Mulgrew’s victory may not necessarily mean victory for NYC students

In his article “A sad day for school closures” posted on Gotham Schools, Brooklyn College’s own professor David Bloomfield gave his opinion
on what the ruling on school closures means for New York City students. On Friday March 26th the State Supreme
Court ruled against the Department of Education’s plans to close 19 schools citing that they violated the state law by not holding notice and hearing requirements to explain thier decison. In their ruling they said that the DOE “failed to provide any meaningful information regarding the impacts on the students or the ability of the schools in the affected community to accomidate those students” whcih is required by state law. Bloomfield raises the question in this article on whether or not the State’s decision to keep the 19 schools open is indeed a victory for all of New York City students. In his opinion for now the ruling is sort of a lose/lose situation. He writes ” if reversed on appeal , that will be a new cause for sadness.” However with the large schools remaining open its students and future students are still going to be denied the quality education they deserve. Keeping the schools open is not going to fix the problem in our education system because the inequality will still exist. I agree with Bloomfield’s prognosis. Keeping the schools open is one thing, actually fixing them is another.

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Correction-The Wait is Over

So it turns out eighth-graders won’t have to wait after all to find out where the DOE has placed them. Chancellor Joel Klein said in a statement that schools that were selected to phase-out were not considered to be matched to students, even if they did list them as one of their choices. If the DOE is unsuccessful in its appeal, students will be allowed to choose of the unclosed schools one of them to attend. For details see GothamSchools article.

Lawsuit Accepted; Eight-Grader’s Rejected?

Having once been in the eighth-grade, I remember the excitement, anticipation and overall anxiety that culminated once my friends and I were told to choose just a handful of schools that we wouldn’t mind getting accepted to. Our counselor’s advice was encouraging, “list the one you want boys and girls, but don’t forget to be realistic too.” The book was thick, colorful (pink, yellow and blue if I recall correctly), and god-awful heavy.

With graduation nipping at our heels there came a sigh of relief after painstakingly flipping through the pastel pages and  selecting the schools I wanted to go to (some picked after much deliberation and others, admittedly,  just because they sounded right). After a few weeks passed, the little slips of paper came-it always seemed off to me that after looking through 200+ pages in search of the right school(s), the fate of our high school academic careers would be handed to us on a slip of paper, 5x7in., black ink in what looked like Courier-New type. Some kids would wave their slips of paper around triumphantly, while others snatched them up real close to their chest’s without looking at them, peeled at the corners so only they could see what school had chosen them, if any did.

Luckily for me, that was some years ago and not this year. On March 26th, a Manhattan judge ruled that the DOE’s closings of 19 schools was illegal and did not follow mayor control guidelines to properly assess the impact of a school’s closing on the students and surrounding community. Although the ruling is a victory for the UFT and the NAACP as well as some students, teachers, and parents opposed to the school closings the  ruling does nothing to ease already nail-biting, anxious eighth-graders from figuring out what high school they will be attending in the Fall. Due to the lawsuit, acceptance letters have been delayed.

The DOE plans to appeal, and they also assert that plans to open up new charters (many slated to replace the closing ones) has not been stalled and the ruling only stops closure but not the siting of the new schools.

The Daily News article cited that about 8,500 students had applied to schools previously set to shutdown, but no students will be admitted to them. As an alternative, the city is offering students a chance to reapply to any of the failing schools if they still want to attend.  The question is will they even want to reapply?- It will be interesting to  see there will be a surge of interest in the “failing” schools because of surety in admission , or if if due to the negative associations attributed to the schools by both media outlets and the DOE parents and students alike will steer-clear of the low-performance high schools.

Increased On-Time Graduation Rates Could Mean Tougher Requirements

Will on-time graduation rates continue to increase with tougher graduation requirements in place? How will students cope with a more difficult syllabus? The aforementioned questions are discussed in the article ‘Helping All Students Get a Meaningful Diploma.’ Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced that on-time graduation rates have been rising steadily, reaching 59 percent for the class of 2009. Improvements in student performance has been noted in select groups such as the English language learners and students with disabilities. The city is using this information as a reason to implement a more rigorous standard of learning among high school students. Opponents like the New York State United Teachers are worried that the increased pressure on students to perform at higher levels could lead to a negative outcome.  The story provides arguments from both sides about what should be done, if anything, based on how well students have been performing in recent years.

