Thursday, January 8, 2015

NYS Allies for Public Education

this is very sensible, thoughtful and compassionate response to Cuomo
Here is a letter that NYS Allies for Public Education — a coalition of more than 50 organizations in New York — just sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo about his education policies. While the letter is specific to New York, the issues it covers — evaluations, charter schools, due process — are hot button around the country. It was written in December by Jim Malatras, Cuomo’s director of state operations, to Board of Regents Chairwoman Merryl Tisch and John King, who was at the time the New York State commissioner of education. He resigned late last month and is becoming a top assistant to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Dear Governor Cuomo,
We, the undersigned members of NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), are writing in response to the December 18th letter to the Commissioner and Chancellor that Mr. Malatras wrote on your behalf. By responding to the questions posed, we want to separate fact from misinformation. We are also very troubled by several questions that were not included in your letter which continues to demonstrate a disconnect between your office and the public.
We strongly believe in the importance and power of public education for all children. While the vast majority of our students are successful, we cannot rest until our struggling students are supported and given the needed resources to be successful.
Unfortunately, you have based your vision of school reform on a misguided agenda.  That agenda includes ineffective strategies for school improvement. If current policies are not corrected, more state resources will be wasted and our students’ futures will be put at even more risk.
Let’s start at the beginning of the letter.  The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has established capricious and inaccurate measures of proficiency and college readiness.  The proficiency rates that are quoted in the letter (34.8% and 31.4%) reflect arbitrary cut scores set by Commissioner King in 2013.  In 2012, proficiency rates in ELA and Math were 55% and 65% by the cut scores set by then-Commissioner Steiner, based on a college readiness study that he commissioned in 2010.  Prior to 2010, proficiency rates were higher still under Commissioner Mills. In short, proficiency is an arbitrarily defined standard, and there is good evidence to suggest that NYSED has now set the Common Core standards unreasonably high, for political rather than pedagogical reasons.
We understand that you believe that over the past four years “much has been done to improve public education.”  We disagree.  Our high school graduation rate has barely budged since 2011, and the percentage of students earning a Regents diploma with Advanced Designation has been stagnant for several years and decreased this year.  During the past four years, the graduation rate for the state’s English Language learners has dropped by 6 percentage points.
The Common Core proficiency rates were essentially flat between year one and two of the new tests (as were the rates on the final two years of the prior test) and our state’s SAT scores have decreased since 2010.   In short, although we have engaged in four years of market-based corporate reforms—expansion of charter schools, evaluating teachers by student scores, imposing the Common Core standards and more time-consuming, and developmentally inappropriate tests–there is no evidence that New York schools are improving, and there is some evidence that results are moving backward instead.  We believe that there is sufficient evidence to change course.
Clearly the public agrees. The 2014 Times Union/Siena College poll indicates that 46% of New Yorkers oppose the implementation of the Common Core standards, compared to only 23% who support them, while 46% oppose the current use of standardized testing, compared to 29% who support it.  We believe it is time to listen to your constituents, rather than double-down on damaging policies that are hurting our children. It is our intent, by answering the questions that your office posed, to help you advocate for a better and wiser course in the months ahead.
Question 1
How is current teacher evaluation system credible when only one percent of teachers are rated ineffective? The NYC system was negotiated by Commissioner King directly and no one claims it is an accurate reflection of the reality of the state of education in NYC. What should the percentages be between classroom observations (i.e. subjective measures) and state assessments, including state tests (i.e. objective measures)? What percent should be set in law versus collectively bargained?  Currently, the scoring ·bands and “curve” are set locally for the 60 percent subjective measures. What should the scoring bands be for the subjective measure and should the state set a standard scoring band? In general, how would you change the law to construct a rigorous state-of-the-art teacher evaluation system?
The first question implies that the teacher evaluation system called Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), which you insisted be quickly adopted, is deeply flawed.  We strongly agree.  When it was put in place, over one third of the principals of New York State signed a well-documented letter explaining why APPR would have negative consequences for students and harm the profession of teaching.  Since that time, the evidence against evaluating teachers by test scores has only increased.
The New York State School Boards Association recently passed a resolution against the use of student test scores for teacher and principal evaluations, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals has also disavowed their use for this purpose.  In April of 2014, the American Statistical Association clearly outlined how unreliable this methodology is. Opposition to the evaluation of teachers by test scores is growing among parents as well, with only 31% approving of the practice in national polls.
Your question implies that test-score based evaluations are good because they are “objective”—that is, generated by an algorithm devised by the New York State Education Department.  We strongly suggest that you review the evidence—just because a number can be generated based on other numbers does not make it a valid measure of performance. To revise APPR to give more weight to test scores would be a grave mistake.
You seem troubled that only 1 in 100 teachers were found to be incompetent, according to the APPR evaluation system. Do you have research that indicates that the number should be higher or lower?  We strongly suggest that you return the decision on how to evaluate teachers to local education officials and each community’s elected school board. Your recent veto of your own Common Core APPR bill demonstrates that your office does not have a clear understanding of teacher evaluation, and the problems associated with Common Core testing. Albany bureaucrats should not be in the business of designing evaluation systems and arbitrarily determining what acceptable outcomes for each district should be.
