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Black History Archival Photos, and Charter School Teachers in the Spotlight

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 08:34 AM

As Black History Month draws to a close, SchoolBook's sister blog, The Learning Network, has rolled out a treat for historians, teachers and students: a slide show of images from the civil rights era, right out of The New York Times's archives.

More on that in a bit, but for now, let's turn to the day's news: Less than a week after 18,000 public school teachers had to contend with their names and performance ratings appearing on public Web sites, a small number of charter school teachers are facing the same scrutiny.

That said, the coverage has been mostly positive. Several newspapers noted Wednesday that a higher percentage of charter school teachers than teachers at traditional public schools received "above average" or "high" ratings. The city produced ratings for 217 charter school teachers, and officials warned that because of missing information, the Teacher Data Reports for these schools were less accurate than the other school reports.

The Daily News compared the ratings of KIPP Infinity Charter School teachers against those of teachers at Intermediate School 195, which shares the same building in Harlem. The charter school had two teachers with top scores and several who were rated "above average," but none of I.S. 195's teachers were rated "above average" or higher. The article also cited the Harlem Children's Zone's Promise Academy I charter school, which had two teachers with poor ratings in 2010 and who no longer work at the school.

“Those teachers aren't here anymore. That should tell you something," said Quantara Shabazz, 47, an MTA conductor whose daughter Tahna Langly, 12, is a sixth-grader.

The Post singled out Democracy Prep Charter School for having the highest-rated teachers in 2010, and Sisulu-Walker Charter School, where no teachers scored above average.

At a news conference, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Tuesday vehemently defended the decision to make the teacher data public:

"Parents have a right to know every bit of information that we can possibly collect about the teacher that's in front of their kids,'' he said during a press event on Coney Island.

"The arrogance of some people to say that the parents don't have the ability to look at numbers, and put them in context and to make decisions is just astounding to me," the mayor said.

Two blog posts by a traditional public school teacher, Gary Rubenstein, analyzing the ranking reports have been making the rounds. In one, Mr. Rubenstein looks at whether the reports align with commonly held beliefs about teaching: second-year teachers are better than first-year teachers, teachers get better every year, and performance does not change that much from one year to the next. In the second post, he found teachers who had been rated high and low in the same year, based on the same students, but for different subjects.

Joining the growing list of sexual abuse accusations made against city school employees, a teacher at the High School of Graphic Communication Arts in Midtown was arrested on Tuesday on charges that he touched a 14-year-old female student "in a sexual manner" this month, according to the Police Department. The man is a Reserve Officers Training Corps instructor and has worked at the school since 1997.

The Times's education editor, Jodi Rudoren, was part of a radio panel exploring college rankings. Also on the "To the Point" broadcast on public radio was Diane Ravitch, two school principals and an expert from the University of Wisconsin on value-added assessments. You can listen to the conversation here.

Now, back to Black History Month. The photos in the Learning Network slide show were selected by Jeff Roth, The Times's photo archivist, and the slide show was assembled by Amisha Padnani, a SchoolBook contributor. The photos can stimulate great classroom conversation, and the resource tops a month in which The Learning Network also published 25 interesting answers to the question, How do you teach the civil rights movement?

The Learning Network also offers a page of Black History Month resources and a 2009 lesson plan on analyzing photographs, in addition to other resources.

We still want to hear your thoughts about the release of the teacher rankings. Can you see the public listing of teachers’ rankings leading to improvements in schools? Parents, what do you think? Join the conversation here.

On Wednesday morning, Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott was on the "John Gambling Show" on WOR radio.

From 9:45 a.m. to 1:25 p.m., the Learning Through an Expanded Arts Program, known as LeAP, is celebrating its 34 years of service to the city's public schools, providing K-12 music, dance, theater and visual art programs. The celebration will take place at Public School 135 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, City Councilman Daniel Doumm, a former public school teacher, is holding a town hall-style meeting with the teachers' union president, Michael Mulgrew, in the auditorium of P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights, Queens. On the agenda: proposed school closings class sizes, and debate over the teacher evaluation system that has been negotiated for New York State.

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