This article is interesting because it allows readers to see arguments in favor of or against the proposed plan to have tougher graduation requirements. Readers get to see the reasons why it would or would not be a good idea and decide what their position is in this debate. This article will be especially important and insightful to those who are parents of high school students or students themselves.

City Faces Legal Action Over T-Shirts

The New York Post ran an article this week which discussed the issue of discrimination as it relates to Debbie Almontaser, founder and principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn. Almontaser was removed from her position after t-shirts were printed with the slogan “intifada NYC.”  The article is a good representation of how freedom of speech can be limited by a person’s position. Furthermore, it leads to a conversation about personal associations and how they can lead to negative consequences.

Co-location; One Parent’s Suggestions

Not much good has been said of co-location’s (the sharing of one school building space between a charter and a public school). Many teachers, parents, students and politicians argue that the DOE’s decision to move in charter’s into public school space created a hostile environment between the cohabiting schools, resulted in unfair distribution of funding, and slacked in communicating the changes to the community, the public school and all parties affected. The overall arbitrary process to divvy up school space has met more scowls than smiling faces but Carol Boyd, a parent of two and parent leader of the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, suggested that if the DOE was more inclusive, accountable and communicative maybe co-location wouldn’t look so bad. Although her “7 rules” by no means solves this complicated mess of co-location and school closings they seem like obvious do’s that the DOE have irresponsibly neglected to, well, do–like independent reviews of how co-location would affect the students, communication with the school and the community leaders that they are being reviewed for possible co-location, and building improvements or renovation to be done throughout the school building (not just for the charter’s side)– instead of pushing in charter’s and “counseling-out” high-need students. For more one Boyd’s article click here.

This Week in Labor

Ariana Costakes

The New York Times ran a powerful story this week about municipal sewage workers and how their wages haven’t gone up in 15 years. The article presents the ghastly details of their job to the reader, then the almost ghastlier facts about their salaries. While most other municipal workers’ wages have gone up steadily since 1995, sewage workers, who should perhaps be given the most incentive to continue their vital work, got the shaft. The Times says this is because the Local 1320 of District Council 37, the municipal sewer-workers’ union, pulled out of negotiations for incremental increases and pursued a different route, comparing their wages to those of private workers of a similar ilk. Thus sewage workers have been left behind in terms of city wage increases. I thought it was a very spirited and informative article. It highlighted how tough and versatile sewage workers have to be in order to survive the gory job. My favorite quote was from Anthony Mongiello, a nine-year veteran of the city sewage plants: “I’ve been knee deep in raw sewage at 7:15 in the morning, and let me tell you, it don’t smell like Folgers in your cup!” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/18/nyregion/18sewage.html The New York Times ran a powerful story this week about municipal sewage workers and how their wages haven’t gone up in 15 years. The article presents the ghastly details of their job to the reader, then the almost ghastlier facts about their salaries. While most other municipal workers’ wages have gone up steadily since 1995, sewage workers, who should perhaps be given the most incentive to continue their vital work, got the shaft. The Times says this is because the Local 1320 of District Council 37, the municipal sewer-workers’ union, pulled out of negotiations for incremental increases and pursued a different route, comparing their wages to those of private workers of a similar ilk. Thus sewage workers have been left behind in terms of city wage increases. I thought it was a very spirited and informative article. It highlighted how tough and versatile sewage workers have to be in order to survive the gory job. My favorite quote was from Anthony Mongiello, a nine-year veteran of the city sewage plants: “I’ve been knee deep in raw sewage at 7:15 in the morning, and let me tell you, it don’t smell like Folgers in your cup!” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/18/nyregion/18sewage.html

-Ariana Costakes