Feb 03 2013

The Eagle Has Landed

On October 15th, 2012 Bill and Melinda Gates visited Eagle Valley High School in the Eagle County school district in Colorado. Eagle County, in which ski mecca Vail is located, is a demographically unusual place with almost exactly 50% white students and 50% Hispanic students. Many of the Hispanic students have parents who work in the various ski lodges and resorts.  As the Gates’s only visit one school a year, this one was surely carefully chosen.  Three months later the school is mentioned by Gates in two very high profile places:  A Wall Street Journal article written by Gates, himself, called My Plan To Fix The World’s Biggest Problems and The Bill Gates 2013 Annual Letter.

Here is a quote from the Wall Street Journal article:

In October, Melinda and I sat among two dozen 12th-graders at Eagle Valley High School near Vail, Colo. Mary Ann Stavney, a language-arts teacher, was leading a lesson on how to write narrative nonfiction pieces. She engaged her students, walking among them and eliciting great participation. We could see why Mary Ann is a master teacher, a distinction given to the school’s best teachers and an important component of a teacher-evaluation system in Eagle County.
Ms. Stavney’s work as a master teacher is informed by a three-year project our foundation funded to better understand how to build an evaluation and feedback system for educators. Drawing input from 3,000 classroom teachers, the project highlighted several measures that schools should use to assess teacher performance, including test data, student surveys and assessments by trained evaluators. Over the course of a school year, each of Eagle County’s 470 teachers is evaluated three times and is observed in class at least nine times by master teachers, their principal and peers called mentor teachers.
The Eagle County evaluations are used to give a teacher not only a score but also specific feedback on areas to improve and ways to build on their strengths. In addition to one-on-one coaching, mentors and masters lead weekly group meetings in which teachers collaborate to spread their skills. Teachers are eligible for annual salary increases and bonuses based on the classroom observations and student achievement.

The program faces challenges from tightening budgets, but Eagle County so far has been able to keep its evaluation and support system intact—likely one reason why student test scores have improved in Eagle County over the past five years.

Gates has given a lot of money to Eagle County school district over the years.  They seem to be one of the first districts to implement merit pay based on standardized test scores, over ten years ago.  In addition to teachers being eligible for bonuses based on their evaluations, which include test score ‘growth’, they claim, on their website, that “Eagle County Schools abandoned the “lock-step” salary schedule in 2002.”  They also offer annual performance bonuses, based, in part, on test scores as a component of their PEAR (Professional Excellence, Accountability and Recognition) evaluation system.  So this seems like an interesting Petri dish for ed reform here.  A school system that has a merit based salary scale and also merit based bonuses based, in a large part, on test scores which, Gates claims, has had increasing test scores for five consecutive years.

The first thing I looked into was in what way this merit based salary scale was implemented.  The ‘lockstep’ salary scale that most districts currently have has new teachers making the least amount of money and then as a teacher gains years in the system she moves up the scale with predictable annual pay increases.  Also teachers often get extra money for having advanced degrees.  The Gates foundation once came out with a report that extra pay for masters degrees was a waste of money, and we often hear from places like The New Teacher Project that we are too often losing our ‘irreplaceable’ young teachers because they are unable to jump to the top of the salary scale after proving themselves.  Arne Duncan once said that he’d like the best teachers to be able to make $160,000 a year.  When I think about the ‘ideal’ merit pay based salary scale I imagine young go-getters getting six figures by their third year while older teachers who start to see declining test gains get pay decreases, in order to pay for the other increases.  A system like this would run the risk of discouraging cooperation among teachers as everyone competes for their share of the pot.

It turns out that Eagle County’s merit based salary schedule is nothing like what I’ve just described.  On their website they describe it as follows “Increases to salary are determined by 0 to 4% for individual performance based on the teacher’s evaluation scores (due to the current budget crisis, the percentage used in payout calculations is currently cut in half), plus a negotiated/inflationary component (varies based on cost of living, funding).”  So what this means is that all the new teachers start with a salary of $35,819 and unlike a ‘lockstep’ system where they would be guaranteed some set increase a year, they can get anywhere from nothing to 2% each year (it had been up to 4% before a budget crisis).  So this means that no third year dynamo is going to be making six figures anytime soon.  Basically it is the ‘lockstep’ system with a small chance that a teacher will get a bit larger of a bump in a year, but also the possibility that the teacher will get no increase.  In New York City teachers get around a 3% increase each year, as a comparison.  This is surely part of the reason that Eagle County has trouble holding onto their teachers as 40% of the teachers there have less than four years of experience.

