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June 4, 2013
Walcott refuses to speak under oath at council's budget hearing
Chancellor Dennis Walcott and education officials testify at a hearing on the 2013-2014. budget Chancellor Dennis Walcott's testy budget hearing with the City Council on Tuesday got confrontational before it even started. The hearing was delayed by nearly an hour as Walcott huddled with city lawyers to discuss whether he should agree to get sworn in under oath before answering questions about the city's $24.9 billion education spending plan for the 2013-2014 school year. The unprecedented request was made because council members believed he had not answered questions truthfully earlier this year. Under advisement from lawyers, Walcott refused. After the hearing, Walcott said he didn't want to complicate city lawsuits about issues that were likely to come up at the hearing. He also said that the department wasn't notified until Tuesday morning when he arrived at City Hall. "I would never hide from anything," Walcott said. "I'm always accessible. I always respond to everything. But I have a responsibility with pending litigation to make sure I know what the legal implications are."
June 1, 2013
King unveils long-awaited evaluation systems for city educators
The evaluation system that State Education Commissioner John King imposed on New York City today fulfills requests made by both the Bloomberg administration and the United Federation of Teachers. In a unique move, it also delegates crucial decisions about how teachers will be rated to the city's roughly 1,600 non-charter public schools and, in some cases, to teachers themselves. Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked lawmakers to allow King to impose an evaluation system after city and union officials failed to agree on one by a January deadline. Starting from broad parameters set out in state law, each side made its case in position papers and in-person presentations last month, and King issued his final determination tonight. "Following years of delay, today we can finally say that every school district in the state of New York has a teacher evaluation system in place based on some of the most stringent and comprehensive standards in the nation," Cuomo said in a statement. "The mayor didn't win and the union didn't win. Today, the students won. Finally."
May 31, 2013
Walcott congratulates eighth-grader on national spelling bee win
The comment came in a statement congratulating M.S. 74 eighth-grader Arvind Mahankali on his national spelling bee win. “All of us — students, educators, Queens…
May 28, 2013
Gap App winners think they can solve low middle school scores
Winners of the Gap App Challenge pose with Chancellor Dennis Walcott at Tweed Courthouse on Tuesday morning. The city Department of Education thinks it has found software developers who are solving the perpetual problem of middle school math. The department today announced four winners from its Gap App challenge — a competition inviting developers to submit programs that could help middle schools raise math scores, which remain stubbornly low. Developers submitted 200 apps to the challenge since it was first announced in January. The developer of the "Best Instructional App," KnowRe, has created an adaptive learning platform that offers Algebra 1 students different questions and challenges based on their previous answers. In the "Best Administrative and Engagement App" category, top-rated developer Hapara has created an interface that lets teachers see their students' work easily. "Our product is built exclusively on teacher and student feedback," the group says in an informational video.
May 20, 2013
Extra pay for principals who heard Walcott speech is questioned
City principals who heard Chancellor Dennis Walcott deliver a stemwinding political speech on Saturday will get an extra day of summer vacation to make up for it. This year, for the first time, the Department of Education told principals that they could take a day off during the summer to compensate for attending the citywide principals conference, held Saturday at Brooklyn Technical High School. "To encourage attendance, any principal who attends the conference will receive one compensation day that can be used between June 27 and August 30," the department's weekly bulletin to principals said for at least the last two weeks. The tradeoff isn't sitting right with some, including UFT President Michael Mulgrew, whose union frequently battles the department to ensure that teachers are paid for time they spend working outside of the regular school day. Mulgrew cited the prohibition on city workers participating in political activity on the job. "You're using taxpayer dollars to pay New York City workers to come in and listen to you do a political rant," Mulgrew said. "It's at least inappropriate, but it really borders on questionable ethics."
May 20, 2013
After hate crimes, city schools to address bullying by year's end
In light of recent hate crimes, City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn announced that she and Chancellor Dennis Walcott would be asking schools to take at least one measure to focus students on anti-bullying education before the end of this school year. New York City schools are being asked to add one more lesson to the packed weeks before the end of the school year: about bullying. In light of recent bias-motivated violence, including the murder of a 32-year-old gay man in the West Village this weekend, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Chancellor Dennis Walcott said all schools would be asked to hold at least one event before the end of the school year to educate students about hate crimes and bullying. "I don't know why it feels like we've taken a step backwards but that is the case," Quinn said. "What we're going to do is push forward and make sure we do the organizing, education, and public safety work we need to do to make sure we don't go backwards." Quinn, who is vying to be the city's first openly gay mayor and used to be the director of the New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, reached out to Walcott to help implement the "emergency additions" to the city's expectations for schools.
May 13, 2013
Kopp vows that TFA's "unstoppable force" will steer next mayor
Department of Education Senior Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg and Shipnia Bytyqi, a graduate of the high school he founded who now teaches at a charter school in the city, took the stage last week at Teach for America New York's annual gala. Teach For America used its annual New York City benefit last week to wade into the city's political debate. Praising the Bloomberg administration's education record, founder and board chair Wendy Kopp vowed that Teach For America and its supporters would fight to preserve the mayor's education legacy after he leaves office at the end of the year. "No matter who takes office," Kopp said, "we are creating an unstoppable force." The remarks reflected Teach For America's transition to playing a stronger role in public dialogue about education. Kopp suggested that the organization would not throw its support behind a single candidate. "Progress isn't a function of one leader," Kopp said. Instead, she said, the educational change Teach For America supports requires "a constellation of committed souls." The strength of that constellation was on display at the nonprofit's gala, held Wednesday at the glittering Waldorf Astoria hotel. In one night, the organization announced it raised $6.7 million, and speakers included Charlie Rose and Richard Parsons, the former CEO of Time Warner and Teach For America board member who also chairs Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Education Reform Commission.
