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August 22, 2014
War of words ratchets up in casino expansion campaign
The launch of five video ads by supporters of Amendment 68 has kicked off the 10-week media battle over expansion of casino gambling in exchange for providing extra funding to the state’s schools.
August 1, 2014
Three takeaways from The Colbert Report's teacher-tenure talk
The debate over New York's teacher tenure laws moved from the steps of City Hall to the studios of The Colbert Report on Thursday night.
February 13, 2014
Principal at Brooklyn charter school has a long résumé—of faking his résumés
Despite being forced out of jobs in education over the last seven years once employers found discrepancies in his résumé, Lewis Thomas III is now in charge of Urban Dove Team Charter School, a transfer school in Bedford-Stuyvesant where he oversees 182 students at risk of not graduating from high school.
February 29, 2012
Why it's no surprise high- and low-rated teachers are all around
The New York Times' first big story on the Teacher Data Reports released last week contained what sounded like great news: After years of studies suggesting that the strongest teachers were clustered at the most affluent schools, top-rated teachers now seemed as likely to work on the Upper East Side as in the South Bronx. Teachers with high scores on the city's rating system could be found "in the poorest corners of the Bronx, like Tremont and Soundview, and in middle-class neighborhoods," "in wealthy swaths of Manhattan, but also in immigrant enclaves," and "in similar proportions in successful and struggling schools," the Times reported. Education analyst Michael Petrilli called the findings "jaw-dropping news" that "upends everything we thought we knew about teacher quality." Except it's not really news at all. Value-added measurements like the ones used to generate the city's Teacher Data Reports are designed precisely to control for differences in neighborhood, student makeup, and students' past performance. The adjustments mean that teachers are effectively ranked relative to other teachers of similar students. Teachers who teach similar students, then, are guaranteed to have a full range of scores, from high to low. And, unsurprisingly, teachers in the same school or neighborhood often teach similar students. “I chuckled when I saw the first [Times story], since the headline pretty much has to be true: Effective and ineffective teachers will be found in all types of schools, given the way these measures are constructed,” said Sean Corcoran, a New York University economist who has studied the city’s Teacher Data Reports.
June 7, 2010
How scared should SUNY's Charter School Institute really be?
Was the State University of New York's ability to approve and oversee charter schools truly at risk during last month's charter school cap debate? The lead vignette of today's Times profile of city lobbyist Micah Lasher suggests that it was: Just when Micah C. Lasher thought it was safe to finally sleep one recent morning, three words appeared in his in-box: "It's a sham." Mr. Lasher had stayed up all night helping write a bill to increase the number of charter schools in New York, a cornerstone of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's education agenda. But amid the frenzy, a highly contentious provision had slipped by him: the State University of New York would lose its power to approve charter schools. If SUNY's Charter School Institute really was only saved during a middle-of-the-night wrangling, that could be a bad sign for the organization's future: the Institute is currently facing budget cuts that might gut its operations. But all of our information suggests that lawmakers supported keeping SUNY's ability to oversee charters. The provision that could have revoked SUNY's chartering authority was the result of a manic bill drafting process and late-night fatigue, not an attack on the widely-praised charter school overseers.
March 12, 2009
Stimulus dollars don't force judging teachers based on tests
In his interview with Chancellor Joel Klein this morning, Brian Lehrer of WNYC repeatedly described the $115 billion federal stimulus package for education as being available to states only if they met a steep demand: evaluating teachers based on their students' test scores. Klein agreed, calling the evaluations "a general requirement for states to get the stimulus money." Pressed for specifics on how that would affect the city schools, the chancellor hedged, saying he's waiting for more details from the Obama administration. In fact, a spokesman from the U.S. Department of Education told me that states will receive the stimulus funds regardless of their willingness to evaluate teachers using student test scores. "We’re encouraging states to do merit pay," he said. "But to get all of the stimulus money you don’t have to do merit pay." The notion that there are strings in the main pot of the stimulus money is not entirely off base. The federal DOE is asking states to pledge to do a list of four things with the money before they get it (an occurrence that's scheduled to happen next month, a spokesman told me). Two points on that list also seem to add up to merit pay, or at least provide the ingredients to make it possible — one asking states to improve "teacher effectiveness" and another asking them to create data systems to track students' progress. And President Obama did, just this week, signal his interest in seeing federally funded merit-pay programs expand to 150 districts from a measly 34. Finally, there's another $5 billion pot of money in the stimulus, the "race to the top" fund, that states will have to apply for the use of — and which is dedicated to "innovative" programs that could include performance-based pay. Here are the four criteria states will have to promise their stimulus funds will meet, cribbed from these federal DOE stimulus guidelines:
February 12, 2009
Feds correct Klein on how to talk about the achievement gap
A statistic that Joel Klein, Al Sharpton, and Mort Zuckerman have all recently employed to bemoan the racial achievement gap appears to be wrong. Here's the statistic, as Klein and Sharpton recently summarized in the Wall Street Journal (and Mort Zuckerman used it here): "today the average 12th-grade black or Hispanic student has the reading, writing and math skills of an eighth-grade white student." The problem isn't the principle behind the claim; America definitely has a racial achievement gap. The problem, according to an official at the National Center for Education Statistics, is in the specific way that Klein et al describe the gap. The best available measure we have to compare all American kids is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or the NAEP test. But the NAEP test, which is given only to a sample of students across the country, not to every child, does not permit the kind of detailed comparison Klein's statistic would demand, Arnold Goldstein, the NCES official, said. "It would be great if we could. It's kind of frustrating not to be able to make these sorts of statements," said Goldstein, who is program director for design, analysis, and reporting at NCES's assessment division. "But that’s a limitation of the data." I contacted the Department of Education several times for comment but got no response this week. UPDATE: A spokesman, Andrew Jacob, wrote to say that Klein got the statistic from "No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning," a book by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom.
January 15, 2009
Fact-checking Caroline Kennedy's role at the Dept of Ed
In the Village Voice, Wayne Barrett fact-checks the Bloomberg administration’s party line on how Caroline Kennedy reinvigorated the Fund for Public Schools. What…
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