Ironically, the largest salary increase is a $3,000 award for having advanced degrees, even though The Gates Foundation has said that this practice is wasteful.

There are also merit based annual bonuses.  Teachers can earn bonuses of up to 4% (it was 8% before the budget problem), part based on the ‘growth’ of the students in their school and district (that part was, before 2008, based specifically on that teacher’s students) and part based on their evaluation which includes their student’s test scores.  According to this recent article from the Vail Daily, the average bonus was 2%, which amounts to less than $1,000.  As a teacher, I find it hard to believe that this pay schedule and bonus program would motivate anyone who isn’t already motivated to do a good job teaching.

Aside from salary increases, there are ways to make extra money by being promoted to a ‘mentor teacher’, which is about a $5,000 bonus, or a ‘master teacher’, who gets about a $10,000 bonus.  These mentor and master teachers spend a portion of each day (1/3 of each day for mentors and 2/3 of each day for masters) observing other teachers and giving them feedback.

That teacher, Mary Ann Stavney, that Bill Gates gushed about based on his observation of her class (ironic since the MET study supposedly concluded that observation is not an accurate way to determine teacher quality) makes a grand total, according to this document, of $45,989.45, a bit lower than the average teacher salary of $46,634.

So the merit based pay schedule isn’t much different than the ‘lockstep’ type and the merit based bonuses are trivial.  But they must be doing something right if, as Gates claims, that Eagle County test scores have improved for the past five years.  Well fortunately (for me, at least) Colorado has one of the best data systems in the country for getting statistics like this.  It turns out that for five consecutive years, from 2007 to 2011, Eagle County school did show improvement each year.  It wasn’t a large amount of improvement, though, and had Gates gotten the latest numbers he would have seen that in 2012 they saw drops in both math and writing (science was flat for the past three years, while reading continued to go up), making their six year gains fairly low.

Also, since they have the unusual demographics of 50% white, 50% Hispanic, there is a great opportunity to analyze their ‘test score gap.’  To make these graphs I took the data from the school Gates visited, Eagle Valley High School and averaged them together with the only other high school, Battle Mountain High School.  As these schools have approximately the same number of students and also the same demographics (about 800 students in each school with approximately 50% white, 50% Hispanic), it is mathematically OK to do this.  As can be seen from the graphs, there is a ‘gap’ of at least thirty percentage points.  Also it is worth noting that the Hispanic percentages are about the same as the statewide averages.

Perhaps there still is a miracle district out there proving that these reforms are working, but as far as I can tell Eagle County, Colorado isn’t it.  This episode proves, once again, that even though money can buy a lot of things, money can’t buy me love, happiness, or, apparently, truth.

 

29 Responses

  1. Mary Rose O'Leary

    Gary, I just found your blog yesterday, and it’s seriously interfering with my school work. I can’t stop reading!

    This is a disgrace. Thank you for exposing Mr. Gates’ unbridled hypocrisy. How do these people get away with this?

    What I don’t understand is why Obama is allowing himself to be led around by the nose by these billionaires who know squat about education. I thought he was smart. I’m sure his mother wouldn’t approve.

    • Caroline Grannan

      As usual, follow the money.

    • Sandra Stone

      Enough with the mother and how smart he is. Time to get out on the street and protest when he or Duncan visit your city.

  2. ITeach

    Doesn’t all of the Gates visits, research and positions supported the opinion he has already developed before the visits and research. You mean he didn’t visit a Detroit school where class size is 60 or a psychiatric unit in Chicago? These visits and studies exist to soothe his ego. Please let’s get billionaires our of education. They really don’t know what they are talking about. Do you think the Gates children will be taking the MAP or any high stakes test? I wonder about class size at their posh private school. It must be fun when the entire world is your playground and you can fund social experiments because you have nothing better to do.

