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English language learners
September 12, 2014
Fariña and new head of English-learners office promise aggressive support for schools
Chancellor Carmen Fariña and her new chief of English-language learners outlined their priorities for those students Friday, including better training for teachers and more dual-language programs, just days before state policymakers vote on major changes to guidelines concerning students who are still learning English.
Anatomy of a lesson
July 14, 2014
Using phonics, robots, and Shakira, a Summer Quest teacher keeps fourth-grade minds active
Class doesn’t officially start for another five minutes, but by 8:40 on Thursday morning, Natalie Molina is collecting homework from her students and describing the subjects they’ll cover over the next few hours: phonics, reading, writing, and math. It’s an ambitious plan for the peak of summer vacation, but Molina’s students don’t complain; instead, they grab their notebooks and pencils to begin their fourth day of Summer Quest.
May 1, 2014
Risking disciplinary action, International teachers refuse to administer eval-linked test
A group of teachers boycotted a required part of their school's teacher evaluation plan on Thursday, breaking from the city education department, the teachers union and their principal and raising questions about whether they will face disciplinary action.
April 30, 2014
Teachers to boycott evaluation-linked tests at newcomer high school
Teachers at a Brooklyn high school for English language learners are refusing to give a new writing test required by the city for new teacher…
the teacher project
April 18, 2014
At Manhattan International, an English learner teaches English learners
Cinzia Bontempo, the 12th grade English teacher at Manhattan International High School, knows what it’s like for her students to be far from home.
January 22, 2014
Budget panel launches BEST oversight bill
The legislative Joint Budget Committee has unanimously approved introduction of a bill that would give the legislature greater control over part of the Building Excellent Schools Today program.
November 1, 2013
Rise & Shine: NoCo business leaders split on Amendment 66
Amendment 66 far from a sure thing, despite massive war chest. Plus: the Halloween debate as told by 40 adults who have nothing better to do; and Napolitano creates fund for DREAM students.
September 5, 2013
Facing federal funding freeze, Success to nix lottery preference
After becoming one of the state’s first schools to reserve seats for English language learners in its lotteries, Success Academy Charter Schools are now planning to…
June 21, 2013
Broad concerns about "harsh" ELA Regents conversion charts
The grading of high school Regents exams isn't even over, but some city educators are already registering concern about the new state conversion charts for English tests. Bronx Center for Science and Math Assistant Principal Stephen Seltzer sent a letter to State Education Commissioner John King expressing frustration about the new conversion chart that has made it more difficult for students to pass the English Regents exam. Seltzer writes that "the rubrics and conversion charts must be aligned and consistent, and both should be made available when teachers are preparing students, not at the time of the exam."
May 15, 2013
Addressing immigrant parents, Sotomayor channels her mother
Justice Sonia Sotomayor left the stage to answer parents' questions after speaking at the Department of Education's To make sure that all attendees of the city's annual conference for families of English language learners today could go home with an autographed copy of her book, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor signed 3,000 copies of her book in two days. She was able to write the book, she told parents at the conference, because her mother – who didn't speak English — taught her to value words. "My mother loved reading. Seeing her read inspired my brother and me to read," Sotomayor said in her speech. The Department of Education's annual conference is designed to help immigrant families navigate the city's education system and support their children's learning at home. Sotomayor’s address, as well as the workshops that followed, was translated into nine languages, just a fraction of the 180 languages spoken by students in the city's public schools.
July 20, 2012
Bloomberg says this year's test scores call for more charters
(Credit: WOR) Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this morning that the test scores announced this week, which showed charter schools had out-paced district schools, are proof enough why the city should be expanding charters. "There's a reason people want to send their children to charter schools," he said during his weekly morning appearance on the John Gambling radio show. The average proficiency rate for charter schools students improved 7 percentage points on the state reading tests and 3.5 percentage points on math. The city's district schools also improved but at a slower pace. Bloomberg blamed the teachers union contract for the districts schools' inability to duplicate the success of privately-managed charter schools, which have longer days and greater flexibility in hiring decisions. But instead of making points about issues such as teacher tenure or seniority-based layoff laws, Bloomberg invoked more salacious news items. "The union keeps protecting people that shouldn’t be in the classroom that touch, have sex, whatever it may be," he said. "It embarrasses other teachers."
