Education

Charter Schools Call SUNY Reg ‘Right Decision’ (Updated)

As teachers unions decry the teacher certification process rule for charter schools adopted by SUNY on Wednesday, charter schools are cheering the move.

“The Trustees made the right decision. The opportunity to offer specialty training and a pathway to certification is smart policy centered on flexibility and quality,” Northeast Charter Schools Network New York Director Andrea Rogers said. “Too many students are still waiting for their classroom hero. Let’s celebrate decisions focused on getting children the kind of educators they need.”

The New York State United Teachers union as well as the United University Professions are blasting the regulation for what they consider to be looser standards for certification.

But the charter group pointed to the regulations only impacting “high-performing SUNY charters” an “alternative route” to certification.

Updated: Add the state Education Department to those who are concerned with the certification regulations by SUNY.

“We strongly disapprove of today’s actions by the SUNY Charter Schools Committee,” said Chancellor Betty Rosa and Commissioner MaryEllen Elia in a joint statement.

“With the adoption of the latest proposal, the Committee ignored our concerns and those of many others in education. Over the past several years, the Board of Regents and the Department have raised standards for our teachers and are working to uplift the entire profession through efforts such as TeachNY. This change lowers standards and will allow inexperienced and unqualified individuals to teach those children that are most in need – students of color, those who are economically disadvantaged, and students with disabilities – in SUNY-authorized charter schools. Lowering standards would not be acceptable for any other profession; this is an insult to the teaching profession. With this irresponsible action, the SUNY Charter Schools Committee has eroded the quality of teachers in New York State and negatively impacted student achievement.”

Unions Knock SUNY’s Charter School Rules Change

Regulations adopted by the State University of New York’s committee on charter schools is illegal and allows unqualified teachers to work, the state’s umbrella teachers union group on Wednesday said.

The rules change allows for an increase in the number of required instructional hours for teachers who go through the charter school program to 160 hours, up from 30 hours. But at the same time, the regulations lower the amount of time for teacher candidate field experience and lessen requires for charter school certification for ESOL and special education.

There are additional issues the labor union has with degree requirements for teachers.

NYSUT is concerned the regulations essentially allow charter schools to have unqualified teachers in the classroom.

“The committee can amend this bad proposal until the cows come home, but it doesn’t change the fact that these regulations sell out the state’s most vulnerable children to score political points,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.

The United University Professions, a union that represents SUNY professors, also criticized the move.

“In the face of overwhelming opposition to their first proposal, the committee came back with a proposal built to look like it addresses concerns,” said UUP President Fred Kowal. “The bottom line is that SUNY intends to create an insulated and self-regulated system, which would contradict and undermine state and national efforts to raise standards and accountability in teacher preparation and certification.”

Student Need Not Keeping Pace With Resources, Superintendents Say

School districts are seeing improved financial situations, but that growth has not kept pace with the increasing needs of students, a report released Tuesday by the New York State Council of School Superintendents found.

“Our survey does show improvement in the financial condition of some school systems,” said Charles Dedrick, executive director of the Council. “But superintendents are reporting increasing needs among the students their districts serve and those needs are growing at a faster rate than gains in financial condition.”

A top priority among superintendents surveyed was funding and improving mental health services. The issue climbed to the top of the list of priorities for district leaders. Previously, they had cited helping struggling students as the top issue.

“While the funding and educational models of our schools have largely stayed the same, the needs of students and communities have continued to increase,” one superintendent from the Mohawk Valley told the survey. “We cannot simply maintain the status quo due to the increasing mental health, special education, and ELL [English Language Learner] needs while the fiscal conditions and employment prospects of our communities continue to worsen.”

Still, the financial picture for school superintendents has brightened somewhat amid an influx of state funding. Superintendents told the survey they will likely be able to allocate money for student services, instruction at each level, academic help and counseling as well as social work.

“State aid increases over the past few years have improved or at least stabilized the financial condition of most school districts,” said the group’s deputy director, Robert Lowry. “But many have not made much progress in recovering from damage they suffered during the Great Recession and now they are struggling to help their students with problems that start outside of school.”

Excelsior Scholarships Spur Change At Buffalo School

From the Morning Memo:

A private institution in Buffalo – Canisius College – is taking its cue from the state in attempting to make tuition more affordable for its students, announcing a plan to reduce its annual pricetag from $35,000 to $27,000 next year.

The $8,000 drop makes the cost of attending the school equal to what it was a decade ago. Canisius said it also plans to lower the cost of room and board by $2,000 a year.

School officials said the reason for the drastic move is declining enrollment, which is down more than 500 students from just six years ago.

“It holds the prospect of increased enrollment, that there will be more families and students who will take a look at Canisius and see how this education might be affordable for them,” President John Hurley explained.

The announcement comes just days after the state announced more than half of its public school students are attending college tuition-free this year, in part due to the new Excelsior Scholarships.

Hurley said he believes the program is in part responsible for Canisius coming up 50 students short of its projection for the incoming freshman class.