  3. Even with the increase in test scores, the gap between Hispanic and White students is not just big but stable (except possibly in writing). Whatever these reforms are doing, they aren’t closing the opportunity gap, which I understood to be a key reformist goal.

    I wonder how long it will be before Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation are onto their next solution for Our Failing Schools. I’ve been teaching long enough to have received a Gates Foundation pitch for small schools, and long enough to watch those small schools falter and fail after their grants expired.

    At the pitch, I was one of several teachers who asked about the end of funding after three years, and the spokesperson claimed that the results would be so extraordinary that our state government would obviously continue the increased funding for the higher overheads of small schools. Even disregarding the (still) ongoing budget crisis in California, that seemed overly optimistic especially since small schools at the time had no record of success. So it’s interesting to see that their latest reform crush is also failing to attract extra state financing.

    Of all the school reformers, Bill Gates is the one whose supposed expertise I find the most mystifying. Did he ever attend a public school? He’s a college dropout and had a ruthless business ethic, but did not himself create any incredible products. And he certainly never taught. Why should I support whatever reform fantasy he’s backing now? Because he’s wealthy? I don’t think his business career exemplifies the ethics we want our children to learn.

    • Ms. Math

      I agree about Gates-I saw an article where he called constructivism “bullshit” after giving an example showing that he didn’t understand the concept at all. He thought constructivism was about putting kids in circles with blank pieces of paper and getting them to rediscover Algebra.

      Research articles on constructivism highlight how students are always making sense of their reality based on what they already know. Students construct particular meanings for the math instruction they encounter. Just because a teacher uses direct instruction doesn’t mean students assimilate the teacher’s words in the same way the teacher intends them. The kids still construct meaning for the teachers words based on the concepts they already know. I’ve seen successful constructivist educators lecture to teach math. The difference is that they are constantly trying to figure out how their students are understanding them instead of assuming that the information is being interpreted correctly.

      I think Gates intends to do well in education, and his money has probably done good. I just wish he would read a few research articles before denouncing the concepts presented in them to reporters.

  4. Can you present scale scores vs. proficiency, which are easy to manipulate? and how does the change in scores in Eagle Co. compare to the state overall? Finally if the merit pay system was instituted in 2002 it might be interesting to see the data from that point.

  5. Jennie

    The Gates Foundation, like so many of the other “philanthropist” organizations meddling in education as if all it took to correctly diagnose and solve whatever problems exist in education were money to throw around, likes to do its research by coming up with conclusions and then trying to prove them right by any means necessary, even if it means manipulating data, exaggerating “gains,” or creating false causal relationships. If they insist on throwing their money at a problem beyond their expertise, it’s a shame they couldn’t have a more scientific approach to their “research”…which would require involving a lot more input from people actually working in education. It is disheartening that simply being a billionaire apparently makes anyone an expert in education, and that schools have been so sucked dry that they will jump through the necessary hoops to get their mitts on that money, even if they know it’s BS. Case in point: Hillsborough County, FL, where the first year the Gates performance pay scheme was introduced, 97% of the bonuses went to teachers in affluent schools–despite the fact that it was supposed to be based on “value added” and not just raw test scores. After the scandal that obviously caused, the district had to divide schools up into separate categories so that poor schools didn’t have to compete directly with wealthy schools…but it sure demonstrates the fact that poverty DOES matter. To me, the “no excuses” ideology and the “poverty-is-not-destiny” rhetoric serves primarily as a tool to ignore the greater social problems in this country, to the detriment of their victims. When we tell a student who dodges bullets on his way home and gets home to a house with no food in the fridge and no parents around all night (because they are working 2 jobs, or are on drugs, or what have you), that his situation is “no excuse” for him not to make straight A’s and top the charts on standardized tests, what we are essentially telling him is that his situation does not matter. Instead of getting him the help he desperately needs and deserves so that academic success could actually be a priority for him, we are just telling him that he is making excuses, or that his lazy past teachers have made excuses for him, and that the only thing wrong with him is his attitude. I understand there are many “true believers” who do not realize that this is the crux of the “no excuses” ideology–I was once among them–but I would encourage people embracing this view to think long and hard about the message it REALLY sends…to the kids themselves, to the educators who work with them every day, and to the society that sees itself as being “let off the hook” of having to deal with persistent poverty and a permanent underclass by shifting the blame onto teachers and poor families themselves, and thinking, “If we can get better teachers for these kids who won’t take excuses, we don’t have to worry about their present circumstances because they’ll have a better future automatically.” False, false false and dangerous and fundamentally UNFAIR.

