Saturday, November 29, 2014

Yet Another Joel Klein Lie?

I'm not surprised that no one else caught this. One of the results of this slow death of the social studies in American schools is that hardly anyone has a strong sense of history. Without that sense, no one thinks to measure new information against a simple historical fact. Because of this, not many people were able to see the utter bologna in former New York City Schools' Chancellor Joel Klein's piece in the Atlantic earlier in the month. 

Oh, that's the piece where Uncle Joel claimed that all he wanted to do as he began serving as chancellor was to just directly talk with the teachers of New York City. The one where he said he had wanted to send an email straight to us all and have discussion. The email that would have had started out by saying "Look, folks, let’s be honest with each other." Here was his great idea:

 I’d write e-mails to them all as a group. What was to stop me? After all, I was their boss. Shouldn’t we be able to communicate?
Yep. Then he blamed my union for not allowing him to do it. "... the UFT", he wrote, "did not allow me to approach teachers directly on any matter that touched on their actual work."

Poor Uncle Joel.
Bad, bad UFT ;(

There is just one small thing wrong with the chancellor's assertion. City teachers had no official email until a year or two after the chancellor took over in '02.

Here's a bit of history: The first email system the teachers and other staff of New York were issued was in early 2003. The software was written by Apple. Teachers were given a whopping 25 MB of storage and it was hosted on a server that was so slow that many of us would log in, then go make a pot of coffee or something as we waited for it to bring us to our inbox. It was intended to hold us all over until a larger, permanent email system, by Microsoft (the system we have today), could be rolled out to us all.

It's kind of hard to send emails to us "as a group" when there was no email to be had, don't you think?

Such is the case with the Klein way of making a point. It's mostly comprised with an assertion or two that is so filled to the brim with crap that you can't quite tell where the stink is coming from. Of course, the fact that sending an email to teachers in New York City in 2002 is a lot like boarding a 747 in 1902 didn't stop him (or the whoever he hired write it for him) from trying to make the point. According to that 'private sector' approach, everyone listening has got to be more dumb than the person who is talking could ever be (in a sense, he's kind of right. After all, no one else caught the lie, did they?). Therefore, it's ok to be full of crap on a point you make and still expect to be taken seriously as you continue talking.

Does all this matter? Well, you tell me. One school of thought is that it is a minor point among a larger piece that attacks an all powerful union. Of course, another thought is that if he was full of crap on this one point about email, then how much of what else he asserts in his piece should reasonably be believed? Might he have been lying when he said he wanted to have talks with us or brown bag lunches or engage teachers in meaningful discussion?

Or about my union being bad? hmm ...

Hmm... Uncle Joel lying to make my union look bad. Hmm ...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

James Merriman on Chalkbeat

James Merriman, of the New York Charter School Center, has real media abilities -as in professional media abilities. This is the guy who helps charters schools.  He's recently been in the Times and on Chalkbeat for challenging the chancellor to prove her claims that Charters release students before testing times. He's a go-to guy for the media when a reporter needs clarification on something like charter law or amounts of charters and has written in defense of charters (and school accountability) in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

That's why I was stunned -stunned- to see him (or someone using his name) responding to a comment I dropped on a Chalkbeat piece (linked above) about charter students. Even more impressive was that he actually engaged in a fairly honest discussion around the topic! That's really impressive because, it is social media, after all, and the moniker I've chosen is 'nuts.

So, two possibilities here, either a troll (a particularly rather infamous troll on NYC Ed websites) decided to sockpuppet himself as a leading Charter School defender to get my attention, or .... I owe James Merriman a shout-out for responsible discourse in the comments section of a blogpost!

I'm a  teacher. I like to catch people doing good, so if it's the latter, then the guy deserves credit for actually stopping to engage in detailed discussion (something no one seems to do these days).  (Of course, if it's that troll pretending to be someone important then, whatever. Trolls are people too, right?)

The back and forth (along with NYCEducator's awesome comment) is pasted below.