Question 2
 How would you address the problem of removing poor-performing educators when the current 3020-a process makes it virtually impossible to do so? Likewise, how would you change the system in New York City where poor-performing educators, with disciplinary problems, continue to be paid in the absent teacher reserve pool as opposed to being terminated?
No one wants incompetent teachers in the classroom.  Tenure assures due process, not a job for life. You have been misinformed if you believe that the removal of teachers using the 3020a process is impossible.
The 3020a proceeding, which was streamlined in 2012, can lead to the termination of a teacher in 125 days or less. Teachers can be terminated for insubordination, immoral character, conduct unbecoming a teacher, inefficiency, incompetency, physical or mental disability, neglect of duty, or the failure to maintain certification.
Most experts say the real crisis in teacher quality, specifically in our high needs districts, is teacher turnover.  According to astudy of New York City schools by researchers Ronfeldt, Loeb, and Wycoff, “teacher turnover has a significant and negative impact on student achievement in both math and ELA. Moreover, teacher turnover is particularly harmful to the achievement of students in schools with large populations of low-performing students of color.”
We will not attract and retain the most talented teachers, especially in high-needs schools, by removing their right to due process.
Question 3
What changes would you make to the teacher training and certification process to make it more rigorous to ensure we recruit the best and brightest teachers? Do you agree that there should be a one-time competency test for all teachers currently in the system? What should be done to improve teaching education programs across the state?
We also want “best and the brightest” to be recruited to teaching, which happens by making the profession more attractive to highly talented people who have a desire to commit their lives to guiding and instructing children.
Since 2012 and the onset of “reform”, teacher morale is at a 20 year  low.  New reports have shown that there has been adramatic drop in enrollment in teacher preparation programs—with a 22% decline in New York State in just the last two years. This suggests that the overwhelmingly negative rhetoric targeted to teachers and the assignment of blame for any and all problems in the way our schools are run have made the profession far less attractive. If the current trends continue, there will soon be a critical shortage of teachers, especially in STEM, special education and foreign languages –areas in which it is already very difficult to find sufficient candidates.
If you are interested in advancing teacher education programs, practicing educators should be surveyed, especially recent graduates, to ascertain how their preparation could have been improved.  The idea that the quality of a teacher education program can be assessed by using the student test scores of its graduates is even more unreliable than evaluating teacher quality by means of student test scores.  Likewise, creating a single high-stakes “test” to weed out practicing teachers is a gimmick, not a sound basis for judgment.
Question 4
What financial or other incentives would you provide to high-performing teachers and would you empower administrators to make those decisions?
The idea that teachers should be financially rewarded when their students receive high test scores has been proposed for decades, despite the fact that numerous studies have  shown that merit pay does not work, including a recent three year study conducted by the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University.
Merit pay would be a waste of taxpayer dollars that would be far better spent on proven reforms.
Question 5
Do you think the length of a teacher’s probationary period should be extended and should the state create a program whereby teachers have to be recertified every several years, like lawyers and other professions? What other changes would you propose to the probationary period before a teacher is granted tenure?
New York State has a rigorous pathway for teacher certification. In order to earn Initial Certification, a candidate must be awarded a bachelor’s degree, pass no fewer than three certification exams, spend a semester of mentored student teaching with a certified educator, pass a written exam, and complete the performance –based assessment known as the edTPA.
In order to maintain teaching certification and progress to the required Professional Certification, teachers must have 3 years of satisfactory teaching experience, including one year of mentoring. Additionally, they must earn a Master’s Degree. Once teachers have completed all of these requirements and obtained their Professional Certificate, they must accrue 175 hours of additional professional development every five years.
A three-year probationary period during which they are frequently observed and given feedback from principals and other certified observers provides ample opportunity for a school district to assess an educator’s professionalism, growth and ability to incorporate best practices into his or her instruction. It is not unusual for that probationary term to be extended to four or even five years if there are doubts that sufficient progress has not been made. During probation, many struggling teachers leave the profession through the resignation process, so that fewer need to be formally dismissed.
Although teachers are not required to undergo recertification, they are required to engage in ongoing professional development and yearly evaluations, which is comparable or goes beyond the requirements of other, high level professions. Local school districts should be encouraged to continue to develop robust programs and protocols to monitor and support both new and veteran teachers.
Question 6
What steps would you take to dramatically improve priority or struggling schools that condemn generation of kids to poor educations and thus poor life prospects?  Specifically, what should we do about the deplorable conditions of the education system in Buffalo?
The current practice of shutting down schools that are deemed failing is not an effective long-term strategy.  Replacement schools usually do not serve the students in the so-called failing school. These displaced students then remain in a phase-out school with fewer resources, and drop out, or are displaced to another school, with an even higher concentration of at-risk students, thus continuing the cycle of school failure and closure.
Your question is based on the false assumption that schools are solely responsible for the outcomes of poor and disadvantaged students. Neither high-stakes testing, the Common Core, or the continual closing of schools can fix the systemic problems of our high-needs schools. NY State has one of the most inequitable funding systems in the nation, despite the decision of the state’s highest court in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit that the funding system should be reformed. You have refused to address this inequity–schools with the greatest needs continue to receive the least resources and support.
