Monday, January 26, 2009
Facts About GED–Plus
The PEP meeting tonight, there will be an update on GED similar to the one offered to the City Council by Cami Anderson, the Superintendent of Alternative Schools. Anderson is a Teach for America alum and fits the usual profile of people at Tweed. Many people view her tenure as a disaster. We're not surprised. She's part of the Joel Klein version of FEMA. You're doing a great job Brownie - er - Cami.
Here is some background on GED Plus from Marjorie Stamberg and Jeff Kaufman.
GED -Plus is a multi-sited program, with more than 80 sites across the city and 6 "hubs". The teachers are extremely dedicated and hard-working, but we are laboring with very deep problems of financing, lack of resources, and loss of many students and teachers from the program. This in part stems from the disastrous "re-organization" of the city's GED programs in June 2007. There were city council hearings on that closing, and the UFT testified there at that time.
Here are some questions to ask at the PEP:
1) Consequences of the "reorganization" of the city's GED program, in June of 2007.
The program was "reorganized" in June 2007, and involved closing five GED facilities in the district*, and reopened as "GED Plus. All the teachers were excessed in masse at the time, and GED Plus then opened in September 2008 with only 1/2 of the teachers and the loss of hundreds of students whose sites and programs were closed over that summer. Teachers with PhDs in literacy were let go, as were bilingual English-Chinese teachers -- I know many of them personally, and we have been struggling to place these extremely talented and dedicated teachers and get them out of the city "ATR" pool every since.
Importantly, there is no record of what happened to the students who had been in the previous programs when their sites closed in June 2007. Literally hundreds of students simply "disappeared." One of the closed schools was the "Program for Pregnant and Parenting Teens." Meredith Kolodner in the Daily News recently published an article reporting that the DOE had very few records on what happened to these students.
2) Loss of arts and enrichment services. Previously, there were a number of arts programs, partnerships with the Metropolitan Museum, musical programs, and others. Now, to my knowledge all arts and enrichment programs at "GED Plus" are no longer available.
3) Many students at GED Plus are not ready to take the test, and are placed in literacy classes at the five GED Plus "hubs" across the city. There is a paucity of age-appropriate books, lack of computer services (out-dated and broken down computer labs, if any), "smart-boards" or any modern technology for these students.
4) Cami Anderson will state they have brought in an outside vendor of literacy specialists called "The Aussies" (at great expense). They have virtually NO experience dealing with the multi-lingual, multi-ethnic older teenage population we work with in New York City. Their idea of basic "literacy" instruction is far more advanced than that needed by students reading on a 3rd or 5th grade level. Many students simply cannot read the books in the classroom libraries.
5) What special services for Special Ed counselors, testing, and special materials, Wilson training, access to VESED occupational training is going on? To my knowledge, students are still able to participate in an excellent partnership at "Co-op Tech" but this again is limited.
6) What special counseling services, partnerships with CUNY, participation in literacy and ESL programs available at CUNY are being offered? Much of this was also lost in the reorganization.
*The five closed schools were Auxiliary Services for High Schools, Career Education Services, Vocational Education Services, Off-site Educational Services and the School for Pregnant and Parenting Teens.
Since the D79 reorganization in 2007 Anderson has stated that her intention was to reduce GED referrals and to streamline the process so less students would “fall through the cracks.” While I don’t have statistics I do know that students who were formerly incarcerated continue to be dissuaded to return to their schools and still do not make it to alternative programs like the GED. In fact they are terrible in tracking students despite the fact this problem has existed for years.
Ms. Anderson and the D79 superintendency are sure to talk about the "low" attendance rates in the GED programs. GED Plus is where students go who have dropped out, or been pushed out of their high schools and are now trying again for an education. So it's not rocket science that many have attendance issues. But outrageously, students often are counted in as being in GED -Plus and parallel programs when they are pushed out of other schools. In fact they may never have shown up, but it is a manuever used by the DOE to lower the drop out rate from the high -schools. I.e., if a student was "transferred" to another program, it doesn't count as a drop out.
Furthermore, if you look at success rates of the program, how can one possibly judge GED-Plus which is only in it's second year of running. It takes many of these students a number of years to get their literacy skills up enough to pass the GED.