Tuesday, May 20, 2008

NYC Principals: Fear and Loathing Tweed

I know someone who visits many schools all over the city and always checks the pulse of the principal to see what they think of BloomKlein. Overwhelmingly they trash Tweed. At which point, they are urged to check out the ednotes blog. Scientific survey? That's pretty good for me. But Leonie Haimson of class size matters and Emily Horowtiz from St. Francis College have turned chatter into data.

One would think the "empowered" principals under Joel Klein and Mayor Bloomberg's administration of the schools would be the happiest people in the school system. After all, the union at the school level has been emasculated, with the help of the UFT. Hundreds of small schools have infiltrated the space of larger schools, resulting in the employment of hundreds of administrators. They have made it so easy to become a principal, especially for people with no educational background (where is the NY State Board of Regents - oh, yes, they also approved Joel Klein.)

But, as I pointed out, word of mouth from sources throughout the school system is that other than the newly cloned Kool-aid drinkers, most principals despise Tweed. Fear has kept them from speaking out publicly, though with BloomKlein about to sunset, more are doing so. Those lame ducks are flying closer to the sun. Just watch the flood when the ducks have issued their final quack, though fear of Bloomberg retaliation may keep some people in line.

One thing is as true as salt. The national press and ed wonk blogging cammunity will ignore this report as much as they have ignored the outcry from teachers and parents about how BloomKlein have turned a dysfunctional system into a catastrophy with failed, self-serving policies and bumbling implementation. At the least, one would have expected some level of competence from the so-called technocrats at Tweed. But they get almost nothing right.

Today's press release from Class Size Matters

Results from a NYC Principal Survey on overcrowding, safety and class size

Today, results were released from a survey of more than one third of all NYC public school principals. The full report, entitled “How Crowded Are Our Schools?” is posted at http://www.classsizematters.org/principalsurveyresults.html

Please reply to this email if you would like a pdf copy.

Fifty-four percent of principals say that the enrollment at their own school is not capped at a level to prevent overcrowding. Fifty percent say that overcrowding sometimes leads to unsafe conditions for students or staff; 43% observe that overcrowding makes it difficult for students and/or staff to get to class on time.

Nearly half (48%) of respondents believe that the official utilization rate of their own schools as reported by the Department of Education is inaccurate; more than half (51%) of principals whose schools are reported as underutilized say that the official rate is incorrect.

Eighty six percent believe that class sizes at their schools are too large to provide a quality education – and that the primary factors that prevent them from reducing class size are a lack of control over enrollment and space.

More than one fourth (26%) of all middle and high school principals say that overcrowding makes it difficult for their students to receive the credits and/or courses needed to graduate on time.

At 25% of schools, art, music or dance rooms have been lost to academic classrooms; 20% of computer rooms have been swallowed up; 18% of science rooms; 14% of reading enrichment rooms, and 10% of libraries have been converted to classroom space.

At 29% of schools, lunch starts at 10:30 AM or earlier; and at 16% of schools, students have no regular access to the school’s library.

18% of principals reported that their schools have classrooms with no windows. Many said that special education classes and services were being given in inadequate spaces, including closets.

Principals also reported ongoing battles with DOE over their schools’ capacity ratings, and expressed resentment at being assigned excessive numbers of students, particularly when they tried to use available funding to reduce class size.

Many observed that the problem of overcrowding has been exacerbated due to DOE policies: 27% said that overcrowding at their schools had resulted from new schools or programs having been moved into their buildings in recent years; and several reported that the decision to add grade levels in order to create more K-8 and 6-12 schools had led to worse conditions.

Emily Horowitz, co-author of the report and professor at St. Francis College says, “The results of this survey should appall every New Yorker with a conscience. Principals report that their schools are seriously overcrowded, with excessive class sizes and insufficient enrichment space, even though the official data continues to show that they have extra room. I hope that the Department of Education pays close attention and revises the way school capacity is calculated - and admits the critical need to build more schools.”

According to Leonie Haimson, co-author and Executive Director of Class Size Matters, “The administration has devolved more responsibility and autonomy to principals, claiming that they have all the tools they need to succeed. Yet principals themselves observe that they have no control over some of the most important factors that determine the quality of education they can provide: the allocation of space and the number of students assigned to their schools. Until and unless the DOE adopts a more aggressive capital plan, the condition of our schools – and the future of NYC schoolchildren --will not significantly improve.”

As Council Member Robert Jackson, Chair of the NYC Education Committee concludes: “We've known for years that official statistics on overcrowding and capacity were wrong but now we have hard data to show just how wrong. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a multi-million dollar no-bid consulting contract to see that the current capital plan and budget cannot even begin to remedy the conditions described in this survey - facilities that fail to provide the setting for a sound, basic education. In light of this information, we will be looking and listening especially hard to DOE and SCA testimony at tomorrow's budget hearings on the capital plan."

Emily Horowitz, St. Francis College
ehorowitz@aya.yale.edu; 917-674-9791

Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters
classsizematters@gmail.com; 917-435-9329

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