Is New York a Leader or Laggard?

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New York received a vehement finger-wagging on Monday from the United States education secretary, Arne Duncan, over its compliance with the terms of the agreement that has so far yielded the state about $700 million in federal Race to the Top money.

Fernanda Santos reports in The New York Times that the secretary issued a statement on Monday, naming New York as one of three states that had "hit a roadblock" in reaching at least two of the goals it set out when it accepted the money: putting in place a database to track student records across the state and adopting an evaluation system for teachers and principals.

The other two states are Hawaii, which is farther behind, and Florida, he said.

“New York has a chance to be a national leader, or a laggard, and we are only interested in supporting real courage and bold leadership,” Mr. Duncan said. “Backtracking on reform commitments could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.”

This was the first assessment that the federal government had released since New York became a Race to the Top winner in August 2010. The Times says keeping track of the spending has been a challenge for federal officials:

One of the problems is purely logistical: "The state has 713 school districts, regional education consortiums and charter schools that have signed up for the program, and every one of them has to adopt all of the changes promised by the state."

But it is the evaluation system that has become a major stumbling block, with a smaller attempt at coming up with an agreement on how to assess teachers and principals at the state's struggling schools grinding to a halt in New York City and nine other districts. Because of the districts' failures to make a deal with the teachers' unions, the state has suspended its allocation of the federal money to those schools.

The state's education commissioner, John B. King Jr., called Mr. Duncan's statement about the state's progress in the Race to the Top program "disappointing, but not discouraging."

“We have to get this done, and we will,” Dr. King said.

Gotham Schools has posted the federal report here.

Gotham Schools reported that city officials are worried about what became of MetroCards that were distributed to schools in anticipation of a school bus strike in November. Some of the MetroCards were apparently being used, even though the strike threat fizzled.

They have since been disabled, but last week's Principals Weekly newsletter included this message: “If you find that the MetroCards delivered in these packages were inadvertently distributed, please collect them immediately.”

A small group of school officials and teachers' union representatives went to Albany on Monday to demonstrate while the Board of Regents met to discuss Dr. King's suspension of that federal money to New York City and nine other districts.

Another protest is planned for Tuesday, when nearly 300 New York City parents and students are expected to converge on Albany, in objection to the way Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has handled education spending over the last year, Chelsia Rose Marcius reports for SchoolBook.

The demonstration comes just one week after the governor’s State of the State address -- when he announced that he would form a state commission on student performance and school accountability, but made very little mention of educational issues over all -- and before his release of his state budget.

Zakiyah Ansari, a spokeswoman for the Alliance for Education Quality, the advocacy group that has organized the event, said that the reallocation of state dollars for more funding to those school districts with the greatest need is among the issues that will be addressed. According to a news release from the group:

Our children have lost quality programs and teachers, and college tuition has increased while corporations receive billions of dollars in tax loopholes! The recent tax reform was a milestone but there is more that can be done to make sure our schools are fully and fairly funded. Demand that the Governor and the Legislature close corporate tax loopholes in order to generate revenue to restore the state’s cuts to education.

Updates on the demonstration will be made by the Alliance for Education Quality on Twitter at @AQE_NY.

Also on Tuesday, sixth graders at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School will be touring seven "key infrastructure sites" in the city: the Williamsburg Bridge (led by the transportation guru "Gridlock Sam" Schwartz), the World Trade Center site, the High Line, the Second Avenue Subway, the Barclay Center, the Bus Rapid Transit Center and the Joint Traffic Operations Centers. The visits are part of an 11-week learning expedition into city planning and sustainability, a news release says.

An interesting program related to healthy living is going on at the Studio School, a charter in Manhattan, according to Coco Fossland Sellman, a parent who responded to a SchoolBook query asking about how schools are encouraging healthy habits in students. Wrote Ms. Sellman:

At my daughter's school, Studio School, they offer Kitchen Science to all students from preschool through 8th grade. Not only do they help prepare lunch for the rest of the school, but they also learn about healthy cooking and nourishment. The food is all natural, mostly organic, and with very little added sugar. The meals offer a wide variety of textures, cultural influences, and ingredients. They also have beautiful conversations on how to listen to one's body and care for it appropriately. Not only this, but the students LOVE it. My daughter is 3 1/2 and she can't get enough of it.

You can post news, information and photographs, or ask questions or share information, on your school's page on SchoolBook with the ease of posting to any social media site. Check it out.

At Bronxdale High School, teachers plan to rally against their principal, John Chase Jr., in front of the school campus at 925 Astor Avenue in the Bronx, following an Education Department investigation that found he made sexual comments to staff members, but that the comments did not amount to sexual harassment. He remains principal.

And Secretary Duncan, along with other Obama administration officials, on Tuesday will host a "conversation" on "education's role in strengthening democracy, developing 21st-century citizens," according to a news release.

The event, “For Democracy’s Future: Education Reclaims Our
Civic Mission,” will be held in the South Court auditorium at the
White House and will be live streamed at According to the news release:

"Early portions of the event will be shown from 2-4 p.m. ET, and Secretary Duncan’s remarks on connecting college, career and citizenship will air live at 5:30 p.m. During breakout sessions from 4-5 p.m., schools, colleges and community partners are encouraged to host their own conversations about steps they can take to advance civic learning and democratic engagement among students."

On this New Hampshire Primary Tuesday, the Learning Network's question for students is: What if your parent ran for president?