Friday, September 10, 2010

On the Testing Fiasco, Closing Schools and Sex

I'll try anything to get traffic. What better way than mentioning "sex."

ICE founding members Loretta Prisco and James Eterno are out in force at the ICE blog.

Sex, Lies and Videotapes By Loretta Prisco 

I don't know about the sex, but there are plenty of lies, and videotapes to prove it!

Using rising test scores, Klein/Bloomberg have insisted that schools are improving and went to Washington to brag about the "miracle" of NY. The recent realistic NYS calibrations of the standardized test scores nixed that miracle. People of faith know that turning water into wine and curing leprosy requires Divine intervention. Educating children first requires an understanding of what it means to be educated. And that bears no relation to raising test scores.
  • Klein/Bloomberg are still boasting about the increase in HS graduation rates.
 Oh – those noses are growing right before our eyes. You've just got to go to the videotape here. Go to ednotesonline. Watch the Chairperson of the PEP (sitting right next to Klein) refuse to allow parents to ask questions about the changed test scores and shut down the meeting. Watch the guards escort a young child, who was attempting to ask a question, right off the stage and down the stairs.

And there must be some sex in all of this – we just haven't heard about it.
 Read it all:  Sex, Lies and Videotapes

And Jamaica HS Chapter Leader James Eterno follows up with
The school year opened this week with great uncertainty at the 19 schools that the city tried to close last year but were saved by six judges. The Daily News and NY 1 did stories that featured Jamaica High School as part of their coverage of the opening day of the school year. Since I am the chapter leader at Jamaica and know the situation very well, I think it would be informative to explain what is going on at our facility so that people can understand how kids in closing schools are the casualties of school reform.

Back in December 2009 the Department of Education introduced proposals to phase out 19 schools but their plan was flawed because they wrote inadequate Educational Impact Statements. After the Panel for Educational Policy voted at 3:00 a.m. on January 27, 2010 to close all of these schools, the UFT (with the complete support of ICE), NAACP and others sued and won to prevent the closings.

Judge Joan Lobis decided on March 26, 2010 that the UFT was right when she ruled that the 19 schools should remain open. On July 1, an appeals court agreed 5-0 with the original decision. What was left unclear was whether new schools could still start in our buildings even though the old schools still existed. We believed they could not and wanted the UFT to go back to court on the issue to prevent the new schools from invading our space. I spoke with the chapter leader from Beach Channel and he agreed with me on this issue. I also emailed President Michael Mulgrew to no avail.

We believed we had a strong case by just looking at the flawed Educational Impact Statements. For Jamaica, the impact statement said that by phasing out Jamaica it would create space for the two new schools. No phase out equals no space for the new schools right? Well the UFT disagreed and on July 14 they basically sold out many of the nineteen schools by agreeing to allow the new schools to start in our buildings. In exchange we were supposed to get support.

Not only have we not received any help from either UFT or DOE after their July 14 agreement, our pupils have had to suffer the indignity of returning to school and being squeezed into the middle of the building in an area that looks antiquated while two new schools and an expanding third on the east and west wings install modern equipment for their small schools. It's appalling how conditions in the same building are so vastly different between schools.

Then to hear the mayor and chancellor say on the first school day that schools such as Jamaica don't deserve support is unconscionable. The corporate mindset has gone overboard. Bloomberg and Klein want to close our school so they will compromise the education of our students to prove their point. Even I am having trouble believing that people can be that vindictive against innocent children.

If anyone is thinking that someone should have told Judge Lobis about how her decision has been violated by DOE and UFT, we did. A Jamaica teacher named Debbie Saal, and I along with a student and parent wrote up something called an Order to Show Cause asking the judge to intervene as opening up new schools appeared to us to be a violation of her decision. In our petition, we asked the judge to stop two new schools from opening in our building since the Educational Impact Statement that created these schools was flawed as their existence was predicated on Jamaica phasing out, which it no longer is. We had many strong arguments saying that Jamaica’s pupils were suffering irreparable harm because we were losing so much space and funding.

Unfortunately, Judge Lobis, when she saw our papers, said because the case was closed our papers were therefore not timely. Translation, when the UFT made their deal with the DOE to let the new schools co-locate in our facility, we had no legal recourse. Since it is up to the judge to decide whether or not to intervene in a case, it means our legal options are very limited.

That's where it stands right now. Our school is open as an entity but with very few freshmen and no help coming from anywhere. Our programs are either nonexistent or a shell of their former selves. Some Advanced Placement classes have been dropped; there are no music classes; science classes meet one fewer period per week, many electives no longer exist and all ninth graders in general education, whether they are in our Gateway Honors program, Law program or are English Language Learners, are all in the same subject classes. 25 teachers out of 84 were placed in excess and Absent Teacher Reserves who don't know our school are being sent here to cover classes while our excessed teachers are sent packing all over Queens.

We have been abandoned by Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein, Michael Mulgrew and Judge Lobis.

Our students and staff are casualties of school reform. Can anyone help us? 

Parent activists comment on James' piece at the NYC Ed Listserve:

The UFT makes a deal and students and teachers at Jamaica HS get the shaft.  As Lois Weiner aptly put it:

The UFT in its present state has neither the vocabulary nor the will to organize its members, parents and community activists to defend a system of public education that will provide New York’s kids with well-funded, well-run, socially and racially integrated schools. Its modus operands is making backroom deals with New York’s notoriously corrupt politicians.

A depressingly familiar story.  We trust people in power when they spout the right words and don’t look too closely at what they actually do until it’s too late—look at all the little surprises packed in the new and improved school governance law, not to mention the change we actually got after being besotted by the rhetoric of hope & change.

You have a bigger problem than the UFT selling you out: after all is said and done, the school governance law still gives one man and his sidekick the power to shut you down and give your school to more favored folks.  That law gives you procedural rights (EIS, public hearings and so forth); these will keep people busy for while, but they can only delay, not avoid,  that outcome.

The NY State Constitution, however, gives each citizen a substantive right to a “sound basic education,” and that right has reasonably well-defined parameters (definition here) .  There ought to be a remedy for the blatant violation of that right at Jamaica HS and elsewhere—unfortunately, it will not come in time to help your school.
Paola de Kock

Thank you Paola for saying it like it is;
How can we have bold bright reforms on one side and only incrementalist push back on the other?

The entire opposition that could correct and adjust this lens in the tihe honored multfacted dialectic based excercise that iis democracy has been neutered by the in-pouring and laying down over tons of hedge fund and government cash;

History will not be kind to those who settled for crumbs just to keep their place at the table!

Lisa Donlan
What about the students?

Can the discussion begin with the impact these decisions are having on the students? After meeting with the SLT members of Jamaica (those willing to attend a summer meeting) and further reviewing the CEP, I was left with many questions relating to the quality of the academic plan for Jamaica.

What are the 'resources' promised?

And again I challenge the DoE to track the educational path of all the student attending the proposed Phase-Out Schools (2010).


I have a bunch of back reading if you have time posted at Norms Notes:

Lois Weiner on Why Teachers Unions Matter


Why I don't believe in "reform": from former TFAer, KIPP teacher and admin, and charter school administrator


Dan Brown on Waiting For Superman


Yes We Need Great Teachers! (But Vague, Emotional Rhetoric Opens the Door for Counterproductive "Reformers")

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