“Who were those students? They tended to be New York State residents and they tended to have family incomes between and $60-100,000, which is kind of the target area for the Excelsior Program,” he said.

Current students are not surprisingly pleased by the development.

“Especially in the grand scheme of things, when I’m taking out $200,000, $300,000 in loans in my future,” sophomore Adam Dryfhout said.

Cuomo Releases Results Of Compliance Study For Campus Sexual Assault Law

A New York study of its colleges and universities has found most schools are “significantly compliant” with the state’s law to protect students from sexual assault on campus. The governor’s office however, said there a number of concerns many institutions still need to address to come into full compliance.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the “Enough is Enough” law in 2015, which he called the “nation’s most aggressive policy” on the issue. The review of more than 240 schools found about 39 percent in full compliance and another 49 percent to be significantly compliant.

According to the report, 29 institutions were non-compliant, meaning their policies were deficient on the majority of elements. Schools with issues are required to submit an action plan within 30 days and submit documentation of full compliance within 60 days of notification from the state Office of Campus Safety.

The governor noted the study comes in the aftermath of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announcement she plans to revamp Obama administration guidelines regarding sexual assault and harassment.

“In New York, we know that sexual assault is a crime, and we will continue to hold our colleges and universities to the highest possible standards to ensure the safety of all New York students,” Cuomo said. “Regardless of the federal government’s dangerous actions to rescind Title IX protections, this state and this administration will continue to stand with and advocate for survivors, and we will not go backwards in the fight against sexual assault.”

The “Enough is Enough” law required colleges to adopt a uniform definition of affirmative consent, an amnesty policy to encourage students reporting sexual assaults, and comprehensive training for administrators, staff and students. The governor’s office said the study was just a preliminary review based on information the colleges and universities submitted.

A second phase, it said, will include an in-depth review of practices beyond documentation.

 

EnoughisEnoughPreliminaryReport_September192017 by Ryan Whalen on Scribd

Education Coalition Promises To Continue ‘Opt-Outs’

Claiming the Next Generation standards approved this week by the Board of Regents are “little more than a rebranding” of Common Core, a coalition of parent and teacher groups is vowing to continue boycotting New York’s standardized tests. NYS Allies for Public Education said the new standards do little to move away from the test-based accountability that spurred the Opt-Out Movement.

“Although there have been minor improvements that move us in the right direction, we continue to institutionalize a test-focused curriculum throughout our entire pre-k to high school education system,” Jeanette Deutermann, parent and founder of NYSAPE said. “We can do better.”

The coalition preferred a classroom-based system that focused far less on the importance of test results. Parents said throughout the public input process they stressed the importance of Opportunity to Learn (OTL) factors, such as class size, the number of guidance counselors and physical education officers.

They said the state ultimately opted not to use an OTL index.

“Our leaders are fixated on standards and assessments, not what is best for the growth and development of children. We cannot keep allowing money to drive critical decision making. Children are brilliant, natural learners, who love to explore, and teach us as well. Children and teachers should not be treated as standards or assembly-line products, but should be empowered to learn in ways that will change their lives and the world around them. Parents and children feel abandoned and opt out is the only way we can fight for what we expect and deserve,” Rochester parent Eileen Graham said.

Earlier this week, other parent, educator and stakeholder groups commended the new standards.

Board of Regents Officially Approves New Learning Standards

The New York State Board of Regents approved new learning standards Monday for English Language Arts and Mathematics. The revised standards are the result of a two-year public process which involved educators, parents and other stakeholders.

“The standards we adopted today continue to be rigorous, to challenge New York’s students to do more and to prepare them for life in the 21st century,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said. “Throughout the entire process, we worked collaboratively and transparently, receiving valuable input from educators and parents, as well as experts in teaching English language learners, students with disabilities and our youngest learners.”

The board has vowed to continue to listen to stakeholders as the standards are implemented. State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia said it will take time for teachers and students to adjust.

“Our implementation timetable allows for professional development and curriculum development to occur before any student takes a State assessment based on the new standards,” she said. “That’s the fair and smart thing to do for our teachers and our students.”

Adoption of the Next Generation Standards begins immediately but under the projected timeline, they won’t be fully implemented until the 2020 school year. The new testing would start in Spring 2021.

In the meantime, the current two-day Common Core assessments will continue.

“We thank parents and teachers across the state for the input they provided to the Regents and State Education Department on the new standards, yet there is still more work to do. The Next Generation Standards, like all standards, are living, breathing documents. NYSUT will continue to work to ensure our members’ input is shared at the state level,” New York State United Teachers said in a statement.

The draft standards were presented to the Board of Regents in May and the final round of public comment closed in June. State Ed addressed some concerns from stakeholders including more guidance on how standards can be implemented for early childhood education and recoding Math standards to make sure they are not confused with the Common Core standards that have been in place.

High Achievement New York, a coalition of parents, teachers and community leaders, also commended the board for resisting pressure from some Common Core critics to eliminate standards altogether.