As a result, class sizes in our highest need districts have grown each year. Let’s take Buffalo as an example. In Buffalo, many kindergarten classes have grown to 30 students or more, compared to a statewide average of twenty students per class.  In New York City, class sizes have increased sharply since 2007, and last year they were the largest in 15 years in kindergarten through third grades.  If you are truly interested in improving outcomes in our highest needs schools, these schools must be provided with the resources to reduce class size, a proven reform that benefits all students, but especially those most at risk.
In addition, providing resources for health services, counseling, after school child care and recreational programs to reduce truancy and improve attendance would likely have a positive impact on student learning.
Question 7
 What is your vision for charter schools? As you know, in New York City the current charter cap is close to being reached, so would you increase the charter school cap? To what? What other reforms would you make to improve charter schools’ ability to serve all students?
The charter cap should not be raised.  Many researchers including Macke Raymond, head of CREDO, a pro-charter research organization funded by the Walton Family Foundation, now agree that charter expansion and enhanced “competition” do not work to improve public schools. Moreover, charters do not enroll their fair share of high needs students – especially English language learners and special needs students, as acknowledged by the NYC Charter Center and independent researchers.  According to the 2010 amendment to the New York charter law, before charters are renewed or allowed to replicate, they must show they enroll and retain equal numbers of at risk students as the districts in which they are located, and yet neither the Board of Regents nor SUNY have ever rejected a charter proposal on these grounds – despite the fact that many charters have sky high student suspension and attrition rates.  Neither SUNY nor the Regents have provided adequate financial oversight, and in 95 percent of charter audits, the State Comptroller’s Office has found corruption or mismanagement.  Yet when the Deputy Comptroller wrote a letter to the state’s major charter-school regulators asking for stronger oversight, he received no response.
The recent approval by the Regents of a charter school started by a 22 year old who faked his educational background only further reveals the inability of authorizers to carry out their current responsibilities, no less authorize yet more charters that could waste taxpayer funds. Meanwhile, in New York City, where the vast majority of the state’s charter schools are located, about two thirds of these privately-managed schools receive more public funding per pupil than district public schools – a disparity that will  grow even worse with the new law requiring that charters receive free space paid for by the city or be provided space within the district’s already overcrowded public schools. This year, NYC charters are siphoning off $1.3 billion in public funds – while leading to the concentration of the most at-risk students in public schools with fewer resources and less space.  It is no wonder that more NYC voters believe the number of charters should remain the same or decrease than be raised.
Question 8
 Do you support using technology to improve public education, like offering online AP courses by college faculty to high schools students who do not have any such courses now, even though these changes have been resisted by education special interests?
The push towards using more technology in public education is not being “resisted by special interests,” as  your  letter claims, but instead is promoted by special interests – including software companies eager to get a larger share of the $8 billioneducation technology market. There is no rigorous researchshowing that more exposure to online learning improves student learning or outcomes in K12 schools, and many studiessuggest that expanding the amount of time students spend in front of computer screens has negative effects.
Question 9
What would you do about mayoral control in NYC and do you support mayoral control in other municipalities? What changes and improvements would you make to NYC Mayoral control?
In general, mayoral control is an unproven experiment that has NOT worked to improve NYC schools compared to other large urban districts across the country, and should not be expanded across the state. In New York City, the mayoral control law should be amended to give more local control to the city’s residents, by giving the City Council the authority to provide checks and balances, since the city lacks an elected school board. Our democratic system of government relies on the separation of powers, and an omnipotent executive inevitably leads to abuse and poor decision-making.   At the same time, the new state charter law should be amended, with local control returned to NYC officials, to enable them to determine whether or not privately run charter schools should receive space at city taxpayer expense.
Question 10
There are approximately 700 school districts in New York many of which have declining enrollment. Do you think we should restructure the current system through mergers, consolidations or regionalization? If so, how would you do it?
This question implies that through mergers, consolidations, and regionalization we can improve education while reducing costs. The research, however, contradicts that suggestion.  Studies show that  consolidations and mergers actually increase costs to districts and there is typically no gain in academic achievement. The following summary is from Penn State College of Education:
“School consolidation continues to be a topic of great concern for many small rural school and districts. While advocates for consolidation commonly cite fiscal imperatives based upon economies of scale, opponents have responded with evidence undermining this argument and pointing out the prominent position of the rural school in the economic and social development of community. Additionally, evidence continues to build demonstrating the advantages of small schools in attaining higher levels of student achievement. Larger schools, in contrast, have been shown to increase transportation costs, raise dropout rates, lower student involvement in extra-curricular activities, and harm rural communities’ sense of place.
The consolidation of services is already underway and should be incentivized when it makes sense and benefits students.  It is interesting that while you have proposed consolidation for school districts, you have also supported charter school expansion, each of which are considered a separate local education authority or school district –which appears to be a contradiction.
Question 11