    • KrazyTA

      You have articulated eloquently how the proponents of “poverty is not destiny” and “no excuses” are aiming to bring down not just teachers but students [and their parents and our communities] as well.

      Which schools and which students are not in their crosshairs? Think Cranbrook and Sidwell Friends and Chicago Lab Schools and Harpeth Hall and Waldorf School of the Pacific and, well, I am sure you could add others.

      In other words, the drone strikes of the “education reformers” are directed against the schools attended by other people’s children, not their own.

      Thank you, Jennie, for getting right to the point.

      • Linda

        Love this line, KTA….how apropos:

        In other words, the drone strikes of the “education reformers” are directed against the schools attended by other people’s children, not their own.

  6. Steve M

    It’s interesting that the “master teacher” mentioned is paid almost exactly $10,000 more than a first year employee. I assume that this means she had been in the classroom for what, one year, before being made a “master” who goes around and observes people 2/3 of her day.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      There’s a chance that that document has her salary before the bonus since it says on her website that she has been teaching for 17 years. I wrote to her to ask for clarification, but got no response yet, so I was careful to put “according to this document”

  7. l hodge

    Eagle County has “growth” percentiles in the high 40’s to the low 60’s depending on subject and age group. 61% of Colorado schools were rated as accredited with distinction or accredited. Eagle County was on the low end of accredited. It would appear that Eagle County could not be any more ordinary as far as the state evaluation goes.

    https://cedar2.cde.state.co.us/documents/DPF2012/0910%20-%203%20Year.pdf
    http://www.cde.state.co.us/Communications/Releases/20101130dpf.html

    @E Rat, It is interesting that you mention the Gates Foundation small schools initiative which was abandoned in the mid 90s. At some point someone noticed that high performing schools were more likely to be small schools. They failed to notice that exceptionally bad schools were also much more likely to be small schools. At least part of the reason for these two facts is that there is much more variation from year to year when dealing with a small population. I stumbled across this story in David Bock’s AP Statistics Text Book.

  8. Leslie

    You point out that this merit pay system was poorly-executed (only a tiny percentage of compensation was tied to merit), and also that it doesn’t seem to have meaningfully changed student outcomes. In other words, they did a bad job and it didn’t work. The same could be said of almost every merit pay program that’s been implemented to date.

    We need a long-term (5-10 year) study examining a program with meaningful (25-50%+) bonuses before we can really understand whether and how paying teachers for performance can elevate student gains. My hunch is that we will see improved retention among the teachers achieving the most success on the outcomes we choose to measure.

    I bet Mr. Gates would agree – though in absence of that data, it’s disappointing that he’d try to point to a poorly-executed program as evidence of a success.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      Thanks for the comment. You are right that the failure of a program implemented with little thought does not mean that merit pay can’t ever work. Still, I’m not convinced that the amount of money they’d have to spend to do it ‘right’ would be a good use of money. Probably still a better use than buying a bunch of computers. I think at the end they’d learn that most teachers are working as hard as they can already.

      • The recent work examined and written about by Dan Pink concerning motivation and how it works, is not at all what we have been taught to believe. His recent book “Drive” is a good one to examine, but many may also enjoy watching his TED video at TED.com. Thanks again Gary, for your great work!

    • Ro

      There is 100 years worth of studies on Merit Pay in education and it doesn’t work. Period. Google it. Read Drive by David Pink. As far as growth, how would teachers of gifted students show growth when they have received perfect test scores in subsequent years? I have a kid like that. When her score is not perfect one year does that mean her teachers were terrible? Sorry, this entire notion of growth, VAM, test scores, is a sham. By Gates’ own OBSERVATION, he chose a mentor teacher. I am sick of this man and his self inflated ego and money influencing something he knows nothing about. Even Michelle Rhee admitted teachers aren’t motivated by money or else they wouldn’t choose teaching.

