Educate All Students, Support Public Education

May 29, 2010

JP Morgan Helping Finance Charter Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 1:13 pm

Banking Giant Offers Financing for Charter Schools

JPMorgan Chase & Co., a global financial-services company, has announced a $325 million effort to support building, expanding, and renovating charter school facilities.

The company said it would give $50 million in grants to community-development financial institutions to support charter schools. It will also provide about $175 million in debt financing and about $100 million in “new markets tax-credit equity” for charter schools, according to a press release. It estimates the financing will help underwrite about 40 charter schools. The program is aimed at schools that already have a strong academic track record and have had their charter renewed at least once, or at established charter operators that want to launch new schools.

The company took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times yesterday announcing the initiative. It also ran an ad in The Washington Post.

The financing for charter school buildings and renovations is welcome, said William Haft, the vice president for authorizer development for the Chicago-based National Association of Charter School Authorizers. Mr. Haft said that paying for a building is one of the biggest challenges in operating a charter school.


New York City to be Flooded with Charter Schools

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 10:40 am

New York State Votes to Expand Charter Schools

By JENNIFER MEDINA Published: May 28, 2010

The New York Legislature voted on Friday to more than double the number of charter schools in the state, handing Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg a significant victory that he and education officials hope will give the state a chance of receiving $700 million in federal grant money.

The measure would raise the maximum number of charter schools to 460 from the current 200, a ceiling the state has almost reached. The increase would be phased in over the next four years, with more than 60 expected to open each year.

In New York City, the number of charter schools would be capped at 214; the city has almost 100 now.

The vote ended days of intense negotiations between charter school advocates and city officials on one side and the teachers’ unions and the Assembly on the other. Several members of the Legislature, including the speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, have been critical of the growth of charter schools, which are publicly financed but privately run.

Across the country, states have been coaxed into altering their education laws to qualify for the federal education grant competition known as Race to the Top.

Many states have increased the number of charter schools, one of the ways to improve their chances of winning the aid, and the vote on Friday came at virtually the 11th hour. Tuesday is the deadline for the next round of Race to the Top applications.

In another effort to improve New York’s chances, the State Senate approved a separate bill on Friday to tie teacher evaluations to students’ performance on standardized tests, as other states have done; the Assembly voted for the measure earlier this week.


MJS Editorial: Hold $175 million From MPS

Filed under: School Finance — millerlf @ 10:33 am


Not much of a threat

When you make a big threat and fail to follow through, the next threat doesn’t have as much heft. Much more is needed to spark MPS improvement.

Posted: May 28, 2010 |(9) Comments

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers’ decision to fold on his threat to withhold funding from Milwaukee Public Schools sends the message that small changes are good enough.

But small fixes will not turn around MPS. Evers should have remained steadfast on his promise to withhold up to $175 million in federal dollars from MPS because of the district’s repeated failure to hit academic progress targets.

Evers said he changed his mind because MPS has shown improvement and has plans in place to address other academic failures.

You know what happens when you threaten to punish a child and then lift the threat though the behavior has not changed appreciably? The next threat will not carry as much weight. This cannot happen with MPS because failure to change fails children.

It would be great if MPS could change without pressure applied. We’ve seen no such evidence.

Last week, a study ranked MPS’ fourth-and eighth-graders reading scores among the lowest of all urban districts, except Detroit.

Another study showed that there is a scarcity of good schools available to all children in Milwaukee.

Underperforming schools tend to be mostly clustered at the high school level and on the city’s north and northwest sides, and a few areas of the densely populated south side. Sadly, these schools sit where the largest poverty in the city exists.

Of the schools reporting their testing information, too many are failing to provide students with the high-quality education they need to succeed.

How many more studies do we need before meaningful legislation is passed that can drastically improve the quality of education in Milwaukee?

A bill passed during the last legislative session gives Evers additional powers to close underperforming schools and bring the best teachers to the schools in the most need. Evers should use these tools.

He also has the power to force struggling school leaders to take additional training and, if they continue to fail, to terminate them.

MPS has reduced the number of reading programs to one and will start a new literacy program in the fall.

These are good steps, but not nearly enough to improve things.

Evers must continue to hold the district accountable. To do so, he may have to do things that are not very popular to those too willing to tolerate the status quo.

Can Tony Evers’ threats spark change in MPS? To be considered for publication as a letter to the editor, e-mail your opinion to the Journal Sentinel editorial department.

MJS Article on MPS Reading Plan

Filed under: Reading — millerlf @ 10:31 am

MPS literacy plan gets tentative OK from state

Program requires all teachers, staff to use same reading, writing materials

By Erin Richards of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: May 27, 2010 |(21) Comments

As part of overhauling how Milwaukee Public Schools teaches children to read and write, the state has conditionally approved the district’s new literacy plan, contingent on a meaty list of requirements that must be fulfilled before school starts next fall.