As you know, the appointment and selection process of the Board of Regents is unique in that, unlike other agencies, selections and appointments are made by the Legislature. Would you make changes to the selection and appointment process? If so, what are they?
We believe the Board of Regents must stay independent of the executive branch and the Governor should not interfere in matters of education policy.  The authority should remain with the legislature to intervene when necessary.
There is a fair balance of powers in the NYS Constitution Articles V and XI requiring that the Governor and the Senate have the authority to appoint heads of departmental agencies, and the joint legislature to elect members of the Board of Regents, which in turn appoint the Commissioner of Education.
We do believe the nomination of Regent candidates should be a more transparent, inclusive process, and involve stakeholders from each judicial district, including parents, educators, students, and local legislators.  For the at-large Regent seats, there should be a state-wide committee consisting of parents, educators, and legislators to nominate candidates after assessing gaps that may exist in the Board of Regents’ expertise, diversity in background and geographical balance.
Question 12
Chancellor, the Board of Regents is about to replace Dr. King; can we design an open and transparent selection process so parents, teachers and legislators have a voice?
We strongly believe there should be a more rigorous, inclusive, and transparent process to appoint the next New York State Commissioner of Education as well.  While the appointment process is at the discretion of the Board of Regents as per Article V of the NYS Constitution, the overwhelming dissatisfaction of New Yorkers with the current policies — and the failure of state education officials to listen to parents and teachers – has revealed the need for a new Commissioner who is more responsive to stakeholder needs and concerns.
Questions That Should Be Asked
We were disappointed by the omission of important questions that should have been asked in your letter.  During the past year, members of the public, especially parents, expressed serious opposition to the current education policies during forums that were held across the state. Those concerns, however, were excluded from your list. Here are three questions, which are very much on the minds of parents and that we would like to be asked of state officials:
How will the State Education Department review and modify the Common Core standards given the enormous public outcry against the standards and their implementation?
In October of 2014, Governor, you said that you were working to roll the standards back. You recognized that implementation had been rushed and that there were questions regarding whether the Common Core standards were the best standards for the students of New York State. The public has clearlyexpressed its dissatisfaction. A plurality of New Yorkers believes that the implementation of the Common Core should be halted entirely.  Many other states are now engaging in a thorough analysis of the standards as they make revisions, both large and small.  New York students deserve the best possible standards.  Please join us in urging the State Education Department to provide a date when an open review of the Common Core standards will begin in New York.
How will we reduce the time students spend on state standardized testing?
Polls consistently report that New York parents do not support the grueling and inappropriate Common Core tests.  Time spent on state testing has dramatically ballooned since 2012. Last yearbetween 55,000 and 60,000 students “opted out” of the grade 3-8 New York State exams.  Make no mistake—this was a deliberate decision on the part of parents to show how displeased they are with the Common Core exams and the way in which these tests have narrowed and diminished the education of their children.
Your support for reducing the effects of test scores on students was but a small step in the right direction.  Please join us in asking the State Education Department to provide a plan to radically reduce the time spent on state exams, rolling it back to 2010 levels, as long as yearly testing is mandated. Please also inquire as to when teachers will be allowed to author better assessments, so that the state is no longer spending millions of taxpayer dollars to corporations that have consistently produced shoddy products.
How will personally identifiable student data be protected?
Data privacy of student’s personally identifiable information is still not protected, nor is the privacy legislation that was passed last spring being enforced.  While the legislation helped to stop sharing with inBloom, it did not address the concerns of parents of the widespread collection and sharing of their children’s personal data that is occurring without their knowledge or consent.
Moreover, allowing data-mining vendors to access children’s personal data has huge risks, including to student privacy and safety. Yet the State Education Department still has not implemented or enforced the new student privacy law, passed last spring, which requires the appointment of a chief privacy officer who will create a parent bill of rights with public input. As a result, numerous districts and schools throughout the state continue to disclose highly sensitive personal student data to vendors without parental knowledge or consent, and are ignoring several federal privacy laws, including FERPA and COPPA, without enforcement or oversight by the state.
In summary, it is apparent that the punitive education agenda of testing and privatization is not working to improve student achievement and instead is having a deleterious impact on our schools. It is time to change course rather than intensify these policies through requiring more school closings, expanding charters, and putting even more emphasis on unreliable test scores.
What New York badly needs is a new Commissioner with a strong background in public education and a deep understanding of how students learn.  He or she should have a healthy respect for local autonomy and the need to work collaboratively with stakeholders. The era of top down, bureaucratic, and monopolistic control of our schools by state officials must end.
We believe that the members of the Board of Regents should be thoughtfully selected with input from the communities that they represent. Most importantly, parents and teachers demand appropriate learning standards that allow teachers to focus on learning, not testing.  With equitable funding, thoughtful standards, sufficient teacher autonomy, local control, and community support, we know public education will better accomplish what we all want–a brighter future for all students.  We also urge you to hold public forums, so you can hear directly from parents, teachers, and other stakeholders how they want their schools improved –rather than remain in a bubble up in Albany, separated from the constituents whose interests you should be dedicated to serve.
Sincerely,
NYS Allies for Public Education