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    Merriman said that the center had “no evidence” that charters counseled out students before testing.
    He's right. Charters counsel students out at the end of October, once funding is locked in for the year and they money stays with the charter after the student is counseled out. They don't wait until test time.
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      This is not correct. Under state regulation, specifically 8 nycrr 119.1, charter school per pupil amounts are calculated based on attendance and not on a count day/BEDS day structure as in the case for districts and how their state aid is calculated. If you read the regulation, you'll see the process for making that calculation and adjusting for increases and decreases in enrollment (based on actual attendance) each bi-monthly payment period with a final true-up at the end of the year.
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          If you can't trust a paid advocate, who can you trust?
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              If you can't trust a paid advocate, who can you trust?
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                  Not to belabor the point, but here is everything you might want to know about invoicing process:

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                      Sounds like a bit of a straw man argument to me. Seems you're speaking of state aid. The district (the DOE) directly gives charters quite a chunk of cash every two months as well. I was referring to that. Seems to me those chunks are based on enrollment. From that law:
                      (d) Public school district of residence obligations.
                      (1) No later than the first business day of July, September, November, January, March and May of the current school year, each public school district with resident pupils attending a charter school shall pay directly to such charter school the appropriate payment amounts as specified in subdivision one of section 2856 of the Education Law that are attributable to the enrollment of such pupils as reported to the public school district by the charter school no later than 30 days prior to each such payment date...
                      (3) The school district financial obligation per resident student enrolled in a charter school shall equal the sum of:
                      (i) the product of the school district's adjusted expense per pupil and the current year enrollment of the pupil in the charter school as defined in paragraph (b)(3) of this section; and
                      (4) The total annual obligation due to a charter school by a public school district shall be the sum of the annual financial obligations for all resident students enrolled at any time during the current school year in the charter school.
                      (5) School districts shall include the enrollment of resident students attending charter schools in the enrollment, attendance and, if applicable, count of students with disabilities reported to the department for the purposes of claiming State aid.
                        see more
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                          I can understand the confusion and I was not as specific as
                          I should have been in using the word attendance. First things first: charter schools do not receive distinct per pupil aid in the form of state aid directly from the state and then some additional aid from the district (special education funding is a special case and somewhat different in some respects as is federal title funding). Rather state law and implementing regulations require the district to turn over a per pupil amount to the charter school calculated (to simplify) as a subset of the per pupil expenditure of the
                          As to how one calculates enrollment, the implementing
                          regulation for the state statute is controlling, since state law gives the commissioner the power to determine it. That regulation, 8 NYCRR 119.1 defines enrollment as: 
                          “Enrollment for each charter school student shall mean the quotient, calculated to three decimals without rounding, obtained when the total number of weeks of the period of enrollment of such student is divided by the total number of weeks in the full school year of the educational program or service of the charter
                          school. For the purposes of this section, three consecutive days of enrollment within the same week and within the same month shall be the equivalent of one week of enrollment, provided that no more than four weeks of enrollment may be counted in any calendar month.“ 
                          In other words, enrollment is determined by the number of weeks a
                          student is enrolled divided by the number of weeks in the charter school’s yearly schedule. In explaining this, I sloppily used the word attendance, which is a related but different concept. Because of how the commissioner’s regulation defines enrollment for this purpose, and If you read the entire regulation, you’ll see
                          there is a process for truing up projected enrollment for a billing period against the “actual enrollment” meaning actual weeks the student is enrolled, which is necessary given that students may come and go during each of those bi-monthly payment periods.
                          I appreciate and understand your skepticism but on this
                          issue, there is little room for interpretation.
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                              That was actually a straight forward explanation and thanks for it. Reading it over, it does look like the distribution is handled on a bi-monthly basis but, as you say, Special Ed funding is a bit different (as are titles I and III funding). Just putting that out there.
                              First, the statute seems to be interested in the total number of students enrolled. So if a given charter releases students that do not seem to be the type they can work with, replacing those students with others would seem to be a fairly simple solution. There is great demand for charters. If a students 'isn't a good fit' and goes to a district school, there is another student waiting for the seat, no? Some thoughts on a practice like this (asking because there are lots of charters who do play by the rules and work with the students they select from start to finish. It would seem practical to call the others out).
                              Second, your defense is admirable (honest observation), but it really doesn't square with the oodles of anecdotes out there from district schools, Those stories say -pretty clearly, I think- that charters release students to the district schools (and, as I've heard, particularly after the DOE school budgets are locked at the end of October. The accusation is that the district school receives the students, but not budget adjustments for the students). Right now, the defense doesn't square with that. It seems like you've given the chancellor a choice to either present enrollment information to prove her assertion -which would, of course, call out powerful charter organizations by name, and start another word war (6 weeks before budget season) or shut up about the topic altogether. Those are tough terms to dictate. Have you at least checked with district schools as to what some of their experiences are on the ground?
                              (by the way, honest engagement is always cool Thanks for it.)