  9. Educator

    How about an open letter to the Gates Foundation or to Gates himself?

  10. Another great post, Gary! Thanks for taking the time and offering the skills to deconstruct the stories.

  11. Lisa

    Their scores don’t look much different than what other Colorado schools have seen. Writing scores took a dip across the state this year. I believe math did too (it did in my district), and not one is quite sure why. There’s speculation that because the students were taking a new test–the TCAP (Transitional Colorado Assessment Program) vs. the CSAP (Colorado Student Assessment Program) there were some changes in the test.

    The salary info is particularly sad. For years, teachers in that area have complained about the fact that their salary doesn’t keep pace with the price of housing. Young teachers were squeezing into tiny apartments with 3 and 4 roommates just to make rent.

    This also reinforces the reality that when budget cuts make it impossible to truly reward performance (2 percent? seriously?), the notion of extraordinary teachers making six figures is a selling point that no one expects to see the light of day.

    • chris

      Having previously taught at Battle Mountain I can say the wait staff in the valley may indeed have had a higher take home pay than I did.

  12. Thanks for digging deeply into this… I can’t believe the teachers were OK with bonuses as opposed to increases in base salaries and bought into the VAM snake oil… two possibilities: there were some strings attached to some grant money OR the collective bargaining laws in CO are weak compared to those in the Northeast.

    I trust you read Diane Ravitch’s column yesterday describing how Eagle Valley replaced foreign language teachers with an on-line program delivered in the computer lab… my comment to that post applies here as well. As one who has written about the futility “merit pay”, I am not surprised at the consequences of implementing the compensation system Gates proposed. School budgets are always a zero sum game effectively limited by the amount of additional taxes the voters are willing to pay. That means you cannot add an expenditure without finding a corresponding area to reduce. Businessmen cannot get their heads around this notion when they advocate “performance pay” because in the private sector the bottom line is linked to the performance of the business as a whole. In schools, there is NO link between the revenues and performance and so it is possible for a school system to improve (as Eagle County evidently did based on (ulp) test scores) and face budget compromises. In Eagle Valley’s case, they could maintain their “performance bonuses” based on (ulp) test scores, find someplace else to cut, or, heaven forfend, try to see if the local taxpayers are willing to dig a little deeper in their pockets.

  13. Leigh Campbell-Hale

    It’s even worse than you might imagine. Because of budget cuts, this school district also fired its foreign language teachers and replaced them with online learning programs. Here’s one of many links:
    http://www.summitdaily.com/article/20120514/NEWS/120519908

  14. Ted Cook

    I don’t know if Gates has the solution, but I think it is always a legitimate question, is the current pay system the fairest and most equitable and best for students, teachers, and the people.

    Is a pay system based on a cultural system of the 1950s still valid in today’s culture?

    I would challenge anyone with a fair amount of mathmatical intelligence to defend a defined pension system as not being a ponzi scheme and a fraud of numbers. A defined benefit system simply makes promises, and forces people 20 or 30 years from then to make up the funding when it falls short. That is by definition, a ponzi scheme. It is the opposite of pay it forward, I’ll call it, steal it backward.

  15. Dina V. Montes

    Hello Mr. Rubinstein,

    My daughter’s school, Central Park East 1 elementary school, is a great progressive school with a rich history. It’s been the focus of books (Central Park East and its Graduates: Leraning by Heart) and films including Music of the Heart with Meryl Streep. It’s the kind of school parents are thrilled to send their kids to and Harlem is fortunate to have.

    In the past four years, its been trying to expand and add middle school grades – which would be a true blessing for uptown families. Our school and its sister school, Central Park East II, specifically inquired about space in our school building, the Jackie Robinson Alternative Education Complex, since one of its occupants, the charter East Harlem Scholars Academy, was to only stay temporarily for two years and scheduled to vacate by the end of this school year. The DOE promised to consider our school’s middle school proposal but that never happened. Instead, the DOE has opted to extend East Harlem Scholars Academy’s stay and allow them to open a second school in the same complex. The DOE is voting on this on March 11 and if approved the new East Harlem Scholars Academy II will add a grade each year until it reaches 540 students in my daughters’ school building! I don’t know how they plan to fit half a thousand students in our school building.