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Schenectady County Casino Vote 2013


How do people most influenced by expanded gambling facilities in downtown Schenectady feel about it? In November of 2013, the Board of Elections asked a question about allowing new casinos upstate that NYPIRG was ‘deeply troubled’ by because of its ‘trespass into advocacy’. How much of a role did the misleading question alter the vote? It is unclear, but the constitutional amendment passed. Regions of the State that would not be affected by new casinos voted overwhelmingly for it, while areas that were slated to receive casinos voted against it or marginally for more casinos. Now, the people of Schenectady, and Albany, are in a position of potentially having a casino sited in their community when they clearly voted against it.

Using voting data from all 120 election districts and the 6 municipalities in Schenectady County we can discern the sentiment of the people. The town of Niskayuna, with 15,290 voters, had a turnout of 39% in November. Every single one of their 20 election districts voted against the casino. The no vote overwhelmed the pro-gamblers by 25.7%; this was the largest margin of decisiveness in the County. The under vote –the people who did not turn over their ballot, read the 6 lengthy proposals and then register an opinion- was the lowest in Niskayuna at 3.6%.

The good people in the town of Princetown had the highest turnout in all of Schenectady County at 56.7%. Both of their election districts voted against a new casino in the Capital District, and the margin of decisiveness was 14.1%, while the under vote was 6.8%.

47% of Duanesburg’s 4,328 voters came out to vote in November. All 5 of their election districts voted against the casino. However, in one of their election districts the percentage of voters not registering an opinion for the proposal, the under vote, was higher than the margin against the casino. This leaves the results in question. Can we say that the voters in the 4th election district were truly opposed to the casino when the no votes won by 3.7% and the under vote was 8.9%? In order not to over read the results, where the margin of decisiveness is less than the under vote, I can only conclude that the results are suggestive and not conclusive. Given this framework, 4/5ths of the election districts in Duanesburg were conclusive, but on the whole 54.4% of the people voted against the casinos. This was a margin of decisiveness of 13.3% while the under vote was only 4.5% of the electorate.

