The Hunt for the Missing Millions

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How much should the city be receiving from the the state and federal government as reimbursements for services it provides to special-needs students? By the city's own estimates, tens of millions more than it has been receiving.

That fact, reported last month by Fernanda Santos in The New York Times, has sparked the interest of the City Council, among others, and on Friday The Times reported that there will be a public hearing on Feb. 28 to try to determine what the city is doing to pick up its collection of Medicaid reimbursements.

According to the Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, the hearing, to be held jointly by the City Council's Finance and Education Committees, will "drill down more deeply" into what has happened since the city returned $100 million in Medicaid reimbursements because it could not document the claims in 2005. And it will look at why it since then has not been able to figure out new reimbursement rules so has not received tens of millions of dollars it is owed to provide services to special-needs students.

The hearing will also look at how the city estimates the Medicaid dollars it is due and incorporates those figures into its budget. The city's overestimation these last few years has resonated at a time when city dollars are tight and when more cuts to city schools are anticipated.

The chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, said in a statement, “We are committed to addressing the issues associated with our Medicaid claims, and are in the midst of implementing an aggressive plan in order to increase our reimbursements and to ensure we create a long-term sustainable solution so our students and schools receive the money to which they are entitled.”

Gotham Schools described a report released by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Friday as "a historic look inside the nation's classrooms" that "painted a bleak picture" of what's going on, including in some New York City schools.

The second installment of the foundation’s ambitious Measures of Effective Teaching study, the report focuses on the picture of teaching yielded by five different classroom observation tools. It also scrutinizes those tools themselves, concluding that they are valuable as a way to help teachers improve but only useful as evaluation tools when combined with measures of student learning known as value-added scores.

The conclusion is a strong endorsement of the Obama administration’s approach to improving teaching by implementing new evaluations of teachers that draw on both observations and value-added measures. New York State took this approach to overhauling its evaluation system when it applied for federal Race to the Top funding.

The Daily News analyzed student test scores and concluded that the scores of middle-income students have failed to improve during the Bloomberg administration.

While the scores of the city's poorest students have improved, eighth-grade reading scores for the 200,000 -- or 20 percent -- of city students who are considered middle income have not. The News says:

Eighth-grade reading scores for this group dropped dramatically compared to their peers in other large cities between 2003 and 2011.

Middle-income students’ average test scores in fourth-grade reading and in fourth- and eighth-grade math showed no significant gains, even while nationwide scores trended up.

“Bloomberg put a lot of emphasis on the very poorest kids. Whatever gains were there were offset by what was going on in other neighborhoods,” said Clara Hemphill, editor of at The New School.

The News found:

In 2011, 34% of the city’s middle-income eighth-graders scored proficient or better on the reading test, down from 48% in 2003. In large cities around the country, the number of middle-income eighth graders passing the reading exams rose from 31% to 40%.

And The Wall Street Journal reported that one of the churches forced out of city school buildings has found a new home. The Abundant Life Church, which was located at Public School 91 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, has found a new location two miles away at the Hope City Empowerment Center in Prospect Heights.

According to The Journal, "Abundant Life was one of 160 congregations scrambling to find new homes after a 16-year legal battle over what sorts of religious events can be held in New York City public schools came to an end last month. The U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to hear a Bronx church's appeal of a lower federal court's ruling allowing the city to bar worship in school buildings."

The Board of Regents meets on Monday and is likely to discuss the suspension of grants to struggling schools by the state education commissioner because of the city's failure to reach a deal on teacher evaluations at those schools with the teachers' union. The union is expected to rally outside the state's Education Department headquarters this afternoon.

This Monday morning also marks the start of the kindergarten enrollment process. Guidance is available on the city Department of Education Web site, at and on SchoolBook.

And The Learning Network is asking teachers: "How do you teach the civil rights movement?"

What do you think? How should civil rights be taught in city schools?