The percentage of New York City students graduating from public high schools within four years was flat in 2011 compared with the year before, marking the first time the rate has not significantly increased in the last six years. Still, the mayor and schools chancellor hailed the new numbers -- though they also expressed concerns over what will happen when higher graduation standards take effect next year.
In his last On Education column, Michael Winerip of The New York Times writes about a grading snafu in Florida's state standardized tests. Since the early 1990s, he has written about the shifting trends in education. "And through it all, teachers have continued to educate children, and children have continued to learn.''
The New York Times Magazine article about the Horace Mann School has drawn hundreds of comments from readers moved by its description of sexual abuse that took place there during the '70s and '80s. It has also drawn a letter of response from the school.
There is no school today because of Brooklyn-Queens Day, but some parents are out marching and protesting what they call an over-emphasis on testing.
The city is paying contractors more than $1 billion this year for a special education that serves 25,000 3- and 4-year-olds with physical, learning, developmental and other disabilities, nearly double the amount it paid six years ago. Audits into some of the contractors by the state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, have already led to a felony guilty plea by one Brooklyn contractor, and officials said more arrests were expected.
Arvind Mahankali, a seventh grader at Junior High School 74 in Queens, has placed third in the National Spelling Bee two years in a row. On Monday, Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott visited his school to congratulate him.
At a time of severe education budget cuts, some schools in New York City have thrived, thanks to the hard work of PTAs that are raising in the neighborhood of $1 million a year.
Rashid F. Davis is principal of Pathways in Technology Early College High School, a new school that opened in Brooklyn with a unique six-year plan that offers students a high school diploma, as well as an associate's degree, upon graduation. "Every single day it’s a new fight," he says. "Every single day that they walk out of this building they’re tempted, and unfortunately there are many bad temptations for students. And so we push as hard as we do to counter those negative temptations."
Elizabeth Phillips, the principal of Public School 321 in Brooklyn, has been an outspoken critic of the state exams for elementary school children and the teacher data reports. Ms. Phillips, who leads a high-performing school of 1,407 children, said good teachers were the essence of good schools. "I feel like almost everything I do has to be geared to how I am supporting the teachers," she says.
Sharon Emick Fougner, principal of Elizabeth Mellick Baker Elementary School in Great Neck, Long Island, urged the state education commissioner to conduct a review of the math exams that were given to fourth to eighth graders last month, saying she was "quite honestly horrified by the content, format, language and presentation of this year's exams."
At a City Council hearing, advocates and city officials criticized the schools for relying too much on the police and hospitals to cope with troubled children.
After earning an A in two progress reports, last year P.S. 112 in the northern section of the Bronx fell to a D, setting off fears among students and parents that the school would be closed. The principal, Susan Barnes, talked about how fragile success can be in certain schools and certain neighborhoods, and how scoring poorly puts a school under a microscope.
Forest Hills High School has more than 3,800 students, 12 assistant principals and 195 teachers. Despite its size and crowding issues, it has earned an A on its progress report three years in a row. The principal, Saul Gootnick, said his team changed the culture of the school by focusing on the classroom and introducing changes one step at a time. "You have to have a plan and you have to make people believe in what you think," he said.
The principal of Public School 186 in Bensonhurst roams the halls of her large school constantly, giving feedback and cheering on students and teachers as they work hard to do well on test scores, but she says she wants them to have fun in school, too.
Many students at East Side Community High School on East 12th Street in Manhattan enter the 6-12 school performing below grade level. Yet somehow 90 percent of graduates go on to college. The principal, Mark Federman, said students get personal attention and respect: "We have kids who act like knuckleheads and we have moments where we have to be tough with them. But we’re looking for kids to do the right thing. We have a lot of faith that they can do the right thing."
Some teachers said they worried that the public release of individual teacher data was going to lead to fights over high-performing students, and to the neglect of those who most need their help. Others said they were angry that it reduced their teaching careers to a sliver of data. And principals spent the first day back after a week-long vacation trying to explain to parents that numbers can’t capture “the magical instruction that goes on every day’’ inside the classroom.
'It is very important for me to constantly look for opportunities in which people are looking to support public education,' said Edward Tom in the latest interview for Principal's Office. And his relentless fund-raising, combined with his results-oriented philosophy, have paid off. At the high school he founded seven years ago, the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics, students are thriving.
Teachers throughout the city have been objecting to the public release on Friday of individual teacher performance rankings. Some listed complaints. Others wanted to explain why they got the ratings they did and to try to put them in perspective. Here are some of their comments.
Jim Manly, 45, is the longest serving principal, or school leader, of the Success Academy Charter Schools, which started in 2006 and by next year could be operating a dozen schools throughout the city. He talks about working with Eva S. Moskowitz, the hard-charging founder of the Success network, and about how the constant protests and challenges to the Success schools has fortified his commitment to school choice.
After weeks of hearings, many of them emotionally wrenching, the Panel for Educational Policy will decide Thursday night which schools in the city they will close -- partially or entirely -- for academic failure.