41% of Glenville’s 20,009 voters turned out in November. These people live closer to the proposed casino in downtown Schenectady, than do many people in the City of Schenectady, and they voted strongly against having a new casino built for their children. The people opposed to new casinos garnered 55.3% of the vote while the pro-gamblers received 15.7% less of the vote. Even more decisively, 25 of the 27 or 92.6% election districts voted against the casino.

The decisiveness of the electorate in the town of Rotterdam is not as clear as the previous 4 municipalities reviewed so far. 17 of their 24 election districts voted for the casino, but only 14 of the election districts conclusive decisions. In aggregate, people who supported increased gambling won by 6.7%, but the undecided or the under vote was 7.6%.  People who voted at the Rotterdam Senior Center and the Town Hall were the strongest supporters of expanded gambling, while the other neighborhoods had mixed results; some voted against while others were not conclusive. On the whole, the only conclusion we can draw is that the vote in Rotterdam is suggestive of moderate support for a new casino.

The City of Schenectady has the most muddled results of all the municipalities in the County. Only 7,723 voters or 25.8% of the electorate turned out to vote; this alone adds a high degree of uncertainty in the results. This dismal turnout ranged by election district from 12.2% to 38%, but on the whole, it was the lowest turnout in the County. The under vote, which researchers have ascribed to the lack of quality education, method of voting and the wording of referenda questions, was highest in the City. Election district under votes ranged from 3.7% to 48.3%, and accordingly the certainty of a decisive vote in an election district could only be determined in 22/42 districts. As a City, people who supported a new casinos upstate won by 2.3%, but the under vote was 10.3%.

People living around Schenectady High School and in the Stockade were conclusively against more casinos upstate, while people in Mount Pleasant and Belleview supported new casinos. Other neighborhoods were only suggestively for or against because not all of the election districts voted the same, while in some the under vote was larger than the margin of decisiveness.

For the City on the whole, no clear conclusions can be made about the opinion of the people. Any statements with certainty about the will of the people in the City about the expansion of gambling would be a distortion of the expressed statements of the people.

What we can say with certainty is that the majority of the people that would be most impacted by a new casino in downtown Schenectady expressed clear opposition to more gambling for their families and communities. People opposed to more gambling were 50.6% of the vote in the county, while the people supporting more gambling opportunities for their children lost by a margin of 7.9%. The under vote was 6.6%, so the countywide decision against additional casinos was conclusive. Additionally, 72 of the 120 election districts or 60% voted against more gambling for their families and communities.  The people have spoken, and the answer is no casino.

The government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this Earth, but perhaps in Schenectady. It is up to the City Council.

  
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These data are compiled and analyzed with Schenectady County Board of Elections results that are available on their website, and in the case of election district poll locations and the number of registered voters, available upon request from their accommodating staff.

schenectady county casino vote.xlsx




casino_schenectady.xlsx

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Nott Street School: National Register of Historic Places

The City of Schenectady is planning on using a $500,000 loan from HUD to gift a developer $500,000 in order that they can demolish the oldest public school in Schenectady. The Nott Street School was the first public school built in Schenectady after the NYS government abolished segregation in 1873. It was the first school that was integrated in Schenectady. The Nott Street School is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which is a listing by the National Park Service for places worthy of historic preservation. The Nott Street School represents the very best of Schenectady, because it is a symbol of society's compassion and and empowerment of all of its children.

The Schenectady City Council needs to forbid Galesi from demolishing the Nott Street School.

Below is the application that was used to list the Nott Street School on the National Register of Historic Places. It contains a history of the building, an explanation of why the building is significant as well as historic photographs.

STOP the DEMOLITION !!!

NOTT 10-900 _1_.pdf

Friday, April 25, 2014

Burning Playground


Photo By :

ALEX WELSH


+01 650 208 9135
alexander.c.welsh@gmail.com
Brooklyn, New York



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger in Schenectady

"Put the kids in the middle, because they are the important ones."