A key missing element? The curriculum. The Milwaukee School board has not yet adopted uniform literacy textbooks and curriculum for children in kindergarten through eighth grade, though district leaders on Thursday expressed confidence that they were still on track to fulfill most, if not all, of the state’s demands by September.

But Jennifer Thayer, assistant superintendent for reading and student achievement at the state Department of Public Instruction, thought that timeline would be tight.

“That’s going to make it tough for them to hit our deadlines,” Thayer said.

The 570-page Comprehensive Literacy Planis expected to prompt change in MPS by ordering all teachers and instructional staff across the district, with few exceptions, to use the same reading and writing materials and framework to teach children.

The plan, which has been in development for two years, outlines everything from how many minutes of literacy instruction schools should use to the type of periodic assessments students should take.


May 26, 2010

Charter Schools in New York Under Increased Criticism

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 11:17 am

More Scrutiny for Charter Schools in Debate Over Expansion


ALBANY — During its first years of operation, the Niagara Charter School in Niagara Falls spent thousands of dollars on plane tickets, restaurant meals and alcohol, and more than $100,000 on no-bid consulting contracts. Yet the school’s teachers resorted to organizing a fund-raiser to buy playground equipment.

When the Roosevelt Children’s Academy, a charter school on Long Island, fired its management company after paying it more than $1 million a year, it hired two of the school’s board members as new managers — and paid them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And in the Bronx, the Family Life Charter School pays $400,000 annually to rent classroom space from the Latino Pastoral Action Center, a “Christ-centered holistic ministry” led by the Rev. Raymond Rivera. Mr. Rivera also happens to be the school’s founder.


MATC Calls for Arizona Boycott

Filed under: Immigration — millerlf @ 11:12 am

MATC board calls for Arizona boycott

Immigration law spurs resolution

By Jesse Garza of the Journal Sentinel

The Milwaukee Area Technical College District board of directors approved a resolution Tuesday night directing the college’s administration to boycott Arizona in response to the state’s newly passed immigration law.

The resolution directs the administration to refrain from purchasing goods or services from any company based in Arizona and from sending MATC employees to conferences or meetings held in that state.

It also calls for a review of “existing contracts for the purchase of goods and services with companies headquartered in Arizona and to discontinue those contracts consistent with the terms of the contract.”

The Arizona legislation requires police to detain people reasonably suspected of being in the country illegally and charge immigrants for not carrying immigration documents.

An MATC news release issued Tuesday night stated that enforcement will lead to racial profiling and strain relationships between law enforcement and ethnic communities.

The law potentially will put MATC students and employees who travel to Arizona at risk of being targeted by law enforcement, “because of their appearance, ethnic heritage or for failing to carry with them immigration documents regardless of whether they are citizens,” according to the release.

The vote was 6-1 to approve the resolution, with board chair Lauren Baker and members Fred Royal Jr., Peter G. Earle, Bobbie R. Webber, Ann Wilson and Richard F. Monroe voting in favor and Melanie C. Holmes voting against, according to MATC spokeswoman Kathleen Hohl.

Board members Robert M. Davis and Thomas A. Michalski were not present, Hohl said.

Holmes could not be reached for comment after the meeting.

Reached by telephone, Baker said the resolution was initiated by Earle at a recent meeting of the finance committee.

“I’m very proud of what the MATC board did tonight,” Baker said.

“We have a mission,” she said, “and we can look at our business and travel and make sure our business arrangements and the travel we do are in line with the mission of our college.”

May 25, 2010

Teacher Jobs Increasingly Hard To Get

Filed under: School Finance — millerlf @ 8:26 am

Teachers Facing Weakest Market in Years

By WINNIE HU Published: May 19, 2010

PELHAM, N.Y. — In the month since Pelham Memorial High School in Westchester County advertised seven teaching jobs, it has been flooded with 3,010 applications from candidates as far away as California. The Port Washington District on Long Island is sorting through 3,620 applications for eight positions — the largest pool the superintendent has seen in his 41-year career.

Even hard-to-fill specialties are no longer so hard to fill. Jericho, N.Y., has 963 people to choose from for five spots in special education, more than twice as many as in past years. In Connecticut, chemistry and physics jobs in Hartford that normally attract no more than 5 candidates have 110 and 51, respectively.