    As a parent, citizen and voter, I’m extremely upset that the DOE pulled the rug from underneath our school’s feet and behaved in a completely autocratical manner without any regard to the desires of the community and Harlem families. Central Park East I and II are not failing schools. They are highly sought-after by Harlem families for good reason. Plus, good middle schools in Harlem are hard to find that’s why we parents are extremely upset about this. Case in point: A Harlem parent in our school, whose oldest daughter graduated from CPE 1, could not find a good middle school so she sent her daughter to live with extended family in Chicago so that she could attend a proper middle school. She, her husband and their three younger children (all CPE 1 students) have remained in NYC.

    As a parent of a kindergartner who is a newcomer to the city’s public education system, I did not know this was happening. I keep up with the news every morning and evening, but the only charter school contreversies I had read were tied to teachers’ unions (which we parents have nothing to do with!). I always thought charter schools moved into empty buildings of failed schools. I didn’t know the DOE was stuffing them into existing public school buildings and creating these problems.

    Other parents and I are planning to voice our objections to the DOE at a Feb. 27 public school hearing on this very matter. I’ve attached a press release from our parent group, which has contact numbers.

    I strongly feel that other parents have a right to know this is going on. I have nothing against charter schools and I’m completely for providing the best education to our children. What I’m against is the DOE’s bad decisions on co-location of charter schools. It pitts neighbors against neighbors, does not allow successful public schools to grow accordingly, and ultimately does a disservice to our children and families.

    Sincerely,

    Dina V. Montes

    [email protected]

    917-535-0176

    ————————–
    Historic Progressive Public School in Harlem Denied Space for Middle School Expansion by DOE in favor of New Charter School Moving In
    Parents and Community Leaders Will Protest Decision at DOE Public Hearing on Feb. 27

    Community leaders and parents of the longstanding, progressive Central Park East I and II elementary schools will be demanding answers from the New York City’s Department of Education (DOE) as to why their four-year effort to open a progressive middle school in East Harlem has been essentially ignored. While their expansion request last year was denied on lack of space, the DOE is planning to co-locate a pair of charter schools at the Jackie Robinson Alternative Education Complex, the very space the schools inquired about. A DOE public hearing on this issue will be held on Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. at the site, 1573 Madison Avenue.

    For the past four years, Central Park East I and Central Park East II have submitted applications to expand to middle school in hopes of providing more choices of high-quality middle school education to Harlem families. Last year, the DOE claimed the only thing standing in the way of CPEII’s application was a lack of available space in District 4. CPE II specifically inquired about moving into the Jackie Robinson Alternative Education Complex, since one of its occupants, the charter East Harlem Scholars Academy, was scheduled to vacate in 2013. The DOE promised to consider the proposal but that never happened. Instead, the DOE has opted to extend East Harlem Scholars Academy’s stay and allow the charter to open a second school in the same complex.

    In addition to limiting the choices of high-quality middle school education for Harlem students, parents and teachers of Central Park East I — which has occupied the Jackie Robinson Alternative Education Complex for more than 15 years — worry that their resources and space are in jeopardy given the charter school’s encroachment. If the co-location plans are approved, the new East Harlem Scholars Academy II will add a grade each year until it reaches 540 students. The DOE will be voting on the charter schools’ co-location plans at its PEP meeting on March 11 in Brooklyn.

    Central Park East I and II’s struggle to expand in Harlem amid the DOE’s favoritism toward charter schools is not an isolated occurrence. Of the 31 charter schools currently in Manhattan, 28 are above 96th Street. As new charter schools continue to open in Harlem and utilize public school space, successful public schools like Central Park East I and II will not be allowed to expand even though there is a high demand for them by Harlem parents. In the past few years, Harlem schools have had to struggle with limited expansion opportunities, overcrowding and fewer resources as the DOE has granted public school building space to charter schools despite the objections of parents and educators.