Pete Seeger, Schenectady, New York, May 12, 2013

photo by Peggy Seeger
http://www.peggyseeger.com/

Monday, October 21, 2013

Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education

This is from a recent report that evaluates the current research on the effectiveness of early education.

http://fcd-us.org/sites/default/files/Evidence%20Base%20on%20Preschool%20Education%20FINAL.pdf

Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education

Executive Summary

Large-scale public preschool programs can have substantial impacts on children’s
early learning. Scientific evidence on the impacts of early childhood education has
progressed well beyond exclusive reliance on the Perry Preschool and Abecedarian
programs. A recent analysis integrating evaluations of 84 preschool programs concluded
that, on average, children gain about a third of a year of additional learning across language,
reading, and math skills. At-scale preschool systems in Tulsa and Boston have produced
larger gains of between a half and a full year of additional learning in reading and math.
Benefits to children’s socio-emotional development and health have been documented in
programs that focus intensively on these areas.

Quality preschool education is a profitable investment. Rigorous efforts to estimate
whether the economic benefits of early childhood education outweigh the costs of providing
these educational opportunities indicate that they are a wise financial investment. Available
benefit-cost estimates based on older, intensive interventions, such as the Perry Preschool
Program, as well as contemporary, large-scale public preschool programs, such as the
Chicago Child-Parent Centers and Tulsa’s preschool program, range from three to seven
dollars saved for every dollar spent.

The most important aspects of quality in preschool education are stimulating and
supportive interactions between teachers and children and effective use of curricula.
Children benefit most when teachers engage in stimulating interactions that support
learning and are emotionally supportive. Interactions that help children acquire new
knowledge and skills provide input to children, elicit verbal responses and reactions from
them, and foster engagement in and enjoyment of learning. Recent evaluations tell us that
effective use of curricula focused on such specific aspects of learning as language and
literacy, math, or socio-emotional development provide a substantial boost to children’s
learning. Guidelines about the number of children in a classroom, the ratio of teachers and
children, and staff qualifications help to increase the likelihood of—but do not assure—
supportive and stimulating interactions. Importantly, in existing large-scale studies, only a
minority of preschool programs are observed to provide excellent quality and levels of
instructional support are especially low.

Supporting teachers in their implementation of instructional approaches through
coaching or mentoring can yield important benefits for children. Coaching or
mentoring that provides support to the teacher on how to implement content-rich and
engaging curricula shows substantial promise in helping to assure that such instruction
is being provided. Such coaching or mentoring involves modeling positive instructional
approaches and providing feedback on the teacher’s implementation in a way that sets goals
but is also supportive. This can occur either directly in the classroom or though web-based
exchange of video clips.

Quality preschool education can benefit middle-class children as well as disadvantaged
children; typically developing children as well as children with special needs; and dual
language learners as well as native speakers. Although early research focused only on
programs for low-income children, more recent research focusing on universal preschool
programs provides the opportunity to ask if preschool can benefit children from middle income
as well as low-income families. The evidence is clear that middle-class children can
benefit substantially, and that benefits outweigh costs for children from middle-income as
well as those from low-income families. However, children from low-income backgrounds
benefit more. Children with special needs who attended Tulsa’s preschool program showed
comparable improvements in reading and pre-writing skills as typically developing children.
Further, at the end of first grade, children with special needs who had attended Head Start
as 3-year-olds showed stronger gains in math and social-emotional development than
children with special needs who had not attended Head Start. Studies of both Head Start
and public preschool programs suggest that dual language learners benefit as much as, and
in some cases more than, their native speaker counterparts.

A second year of preschool shows additional benefits. The available studies, which focus
on disadvantaged children, show further benefits from a second year of preschool. However,
the gains are not always as large as from the first year of preschool. This may be because
children who attend two years of preschool are not experiencing a sequential building of
instruction from the first to the second year.

Long-term benefits occur despite convergence of test scores. As children from
low-income families in preschool evaluation studies are followed into elementary school,
differences between those who received preschool and those who did not on tests of
academic achievement are reduced. However, evidence from long-term evaluations of
both small-scale, intensive interventions and Head Start suggest that there are long-term
effects on important societal outcomes such as high-school graduation, years of education
completed, earnings, and reduced crime and teen pregnancy, even after test-score effects
decline to zero. Research is now underway focusing on why these long-term effects occur
even when test scores converge.

There are important benefits of comprehensive services when these added services
are carefully chosen and targeted. When early education provides comprehensive
services, it is important that these extensions of the program target services and practices
that show benefits to children and families. Early education programs that have focused in
a targeted way on health outcomes (e.g., connecting children to a regular medical home;
integrating comprehensive screening; requiring immunizations) have shown such benefits as
an increase in receipt of primary medical care and dental care. In addition, a parenting focus
can augment the effects of preschool on children’s skill development, but only if it provides
parents with modeling of positive interactions or opportunities for practice with feedback.
Simply providing information through classes or workshops is not associated with further
improvements in children’s skills.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Universal Pre-K



Any thoughtful person.....


