worked for Chancellor Joel Klein are sitting at the same table. Update 5:20 PM: The panel has voted to deny Cathie Black a waiver. Two members voted in favor, but four voted against it and two voted "not at this time." The final decision rests with Education Commissioner David Steiner, who has not made a call yet. In just a few minutes, the panel selected to advise Education Commissioner David Steiner on Cathie Black's suitability as chancellor will convene for the first time. But its eight members won't be pausing to field questions about their stances on Black's appointment or on their possible conflicts of interest.
November 19, 2010
Commissioner names panel of experts to screen new chancellor
State Education Commissioner David Steiner has named the panel of education experts that will help him decide whether to allow magazine executive Cathie Black to become the next schools chancellor. Without a background in education, Black needs a waiver from the state that will let her bypass the prerequisites: that she have a degree in education and several years of teaching behind her. Though the final decision rests with Steiner, the panel will play a role in reviewing the city's case for why Black is qualified and making a recommendation. Reviewing the list of panel members, New York University Professor Pedro Noguera said the commissioner had covered his bases. "Steiner's aware that this is very controversial," Noguera said. "So if you think about it, instead of just him making the decision he can say, 'Look, I got a group of very reputable people in education who agreed with me.'"
November 12, 2010
State lawmakers' objections to Black shaded by mayoral control
State Education Commissioner David Steiner is the person who has the final word over whether Cathie Black is permitted as Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's successor. But the group of people who effectively oversee Steiner are trying to have their say, too. A number of lawmakers — including Assembly members Marcos Crespo and Deborah Glick, as well as State Senator-elect Tony Avella — have already sent Steiner letters urging him to block Black's appointment. Others have not gone that far, but are expressing deep misgivings both about Black's lack of education credentials and the mayor's abrupt and secretive selection process. In making their stance, state lawmakers walk a fine line. On the one hand, the legislature appoints the Board of Regents, who in turn appoint Steiner. And Steiner frequently needs to negotiate with lawmakers, as he has done this year over the charter cap and state budget. Lawmakers' stances on Black's appointment therefore matter. "I think it should [matter]," said Queens Assemblyman David Weprin. "[Steiner is] going to have to deal with the legislature on a myriad of issues, as he has already." But at the same time, these are the same lawmakers who extended sole authority over the city schools to Bloomberg last year.
October 7, 2010
State issues guidelines for district Race to the Top spending
State education commissioner David Steiner and deputy John King discuss New York's Race to the Top application. As school districts and charter schools prepare their proposals for spending their share of nearly $700 million in Race to the Top spoils, state officials are giving guidance about how they should use the money. School districts have until November to create their plans for using the federal funds. On Monday, State Education Commissioner David Steiner and Deputy Commissioner John King held a videoconference with superintendents and school administrators around the state to help them begin to plan. (Watch Steiner and King's presentation and see the accompanying slides here.) The state education department will keep half of the Race to the Top winnings; the other half will be distributed among participating school districts and charter schools according to the federal Title I formula, King said.
August 25, 2010
With Race to the Top won, NY's education officals look ahead
Education Commissioner David Steiner and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch at yesterday's press conference in the governor's office. Why should the Race to the Top grant have a greater effect than previous federal money? And why make New York City's data system statewide if it's not exactly beloved in the city? WNYC reporter Beth Fertig put these questions and others to State Education Commissioner David Steiner and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch yesterday. Clips from the interview ran on WNYC yesterday, but you can listen to the full conversation below. convertedfile_edited-interview-long-of-fertig-with-steiner-tisch-on-rtt And here's the complete transcript: WNYC: This money is not supposed to be plugging the gap that we hear about in the state's education expenses. STEINER: That's correct. This money is dedicated to specific education reforms. Primarily the following areas. First, turning around lowest performing schools. Absolutely critical, it's a moral dilemma that we face and we've got to solve for our students. Second, the preparation and support of outstanding teachers and principals, from the moment that they enter their training programs in preparation, to their entire professional careers. Third, providing our teachers and principals and parents and districts with world-class data systems so that we know in real time what is being done in the classroom, what's working, what isn't working, what needs to be changed. And, beyond that, working on our assessments and curriculum, so that the materials that teachers share with children really do prepare them for further education for university, college, and the workplace, and the assessments give us an accurate reading of how those students are doing.
July 28, 2010
Test scores down sharply; biggest decline for needy students
Source: New York State Education Department The day of reckoning has arrived. After weeks of warning that adjusted standards would mean far fewer students passing state exams this year, state education officials released the exact numbers today. Average raw scores on the state third through eighth grade math and reading exams remained flat. But because the state decided to raise the scores required for a student to be deemed proficient, the number of students passing fell sharply. In New York City and other big cities, the number of students passing reading exams dropped by more than a quarter — from 68.8 percent of city students passing last year to 42.4 percent this year in reading, for example. Just over 53 percent of third through eighth-grade students statewide passed the reading exam, compared to 77 percent last year. Around 61 percent of students passed their math exams, compared with more than 86 percent last year. Pass rates of students learning English, students with disabilities, and poor students fell the farthest. The percentage of students learning English who passed the reading exam fell by more than half, from 36 percent to under 15 percent. Just 15 percent of students with disabilities passed the reading exam, compared to 39 percent last year.
July 22, 2010
State officials ask feds for leniency as standards are raised
As New York State grapples with improving its standardized tests, officials are asking the federal government for more time to make changes before schools are…
July 13, 2010
Push to make tests harder finds a critic in Buffalo schools chief
State education officials are responding to widespread calls to make state tests more difficult. But they're getting some harsh criticism from a surprising corner: the head of the Buffalo school system. As Education Commissioner David Steiner and Deputy Commissioner John King travel around New York explaining their plans to overhaul the state exams, they've largely met with support. In New York City, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has called for tougher exams. But last week, Buffalo School Superintendent James Williams told The Buffalo News that he doubts Steiner and King's approach will really improve the state's schools. “I think they’re two people who don’t know what they’re doing,” Williams said. “A more rigorous test is not going to improve student achievement. It’s not going to improve the graduation rate. I think it’s ridiculous.”
May 11, 2010
What to expect from today's teacher evaluation agreement
A new teacher evaluation system that's likely to become state law could mean that, for the first time, school districts will fire teachers if they repeatedly fail to boost their students' test scores. But to do that, the state and school districts will have to track student work in more detail than they ever have before. And state and city teachers union officials sold the idea as a way to create better professional development for teachers and principals. The agreement struck between the state education department and the teachers union today means that, in three years, all New York teachers will be evaluated according to a new 100-point scale, with 40 of those points determined by student achievement data. The agreement was ushered out just in time for the June 1 second round deadline for the Obama administration's Race to the Top grant competition. So far, the new teacher evaluation system exists only in concept. To flesh it out, school districts will have to create a new battery of customized tests or other ways to measure student learning.
May 10, 2010
Cuts could shrink New York's education department to historic low
New York State's Education Department could shrink to a historically low number of staffers next year, Education Commissioner David Steiner said this weekend. Speaking at the United Federation of Teachers' conference on Saturday, Steiner said told an audience of teachers that Governor Paterson's proposed budget cut would eliminate 5o to 60 staff members if it goes through the legislature unchanged. "We haven't had so few colleagues in living memory," he said. Those cuts would come at the same time the department takes on more responsibility.
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