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March 4, 2010
Even as a finalist, NY still a Race to the Top longshot, officials say
New York's education officials and politicians reacted with shock to news today that their dark-horse state was named a finalist in the competition for Race to the Top funds. But the unexpected good news did little to instill confidence among lawmakers, who cautioned that the state is still a long-shot for a win. Many officials and advocates said the state legislature's failure to act on several key elements of the application — namely, its cap on charter schools and teacher tenure laws — could hobble the state's chances at the badly-needed funds. And they urged Albany to enact those changes immediately, before the state makes its final pitch to the grant program's judges in two weeks. The winners of the competition will be announced in April. Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said she was "thrilled" that the state's application, which centered on proposals to build a new data tracking system and to overhaul how teachers are trained and certified, was judged strong enough to make the finals. But she added a note of caution. "Now we need to make sure that the possibility doesn't slip away," Tisch said.
January 29, 2010
New York State releases details of its Race to the Top bid
New York State's Education Department has put aside its anxiety about releasing its Race to the Top application and finally posted the document on its website today. Initially claiming that releasing the state's bid to win $700 million would compromise its ability to compete in the second round, New York became one of four states (out of about 40 competitors) to withhold its application. Now SED has changed its mind after officials from the U.S. Department of Education said they'd make all states' applications public in April before the second round of the competition began. "Recent information from USDE indicates that releasing the application will not compromise New York State's competitiveness," said the department in a statement released today. According to the City Room blog, the state's application run some 1,000 pages.
January 21, 2010
New York State places dozens of NYC schools on replacement list
The New York State Department of Education has singled out 34 New York City public schools, most of them large high schools, that it believes should be replaced. Many of the schools are already on the city's to-be-closed list and others have had poor reputations and low grades on the city's annual report cards for years. Now that SED has designated which schools are the bottom five percent across the state, school districts will have to submit plans to Commissioner David Steiner detailing which of four federally mandated plans they intend to implement. The plans are a menu of sorts: four options the U.S. Department of Education believe can transform "persistently low achieving" schools into success stories. Before the list came out today, state officials said they planned to replace many of the schools with charter schools, a proposal that could be severely delayed by the state legislature's recent decision not to lift the state's charter cap. Long before the list came out, Chancellor of the Board of Regents Merryl Tisch said the state's choices would not be controversial.
January 8, 2010
City waiting for charter cap resolution before signing RttT bid
With just over a week until the state's Race to the Top application is due, the city is playing a game of chicken with the state legislature to pressure lawmakers into raising the cap on charter schools. Today was the deadline for school districts to sign onto the state's Race to the Top application, signaling they will participate in the state's reform plans and making them eligible for a slice of the federal funds. But the Department of Education of New York City —the state's (and country's) largest school district — has not yet agreed to the plan, taking advantage of a last-minute state extension of the deadline. "We're awaiting action on the charter cap," DOE spokesman David Cantor said. The more school districts that sign onto a state's application, the more points the state earns in the competition for grant funds. If New York City refuses its buy-in to the state's plan, it could potentially cripple New York's bid for the grant, which could deprive the state of a badly-needed $700 million in funding. The governor is currently withholding nearly $600 million in school aid from districts around the state, a move he defends as an attempt to stave off state financial insolvency.
December 15, 2009
City and state take different tones in linking test scores to tenure
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is aggressively pushing for the city to link test scores to tenure decisions this year, but state education officials are less confident that the tests are a reliable measure of progress and are proceeding with caution. Using test scores as a factor in teacher evaluations is one of the most controversial elements of the Race to the Top guidelines, which states are striving to meet in order to win the federal grants. On Monday, the State Board of Regents endorsed linking test scores to tenure decisions. But state officials are wary of using the tests before they're improved upon, an approach that contrasts with the city's decision to use the data immediately. Speaking at a press conference about the state's Race to the Top application yesterday, State Education Commissioner David Steiner warned against giving too much weight to the state tests or making them the sole indicator of a teacher's success or failure. "It would not be sound policy to ground the assessment of teachers in assessments we don't have complete confidence in," Steiner said.
December 14, 2009
Board of Regents urges state legislature to lift charter cap
State Education Commissioner David Steiner and the Board of Regents today urged the state legislature to increase the cap on charter schools in New York. While he stopped short of asking for a specific number, Steiner roughly calculated using the Race to the Top application guidelines that a cap of 400, twice the number currently allowed under state law, would best make the state competitive in that section of the Race to the Top application. The request comes as part of a larger effort by the Regents to create a sense of pressing need for legislative change to help the state compete for a slice of the $4.3 billion federal grant. New York is eligible for up to $700 million of the grant money. "The crucial thing here is to say, we can't stand still," said State Education Commissioner David Steiner. States earn points in the competition for grants on a variety of measures, including how friendly it is to charter school expansion and to using student test scores to rate teachers and teacher training programs. States will be judged by their policies in place at the time applications are submitted in the middle of January. The state has nearly hit its current cap on charter schools, and a law banning the use of student data in teacher tenure decisions remains on the books. Legislation introduced in October designed to make the state more competitive for Race to the Top has failed to gain momentum.
December 14, 2009
Regents to push Race to the Top school turnaround strategy today
State Education Commissioner David Steiner and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch welcome board members to their December meeting in Albany this morning. The public…
November 30, 2009
Tisch parts ways with Bloomberg on common standards, sort of
Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch disagreed with Mayor Bloomberg's education proposals in the most agreeable way possible tonight, saying that the mayor's call for New York to accept common national curriculum standards doesn't go far enough. In a speech in Washington, D.C., last week, Bloomberg called on Tisch and Steiner to ratify the common standards "as soon as possible and without material alteration." "As much as I respect the mayor, I have to disagree with him," Tisch said, saying that instead, New York should adopt standards that are tougher than the national bar. "We will reserve the right to increase the rigor of the standards and be at the top of the heap and not at the bottom of the heap," she said.
