Class Size Matters Director Leonie Haimson gave the mayor an earful on class sizes at an education town hall in Queens last week. She reports that Mayor Bill de Blasio is backing off of his campaign promise to lower class size. The mayor denied this. He told Leonie budget surpluses are being squirreled away in case there is a future economic downturn. What about the increase in state aid? How much of that money is getting to the classroom?
Leonie's full report on the frustrating evening with the mayor is here. She documents the increase in class sizes in NYC schools here.
It is also interesting to watch the video of the town hall. In it Carmen Farina says that teachers should be rated up to 30% based on student test scores. De Blasio also trots out the same old nonsense about losing federal aid if too many students opt-out of state exams. Question for the mayor: Which districts have seen their aid cut because of opt-out?
In other news, New York State Allies for Public Education has a Common Core survey that everyone should take. It is easy and only takes a few minutes.
Meanwhile, down in Washington it looks like the House and Senate are very close to passing a New Elementary and Secondary Schools Act. Instead of calling it No Child Left Behind, they have come up with the not so creative Every Child Succeeds Act. I want to be optimistic but remain somewhat skeptical about the revised law because schools will still be sorted and the bottom 5% will still face state sanctions which means horrible programs like receivership that abrogate union contracts could still move ahead. Here is how Education Week described the House-Senate compromise bill:
The deal would consolidate a number of smaller programs into a block grant, a big priority for (Representative John) Kline. And it would take direct aim at what (Senator Lamar) Alexander called the "National School Board" by prohibiting the U.S. Secretary of Education from interfering with state prerogatives on teacher evaluation, testing, standards, school turnarounds and more.
Hold on and don't dance in the streets because there's more:
But the compromise includes some key wins for the White House and Democrats, including a requirement that states turn around the bottom 5% of their schools (an idea borrowed from the administration's NCLB waivers).
And it goes further on accountability than either the House or Senate bills to overhaul the ESEA Academic factors--such as test scores, graduation rates, and English-language proficiency--would have to make up at least 51% of a school's rating.
It looks like there will be flexibility for the states but the new law basically allows the states to continue their test and punish policies. There will be less DC micromanagement so the privatizers will have to move their operations to state capital cities. In Albany, they have found plenty of friends.
There is some hope for better days ahead in this legislation but room for doubt remains.
The actual language is here for policy wonks.