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May 18, 2016
Former principal named president of New Visions, the data-crunching nonprofit that helps run dozens of city schools
Former teacher and principal Mark Dunetz is taking the helm of New Visions for Public Schools, a nonprofit known for data-crunching that supports dozens of city schools.
February 13, 2015
How a few school-support groups created under Bloomberg survived Fariña’s overhaul
Several privately run school-support groups will continue under Fariña, but some are poised to play a bigger role than others.
March 1, 2014
Charter group gets a seat at the de Blasio table, then backs him up
A charter group without a name that wants to work with de Blasio finally got a meeting at City Hall. Not long after, it became his staunch ally on some politically-sensitive education issues.
February 14, 2012
Travel grants open to globetrotting teachers who aim to improve
Eszter Weiss and Faye Chiu, Millenium High School math teachers, exploring Archimedes Garden in Florence, Italy on a 2011 Fund for Teachers trip Faye Chiu and Eszter Weiss, veteran math teachers, spent last summer in Italy and Greece — not bathing on the Riviera or hopping the isles, but retracing the steps of the ancient mathematicians in search of inspiration to energize their curriculum at Manhattan’s Millennium High School. And while they were soaking up information about Archimedes, other city teachers were going to the far corners of the earth for their students, too: to Sweden to learn about individualized learning plans; to Iran and Turkey to collect information for helping non-Muslim students understand their school’s growing Muslim population; to Brazil to gather tips on getting girls interested in physical activity. If the trips don’t sound like the average professional development sessions, it’s because they’re not. Instead, enabled by the national organization Fund for Teachers and its local partner, New Visions for Public Schools, are fueled entirely by teachers’ own curiosities. In the past, New Visions offered the grants only to teachers affiliated with the schools it manages and supports. But this year, the nonprofit added supplementary grants of up to $10,000 that are open to teachers in all city high schools — provided that they teach courses that culminate in a Regents exam, have been teaching for at least three years, and plan to return to the classroom in September. Applications for this summer's YouPD Challenge Grants are due Feb. 29. The concept behind the grant is simple, according to Robert Hughes, New Visions’ president. “The best professional development is the professional development that teachers create and define for themselves,” he said. Hughes said the program’s expansion is meant to recognize stellar educators throughout the city. “With all of the controversy flowing around teachers it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the extensive commitment that the vast majority of teachers make,” he said. “Despite the rhetoric, we have some of the strongest teachers in the country.”
January 26, 2012
Report finds lasting graduation rate gains at city's small schools
The Bloomberg administration has long touted the small high schools it created as outperforming large schools closed to make way for them. But a new report finds, for the second time, that the schools also post higher graduation rates than other city schools that stayed open. Being randomly selected to attend small high schools opened under the Bloomberg administration made students significantly more likely to graduate, even as the schools got older, according to the report, conducted by researchers at the nonprofit firm MDRC. The researchers updated a 2010 study that examined "small schools of choice" that opened between 2002 and 2008 and did not select students based on their academic performance. Of the 123 schools that fit that bill, 105 had so many applicants that the schools selected among them randomly, through a lottery. The lottery process enabled the researchers to compare what happened to two groups of students that started out statistically identical: those who were admitted to the small schools and those who lost the lotteries and wound up in older, larger schools. That type of comparison is considered the "gold standard" in education research. The original study found that the small high schools had positive effects on their students — but it looked only at the schools' very first enrollees. The new report looks at those students in the fifth year after they enrolled and also at the second set of students who enrolled at the schools. It finds that the higher graduation rate — 67.9 percent, compared to 59.3 percent for students who were not admitted — continued for the second group of students who enrolled and cut across all groups of students, regardless of their race, gender, family income, or academic skills upon enrollment. Students at the small schools were also more likely to meet the state's college readiness standards in English, though not in math. "Small schools for a variety of reasons, I always felt, were going to succeed in certain ways," said Richard Kahan, the head of Urban Assembly, a nonprofit that started a handful of schools included in the study. "But I would not have predicted the impact."