May 10, 2013
On Saturday, Chancellor Walcott be honored
From our inbox: Saturday, May 11, 201310:00 A.M.Receives Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at the University of Bridgeport’s 103rd Commencement Webster Bank Arena…
April 30, 2013
A Queens school with a health focus takes its cafeteria meat-free
The Active Learning Elementary School is the first school in the city to go meat-free in its cafeteria. Chancellor Dennis Walcott recognized Principal Bob Groff and others at the school during a visit today. (Photo: Helen Chin) A Queens school that has won accolades in the past for encouraging its students to adopt healthy behaviors is taking things a step further by eliminating meat from its cafeteria. The Active Learning Elementary School, which serves young students in Flushing, is the first school in the city to go all-vegetarian, and city officials say it might be a pathbreaker nationwide. Chancellor Dennis Walcott, a fitness and diet junkie himself, visited the school for lunch today. Instead of serving sloppy joes or roasted chicken, the school will serve up "healthy recipes such as roasted chickpeas, braised black beans with plantains, tofu vegetable wrap with cucumber salad, vegetarian chili served with brown rice, falafel, and roasted tofu with Asian sesame sauce," according to the city's press release. Principal Robert Groff said in a statement the city distributed that the change was spurred on by the school's students. "We discovered early on that our kids were gravitating toward our vegetarian offerings, and we kept expanding the program to meet the demand," he said.
April 29, 2013
City to give longer school day, literacy help to middle schoolers
Chancellor Dennis Walcott and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced a new phase in the Middle School Quality Initiative at the Urban Institute of Mathematics in the Bronx. For thousands of sixth-graders at 20 city middle schools, the school day is about to get a lot longer. The schools will offer an hour of intensive literacy tutoring and 90 additional minutes of community-inspired programming such as yoga and gardening, as part of the city's latest effort to spur improvements in the lowest-performing middle schools. Chancellor Dennis Walcott and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced today that they are adding 40 schools to the city's two-year-old Middle School Quality Initiative. Twenty of those schools will be randomly chosen for the three-year extended day pilot program. Walcott made middle schools his priority when he took office, rebranding an initiative that Quinn had spearheaded as MSQI and expanding it to include focuses on literacy, teacher collaboration, and using data to drive instruction. Since then, MSQI has grown from 18 to 49 schools, and in the fall, it will include 89 schools.
April 22, 2013
Pearson's NYC misstep draws state education officials' concern
ALBANY — State education officials expressed doubt today about whether the testing firm Pearson, which has several contracts in New York, can handle its expanding workload. "Obviously, the public is starting to question, I think, very aggressively with us whether or not they're able to manage all of the things they've taken on," New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said of Pearson, whose subsidiary testing company NCS Pearson, Inc. has a five-year, $32 million contract to create tests for the state. Tisch, who has criticized the testing company before, was responding to Pearson's latest misstep in test administration. On Friday, the New York City Department of Education said nearly 5,000 students were told they were ineligible for the city's Gifted & Talented programs when they actually should have made the cut. Three separate errors took place during test grading, which Pearson oversaw, department and company officials both said.
April 18, 2013
Walcott’s ‘Poem in Your Pocket’ pick echoes boss’s 2010 verse
Unlike his boss three years ago, Chancellor Dennis Walcott stuck to Emily Dickinson’s original script today while reading to a crowd on national Poem…
April 17, 2013
Efforts to boost test security leave proctoring rules unchanged
Most students taking this week's state reading test are doing so under the watchful eyes of their regular classroom teacher. Teachers proctor their own students' exams in most schools, in an arrangement that is logistically simple and keeps students calm — but also represents a soft spot in the state's efforts to prevent cheating. As part of its recent efforts to safeguard against fraud, New York State has reduced educators' access to tests before they are administered and increased scrutiny on tests after they are returned to see whether answers were changed unusually often. The latter measure, known as erasure analysis, helped investigators uncover adult cheating in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., in recent years. But even as the state has taken steps to prevent improprieties at a time when ensuring that scores accurately reflect student performance is increasingly important, it has left proctoring relatively unregulated. Erasure analysis and pre-test security can't reveal whether students were advised to check their work on specific questions or, more egregiously, were actually given the answers while they took the tests. "Test administration with educators proctoring their own students is one of the weak links in the testing process," said Greg Cizek, a professor at the University of North Carolina who specializes in educational measurement and test security.
April 15, 2013
With donor's help, city launches Common Core ads before tests
The latest addition to the city's public relations offensive about the year's tougher-than-usual state tests is $240,000 in subway, ferry, and newspaper advertisements. Chancellor Dennis Walcott and his deputies have used a variety of avenues to get out the message about the harder tests in recent weeks, visiting schools, editorial boards and, yesterday, a high-profile church. They have said repeatedly that they expect more students to receive low scores but that they will not penalize students or schools just because the state is raising its standards. But that hasn't calmed all fears, and Walcott said he hopes that the ad campaign reaches those who haven't gotten the message yet.
April 15, 2013
King and Walcott take their Common Core message to church
State Education Commissioner John King took the stage at Greater Allen AME Cathedral in Queens on Sunday to tell parishioners about the new Common Core standards, on the eve of the first state tests tied to them. Speaking to the congregation at Greater Allen AME Cathedral's morning worship in Queens on Sunday, the state's top education official summoned Martin Luther King, Jr. to respond to detractors who say he's moving too fast on the Common Core standards. "When it comes to the education of our children, we do not have as much time as the patient and the cautious would give us," State Education Commissioner John King said. He was adapting a line from a draft of the speech that Martin Luther King delivered on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. John King made the appearance alongside New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who ducked out shortly after speaking to make it to the Sunday service at his own church, as part of a sweeping public relations push in the days before the first state tests tied to the new standards.
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