The recession seems to have penetrated a profession long seen as recession-proof. Superintendents, education professors and people seeking work say teachers are facing the worst job market since the Great Depression. Amid state and local budget cuts, cash-poor urban districts like New York City and Los Angeles, which once hired thousands of young people every spring, have taken down the help-wanted signs.

Even upscale suburban districts are preparing for huge levels of layoffs. School officials and union leaders estimate that more than 150,000 teachers nationwide could lose their jobs next year, far more than any other time, including the last major financial crisis of the 1970s.

Juliana Pankow, who just graduated from Teachers College at Columbia University, has sent out 40 résumés since January. A few Saturdays ago, she went to a school in Harlem because she heard the principal would be there (she was invited back to teach a demonstration lesson, but it may be for naught since the city has a hiring freeze). Now, Ms. Pankow said she might have to move back in with her parents in Scarsdale, N.Y., and perhaps take up SAT tutoring.

“I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do,” said Ms. Pankow, 23, as she waited outside the principal’s office at Pelham Memorial last week, among 619 people applying for one English position. “Which is a problem, because I might have to do something else.”

At Teachers College, so many students like Ms. Pankow are looking for work that two recent job fairs attracted a record 650 students and alumni, up from 450 last year. Last month, the college added a job fair focusing on schools in Harlem.

But job postings are down by half this year, to one dozen to two dozen a week, mostly in charter schools, said Marianne Tramelli, the college’s director of career services.

Charter schools, which are publicly financed but independently run, are practically the only ones hiring in New York and elsewhere because of growing enrollments amid expanding political and economic support for school choice. Even so, they do not have nearly enough jobs to go around.

In New York, where the Success Charter Network is hiring 135 teachers for its seven schools in Harlem and the Bronx, some of the 8,453 applicants have called the office three times a day to check on their status. Veteran teachers have also offered to work as assistant teachers.


May 24, 2010

Steve Brill Article on Teacher Unions in NYTimes Magazine

Filed under: Charter Schools,Race to the Top,School Reform — millerlf @ 9:36 pm

May 17, 2010
The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand
MICHAEL MULGREW is an affable former Brooklyn vocational-high-school teacher who took over last year as head of New York City‟s United Federation of Teachers when his predecessor, Randi Weingarten, moved to Washington to run the national American Federation of Teachers. Over breakfast in March, we talked about a movement spreading across the country to hold public-school teachers accountable by compensating, promoting or even removing them according to the results they produce in class, as measured in part by student test scores. Mulgrew‟s 165-page union contract takes the opposite approach. It not only specifies everything that teachers will do and will not do during a six-hour-57 ½-minute workday but also requires that teachers be paid based on how long they have been on the job. Once they‟ve been teaching for three years and judged satisfactory in a process that invariably judges all but a few of them satisfactory, they are ensured lifetime tenure.
Next to Mulgrew was his press aide, Richard Riley. “Suppose you decide that Riley is lazy or incompetent,” I asked Mulgrew. “Should you be able to fire him?”
“He‟s not a teacher,” Mulgrew responded. “And I need to be able to pick my own person for a job like that.” Then he grinned, adding: “I know where you‟re going, but you don‟t understand. Teachers are just different.”
That is the kind of story that makes Jon Schnur smile. Schnur, who runs a Manhattan-based school-reform group called New Leaders for New Schools, sits informally at the center of a network of self-styled reformers dedicated to overhauling public education in the United States. They have been building in strength and numbers over the last two decades and now seem to be planted everywhere that counts. They are working in key positions in school districts and charter-school networks, legislating in state capitals, staffing city halls and statehouses for reform-minded mayors and governors, writing papers for policy groups and dispensing grants from billion-dollar philanthropies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates, along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Teach for America‟s founder, Wendy Kopp; and the New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein could be considered the patron saints of the network.

School Turnaround Models Draw Bipartisan Concern

Filed under: School Reform — millerlf @ 9:26 pm

By Alyson Klein

The Obama administration’s prescription for turning around low-performing schools—particularly the models districts must follow in making those improvements—is raising eyebrows on Capitol Hill, as Congress gears up for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the four models for intervening in perennially foundering schools spelled out in the U.S. Department of Education’s regulations for the $3.5 billion School Improvement Grant program are inflexible, particularly for schools in isolated, rural areas, and don’t put enough emphasis on factors such as the need for community and parental involvement.

“These four choices are interesting, but they’ve got to be fleshed out here,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee at a hearing on the topic May 19. “There’s a portfolio of things you need to bring to this problem.”


May 21, 2010

NAEPs Trial Urban District Assessment in Reading Just Released/ Milwaukee Included

Filed under: Reading — millerlf @ 8:05 am

To see the full report go to:

To see the MJS article on MPS reading scores go to the following link:

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