November 30, 2011
Pioneers in teacher prep chart changes in training landscape
If the people on a panel Tuesday about teacher preparation didn't convey the urgency they felt about improving teacher training, then a flash poll of the audience surely did. More than two-thirds of the audience, made up primarily of young teachers, said they didn't think their masters degrees had made them better at their jobs, according to electronic votes that were tallied in real time. With that context, a five-member panel of advocates for alternative certification and training dove into a 90-minute discussion about how traditional theory-driven teacher training had failed the profession, particularly in high-needs urban schools. Research has shown that having a masters degree does not make teachers more effective, and local, state, and federal efforts are underway to re-imagine how teachers are trained. Panelists largely agreed that many traditional education schools lack accountability, aren't willing to share performance data for their graduates, and have a detached relationship with the public schools where their graduates eventually work. "For too long schools of [education] have sat back and spun out academic theories of what should work in the ideal school with the ideal conditions," said a panelist, Bob Hughes, president of the nonprofit New Visions for Public Schools, which trains and certifies teachers and operates 99 schools in New York City. "And they've been divorced from the reality of what happens in schools ."
October 28, 2011
Panel: To serve poor children, a need to go beyond academics
To help poor students do better in school, what comes first: tackling out-of-school factors tied to poverty, like health care or housing, or boosting academic offerings at school? A panel yesterday offered a novel answer: Neither. Supports should target students in school, through teachers, they said, but they shouldn't be purely academic. Those supports, panel members said, range from teaching students skills to calm down during a rage to helping parents access social services they might not even know they are eligible for. The panel featured leaders from three city organizations devoted to providing these supports: Drema Brown, the vice president of education at the Children's Aid Society, Pamela Cantor, president of the non-profit Turnaround for Children, and Robert Hughes, president of New Visions for Public Schools, as well as James Shelton, the Obama administration official who heads up innovation efforts. In the past, “Words like ‘social and emotional development’ of children were in the margins, nice to do, but not essential,” Cantor said. “A conversation is being framed today that we all can get behind, that a high-performing, high-poverty school has to do a lot—a lot more than is asked of schools to do." At one point, a person in the audience praised the direction of the conversation but asked the panel why their topic — students' social and emotional needs — gets short shrift in the education debate. "Well, our communications strategy sucks!" Shelton responded, to laughter from the audience.
July 19, 2011
Donations reflect DFER execs' early support for Stringer 2013
People with an interest in the city's school system are beginning to throw their support behind prospective candidates for the 2013 mayoral race, according to Friday's campaign finance filings. Campaign finance filings released on Friday showed that two top officials with Democrats for Education Reform, a major education lobbying group, donated exclusively to Scott Stringer, who defeated charter school operator Eva Moskowitz in the 2009 Manhattan Borough President primary with support from the city teachers union. Joe Williams, executive director of DFER, gave a total of $1,500 to the Stringer campaign in two different donations. Elizabeth Ling, DFER's New York State political director, gave $150, according to the filings. Stringer was the only candidate to whom Williams and Ling donated. Ling, who serves on the board of one of Moskowitz's Success Charter schools, said it was too early for DFER to endorse anyone just yet and that the group is "continuing to build relationships at all levels."
July 27, 2009
David Steiner crib sheet: New schools czar to focus on teaching
David Steiner. Photo courtesy of state education department. For years, one pesky paper has stalked David Steiner, the man elected New York's education commissioner this morning. The paper, published in 2003, while he was a professor at Boston University, attacked education graduate schools as intellectually weak and ideologically slanted, marking Steiner as a brave "maverick" among those critical of traditional teacher education — and enemy no. 1 among those who defend it. Steiner, who was raised in England but was born in America and spent one year at P.S. 41 on West 11th Street, has shrugged off the to-do in the years since. He kept a reasonably modest profile as dean of CUNY's Hunter College School of Education for the last four years. In conversations, he calmly insists that there is a middle ground in the fierce debate about how to improve public schools. But the paper that marked him also foreshadows some of the innovations he has tested out at Hunter and the thinking he might bring to the state Education Department, where he is set to become commissioner Oct. 1, replacing Richard Mills, who announced his intention to retire last year. Mills had served in the position since 1995. The position means Steiner will run the state Education Department, the large bureaucratic organization that enacts education policy set by the state Board of Regents and oversees both universities and public primary schools.
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