“Opponents of New York’s high expectations wanted standards thrown out. We applaud the Regents and SED for resisting those calls and instead doing what’s right for every student by voting for the Next Generation Learning Standards,” Executive Director Stephen Sigmund said. “The teachers, parents and stakeholders who reviewed and revised the standards made clear that improvement was the right way to go, and that judgment is confirmed by today’s vote. Continuing to set high expectations is the right direction, since student proficiency has grown every year since the implementation of new standards, and teachers and communities have worked incredibly hard to develop deeper learning in the classroom.”

SED Leadership: Keep DACA

The top officials at the State Education Department on Friday in a statement urged the federal government to keep in place the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Donald Trump may potentially scrap.

The program allows for two years of deferred action for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children, known as Dreamers.

“Dreamers, brought to America as children, want nothing more than to continue giving back and contributing as productive, hard-working, tax-paying members of our communities,” said Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Chancellor Betty Rosa in the join statement.

“Many of these young Dreamers now live in daily fear that they may lose their jobs, be forced to drop out of college or even be deported. This is the only country many of them have ever known; this is their America.”

Rosa and Elia pointed to the Board of Regents approving a program that allows eligible undocumented immigrants with Dreamer status to obtain teaching certifications and professional licenses.

“It was the right thing to do morally and will benefit our state economically as well,” they said. “New York is facing a teacher shortage and Dreamers are every bit as qualified to become effective educators as anyone. But now, because of political gamesmanship, the DACA program is in peril. And the ability of our Dreamers to continue contributing to American society is in jeopardy as well.”

Curtailing DACA would be “shortsighted, cruel and bad public policy,” they said.

“We will continue to fight for our Dreamers because it is the right thing to do.”

SED Says Gains Made In Student Test Scores

Students across New York and in its largest school districts made modest gains in proficiency for English language arts and mathematics, while the overall number of students opting out of the examinations are down.

The figures released on Tuesday by the state Education Department show students in grades 3 through 8 scored at the proficient level in English language arts increased by 1.9 percentage points this year, up to 39.8 percent.

In math, 40.2 percent of students scored at a proficient level, up 1.1 percent from last year.

“I’m encouraged by the modest improvements we’re seeing in our test scores,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa said.

“As I’ve always said, testing is just one piece of the puzzle to understand how students are performing. And that’s why our draft ESSA plan takes a more holistic approach to accountability – an approach that looks at multiple measures of school and student success. This allows us to continually evolve and adapt so we can ensure that our systems are culturally responsive and place an emphasis on educating the whole child.”

The state’s largest school districts also saw increases in student performance. In New York City, proficiency in the ELA examinations grew by 2.6 percentage points to 40.6 percent. In Buffalo, student proficiency increased by 1.4 percent, Rochester 0.9 percent, Syracuse 2.2 percent and Yonkers 3.6 percent.

The same was true for the mathematics examination, where students in the largest districts on average increased their proficiency slightly. Yonkers reported the largest increase among the Big 5 by 3.7 percentage points.

Students who refused to take the test — part of the “opt out” movement — decreased from 21 percent last year to 19 percent in 2017, SED said.

“Real progress takes time,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said. “So, the test scores we’re announcing today are a positive sign that we continue to steadily head in the right direction. We’ve taken a deliberate, inclusive and transparent approach to develop the State’s draft ESSA plan as well as changes to our standards and assessments. We’re confident that this careful approach will continue to yield benefits for our students.”

Buffalo Teachers Not Making Endorsement For Mayor

From the Morning Memo:

The Buffalo Teachers Federation is only endorsing one candidate, so far, this election cycle. That’s Democrat newcomer April Baskin, who’s involved in a four-way primary to replace Betty Jean Grant on the Erie County Legislature.

BTF President Phil Rumore said Baskin seems to be in tune with the issues.

“The thing that was impressive with April was, she comes from the west side but she’s talking about joining and working together with the west side and the east side, not being for one or the other but sort of bringing that community together,” he said.

The union is not planning to make an endorsement in the Buffalo mayoral primary which features three Democrats, Grant, incumbent Byron Brown, and city Comptroller Mark Schroeder. Rumore said Schroeder was the only candidate who interviewed and teachers had some concerns about some of his answers.

“The mayor really, if he had come for it, he might’ve gotten our endorsement. He might not. He would’ve had to answer some very strong questions, for example his support for education hasn’t really been there but he didn’t even ask for our endorsement, so he didn’t get it,” he said.

Meanwhile, BTF is starting to look ahead to next year too. The union broke rank with the state organization New York State United Teachers, when it endorsed law professor Zephy Teachout instead of Governor Cuomo.

“We have had very few disagreements with our state affiliate. That was one of them,” Rumore said. “We even disagreed with the Working Families Party. The Working Families Party endorsed Governor Cuomo. I’m one of the founders of that party. We disagreed with them. That was very close. In fact, I made the motion to endorse Zephyr Teachout at that party, at that meeting.”

The union president said the organization will be looking at all candidates and making a decision based on what’s best for education and what’s best for Buffalo. He said right now it’s too early to predict if there will be a competitive primary.

Former state Senator Terry Gipson and actress Cynthia Nixon have expressed interest in challenging the governor.