July 18, 2012
Seven takeaways from a closer look at the state test scores
The state released the results of this year's third through eighth grade tests yesterday, and officials from City Hall to the charter sector lept to celebrate students' gains. Some changes were the focal point of the Department of Education's Tuesday afternoon press conference—like the drop among English Language Learners and the boosts charter schools saw. But they avoided nuances in the results for the city's new schools, which have been at the center of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's education reform policies. Beyond first impressions, here are seven interesting takeaways we parsed from the trove of data: Like last year, English Language Learners took a step back. Students who are identified as English Language Learners improved slightly in math, but took another step back from the statistical gains they made on the literacy test (ELA) earlier in the decade, before the state made the exams tougher in 2010. While just under half of the city’s non-ELL students met the state’s ELA standards, just 11.6 percent of ELL students did so. But in math, the percentage of ELL students scoring proficient rose by 2.5 points, to 37 percent. But students in other categories that typically struggle showed improvements. The percentage of students with disabilities who are proficient in math and literacy went up again this year, to 30.2 percent in math and 15.8 percent in English. And although Black and Hispanic students are still lagging behind their white peers by close to thirty percentage points in literacy and math, they also saw small bumps in both subjects. Officials said that new initiatives targeting struggling students, particularly students of color, contributed to the gains.
July 17, 2012
Bloomberg credits boosts in test results to new school initiatives
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky walked reporters through a powerpoint presentation on the city's latest test score results. This afternoon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg enjoyed what could be his last opportunity to point to clear gains on city test data. The state is overhauling its testing program next year, and year-to-year comparisons favored by Bloomberg's test analysts will soon become futile. Until then, city officials are championing the small gains almost every group of students made on this year's state tests, calling the scores a sign that some fledgling school initiatives are already working. Breaking the test results down by race, grade level and students with disabilities, each group saw gains of one to four percentage points for the numbers of students scoring proficient on the literacy and math exams. But students of color are still performing well below their white peers, and the number of English Language Learners scoring proficient in literacy actually dropped by 1.8 percentage points. "There is still a gap, and it is unacceptable, inexcusable and it is our responsibility to rectify it," Bloomberg told reporters this afternoon. He speculated that the ELL scores dropped because the city has begun declassifying greater numbers of ELL students who have become proficient in English.
June 13, 2012
Moskowitz to authorizers: Reject high-need enrollment targets
The head of one of the city's largest charter school networks is calling on state charter authorizers to reject a law that requires schools to serve a larger share of high-needs students. The law, Success Academy Charter Schools CEO Eva Moskowitz wrote in a letter to authorizers this month, creates "perverse incentives" for charter schools to "over-identify" students in high-needs categories, an effect that she said would do more harm than good for children. "We urge you not to impose any enrollment and retention targets," Moskowitz wrote to the New York State Education Department and SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which are charged with enforcing the law. "Instead, we request that you partner with us in going to Albany to change this poorly-thought-out legislation." The mandate for charter schools to enroll more high-needs students was established in 2010 when lawmakers passed the Race to the Top bill. A charter sector self-assessment earlier this year found that a large majority of charter schools still served lower proportions of poor, special-needs and English language learning students than their districts. It's taken some time to iron out the details, but last month authorizers proposed a method of calculating the targets that they intend to use. The proposal is a complex methodology that would assign enrollment targets to each charter school based on the overall ratio of high-needs students in school districts where they operate. Schools that repeatedly fail to comply could be closed.
May 25, 2012
Parents of English language learners flock to annual conference
Parents at the city's 10th annual English language learners conference literally lept out of their chairs at the chance to meet and take a photo with Chancellor Dennis Walcott this morning. During his brief speech about how the parents could help their children in school, dozens of parents crowded around the stage, cameras and smart-phones in hand. More later greeted him off-stage, where he shook hands and posed for photos.
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