November 16, 2009
State plans to link teacher certification to student performance
The New York State Board of Regents wants to certify new teachers based on their students' academic achievement in their first two years of teaching, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Education Commissioner David Steiner announced today. The proposal came as part of a plan to overhaul the way teachers are trained and placed in classrooms that state officials hope will help them win competitive federal Race to the Top grant money. Under the plan, a new teacher would also face a tougher set of tests and must prove to the state that he or she is ready to enter the classroom before receiving their initial certification, possibly through portfolios of lesson plans and videotaped teaching sessions. "Instead of just a paper and pencil test, instead of looking simply at course credits, instead of waiting until the last semester for a formal experience of student teaching that has a different caliber of qualities associated with it, we want to use these performance assessments to ensure that our candidates for teaching have the skills that matter," Steiner said in a press conference today.
November 12, 2009
Confident state ed officials press forward on Race to the Top
Brushing aside criticism that current state laws could jeopardize New York's chances at Race to the Top Funds, state officials say they will enter the contest in round one. On Monday, the State Education Department will release a comprehensive plan to overhaul teacher training, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said today. Tisch called the proposal a "very aggressive package" that will be a major element of New York's Race to the Top application. The strength of a state's teacher training program is a heavily weighted component of the final Race to the Top criteria unveiled today. At a speech in New York City last month, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for states to better prepare new teachers. But even with a new teacher training initiative, it remains to be seen whether two controversial state laws — one that bans the use of student test scores in teacher tenure decisions and another that caps the number of charter schools allowed in the state — could derail the state's application. In a conference call with reporters today, Duncan emphasized that states with such policies will be at a distinct disadvantage compared to states that are "vigorously challenging the status quo" by eliminating such caps and barriers. Some states are changing their laws to improve their Race to the Top chances, but New York has not.
October 16, 2009
Steiner and Tisch: "The times are a'changing" in state ed dept.
Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch addressed members of the New York State School Board Association this morning. New York State education commissioner David Steiner and Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch declared this morning that the state education department is entering a new era. Speaking to a packed room at the annual meeting of the New York State School Board Members Association, they said that after years of acting as a regulatory body following an outdated curriculum, the department would now focus on innovation. "We spend an enormous amount of effort regulating districts that frankly would do very well without us," Tisch said. She said that her goal was to remove as much unnecessary regulations from school districts as possible. "I would like people to say that we re-invigorated the concept of the state education department, that we re-invented what a state education should be across this state," Tisch said. "The only way to do that is to restore our integrity. Every chit that takes away from our credibility needs to be addressed."
October 14, 2009
Steiner calls for state math tests to become less predictable
Reacting to differences between the state's own testing data and the results of a national math assessment, Commissioner David Steiner called for the state to review and redesign its tests to make the questions less predictable. "The New York State NAEP scores in mathematics, released today, are of great concern to the Board of Regents and to me," Steiner wrote in a statement. "We are struck by the contrast between results on the NAEP and on New York State's own math tests." The call from Steiner is the strongest language a state education official has used since critics began challenging the state tests in 2007.
October 5, 2009
Steiner's challenge: how to make big change from little money
David Steiner is making raising standards and the overhaul of teacher preparation his major goals as education commissioner. But his ambitious agenda for reform may be slowed by a grim financial climate and a large, unwieldy bureaucracy, education leaders said in interviews last week. Steiner, who was sworn in as commissioner of the New York State Education Department last Thursday, has long argued for making the teacher certification process more rigorous and for adding more in-the-classroom experience for teachers in training. In his first moments in office, he acknowledged that he has a difficult mandate. But he also pointed to circumstances that he said would help push his agenda forward. "A lot of powerful forces are coming together," Steiner told reporters. He noted that the state Board of Regents and the federal government seem to be aligned in a strong commitment to raising academic standards and that he thought parents were becoming more committed to their children's education than ever before. "So while this is a very challenging moment, fiscally and otherwise, it's also a moment of extraordinary opportunity," he said.
August 12, 2009
Anybody have commish-elect Steiner's address lying around?
The confusion over what GothamSchools is, most of it outrageously inflating our place in the world, never ceases to flatter me. We regularly receive questions…
July 27, 2009
New York State could have hope for elite $5 billion stimulus fund
The fact that New York prohibits the use of student test scores in teacher tenure decisions would seem to axe the state from the race for Race to the Top dollars. But there are growing suggestions that the state could take home a share after all. Race to the Top is a special $5 billion federal stimulus fund meant to spur innovation in public schools. It is available only to states and districts that meet certain requirements. One of those requirements is that they allow teacher evaluations to be tied to student performance. New York State's tenure law, passed last year under pressure from teachers unions, says student test score data can't be the sole determinant of whether a teacher gets tenure. But three top officials — teachers union president Randi Weingarten, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, and incoming State Education Commissioner David Steiner — are arguing that the law will not disqualify New York from the fund. "It is our firm belief that the language of Race to the Top funding does not preclude New York," Steiner said today. "New York has a law on the books that relates strictly to tenure." Weingarten noted that a second section of the same law explicitly requires teachers' annual evaluations, which take place even after they receive tenure, to be based in part on how they use test score data to improve their instruction.
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