The Push for Universal Pre-K

Nancy Folbre is professor emerita of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The bigger issue is who will pay the costs and who will enjoy the benefits. Loyalties based on age, race and ethnicity, gender, citizenship and class have a fragmenting effect. Mothers are more affected than fathers, who account for a smaller share of the overall time and money devoted to children. Self-interest also comes into play. Some nonparents feel they shouldn’t be required to help subsidize parents.
The labor is going to be long and difficult, but this baby is on its way in most affluent countries. Japan and Germany, two countries long considered laggards in the child care area, are now increasing their spending. In the United States, President Obama is keeping the issue atop his domestic agenda, where it is gaining traction despite slim chances of Congressional approval. Many states and several big cities have developed innovative and successful pre-K programs.

I’ve touched on some of the reasons forresistance to increased public investment in children in earlier posts. Sometimes the issue is framed as one of disagreement over social cost-benefit analysis, but many economists, most famously James Heckman of the University of Chicago, offer powerful evidence of a high social rate of return in the form of improved outcomes for children. The net benefits loom even larger when the value of increased work flexibility for parents is added in.
Most families worry more about their own budgets and the relative well-being of their own children than the growth of the overall economy or average child outcomes. Persistently high unemployment and the decline of middle-class jobs increase apprehensions about competition among members of the next generation. Will there be enough future demand for all this human capital we are urged to invest in?
On the other hand, universal pre-K eases economic stress on parents and improves human resources. It helps counter economic forces that are bothdriving up the relative cost of child-rearing and increasing economic inequality.
Sustained below-replacement fertility will increase the share of elderly in the population, threaten national and ethnic identity, and weaken the links between present and future generations that are forged by family commitments. The taxes paid by the working-age population benefit all elderly fellow citizens, including those who have contributed relatively little to their care. In tomorrow’s global economy, the quality of future workers will matter even more than the quantity.
Entirely self-interested individuals have no reason to worry about what happens after they die. But a nation, like a family, hopes and plans to live on.
Currently, the United States ranks far below most members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (including Japan and Germany) in both public expenditure on child care services as a percentage of gross domestic product and child care enrollment among those under age 6.
Other countries are also making more rapid progress. Japanese anxieties about women’s labor-force participation and fertility recently prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to promise a significant expansion of day care(enough to eliminate current waiting lists) by 2017.
In Germany, the recently re-elected government of Angela Merkel has taken a different tack, promising to increase the number of public child care slots but also creating an allowance for families who care for very young children at home.
President Obama couched his proposal as a federal/state partnership to expand high-quality public preschool to reach all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds from families with incomes at or below 200 percent of poverty, to be financed by an increased tax on tobacco, which would also help deter youngsters from smoking. On Sept. 22 and 23, a summit of national business leaders in Atlanta mobilized support for early childhood education, though it stopped short of endorsing the president’s plan.
On both the federal and state level, efforts to cut government spending have taken a big bite out of public child care programs. This coming year, 57,000 children will lose access to Head Start as a result of sequestration.
While states vary enormously in terms of both levels and trends, average per-child spending has recently declined, leading the National Institute for Early Education Research report on the State of Preschool to characterize the 2011-12 year as “the worst in a decade for progress in access to high-quality pre-K for American’s children.” Still, the report noted that enrollment in state programs increased rapidly over the last decade and was now holding even.
It also singled out Washington for serving a higher percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds (and spending more per child) than any state. The city’s relatively large population means that more 4-year-olds are in pre-K there than in 15 states with programs. A recent post in The New York Times’s Motherlode blog vividly describes how the program changed one parent’s life.
Last month in San Antonio, Mayor Juli├ín Castro greeted 4-year-olds taking part in a new pre-K program aimed at low-income families, financed by a 1/8-cent increase in the local sales tax. Once the program is up and running,about 4,000 children will benefit.
In New York City, the Democratic mayoral candidate Bill DeBlasio has called for an increase in the city’s tax rate on income over $500,000 (to 4.4 percent from the current 3.87 percent) to raise money for pre-K and after-school programs.
In the long run, such local conceptions could lead up to a big national delivery.