    About Central Park East I and II

    Central Park East I was founded in 1974 by Deborah Meier, a visionary educator and scholar, in an effort to provide better education for children in East Harlem by using small classes, a nurturing environment and the progressive education ideals of democratic learning. Its sister school, Central Park East II, opened in 1981. Both schools have received rave reviews and accolades from parents and community leaders, and their successes have been documented in David Bensman’s book,

    Central Park East and its Graduates: Learning by Heart (2000) and in the film Music of the Heart with Meryl Streep, among others.

    Parents for Central Park East Middle School

    For information and interviews, contact Dina Montes at 917-535-0176

    or Raven Snook at 917-941-9040

  16. Dina V. Montes

    My daughter’s school, Central Park East 1 elementary school, is a great progressive school with a rich history. It’s been the focus of books (Central Park East and its Graduates: Leraning by Heart) and films including Music of the Heart with Meryl Streep. It’s the kind of school parents are thrilled to send their kids to and Harlem is fortunate to have.

    In the past four years, its been trying to expand and add middle school grades – which would be a true blessing for uptown families. Our school and its sister school, Central Park East II, specifically inquired about space in our school building, the Jackie Robinson Alternative Education Complex, since one of its occupants, the charter East Harlem Scholars Academy, was to only stay temporarily for two years and scheduled to vacate by the end of this school year. The DOE promised to consider our school’s middle school proposal but that never happened. Instead, the DOE has opted to extend East Harlem Scholars Academy’s stay and allow them to open a second school in the same complex. The DOE is voting on this on March 11 and if approved the new East Harlem Scholars Academy II will add a grade each year until it reaches 540 students in my daughters’ school building! I don’t know how they plan to fit half a thousand students in our school building.

    As a parent, citizen and voter, I’m extremely upset that the DOE pulled the rug from underneath our school’s feet and behaved in a completely autocratical manner without any regard to the desires of the community and Harlem families. Central Park East I and II are not failing schools. They are highly sought-after by Harlem families for good reason. Plus, good middle schools in Harlem are hard to find that’s why we parents are extremely upset about this. Case in point: A Harlem parent in our school, whose oldest daughter graduated from CPE 1, could not find a good middle school so she sent her daughter to live with extended family in Chicago so that she could attend a proper middle school. She, her husband and their three younger children (all CPE 1 students) have remained in NYC.

    As a parent of a kindergartner who is a newcomer to the city’s public education system, I did not know this was happening. I keep up with the news every morning and evening, but the only charter school contreversies I had read were tied to teachers’ unions (which we parents have nothing to do with!). I always thought charter schools moved into empty buildings of failed schools. I didn’t know the DOE was stuffing them into existing public school buildings and creating these problems.

    Other parents and I are planning to voice our objections to the DOE at a Feb. 27 public school hearing on this very matter. I’ve attached a press release from our parent group, which has contact numbers.

    I strongly feel that other parents have a right to know this is going on. I have nothing against charter schools and I’m completely for providing the best education to our children. What I’m against is the DOE’s bad decisions on co-location of charter schools. It pitts neighbors against neighbors, does not allow successful public schools to grow accordingly, and ultimately does a disservice to our children and families.

    Sincerely,

    Dina V. Montes

    [email protected]

    917-535-0176

    ————————–
    Historic Progressive Public School in Harlem Denied Space for Middle School Expansion by DOE in favor of New Charter School Moving In
    Parents and Community Leaders Will Protest Decision at DOE Public Hearing on Feb. 27

    Community leaders and parents of the longstanding, progressive Central Park East I and II elementary schools will be demanding answers from the New York City’s Department of Education (DOE) as to why their four-year effort to open a progressive middle school in East Harlem has been essentially ignored. While their expansion request last year was denied on lack of space, the DOE is planning to co-locate a pair of charter schools at the Jackie Robinson Alternative Education Complex, the very space the schools inquired about. A DOE public hearing on this issue will be held on Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. at the site, 1573 Madison Avenue.

    For the past four years, Central Park East I and Central Park East II have submitted applications to expand to middle school in hopes of providing more choices of high-quality middle school education to Harlem families. Last year, the DOE claimed the only thing standing in the way of CPEII’s application was a lack of available space in District 4. CPE II specifically inquired about moving into the Jackie Robinson Alternative Education Complex, since one of its occupants, the charter East Harlem Scholars Academy, was scheduled to vacate in 2013. The DOE promised to consider the proposal but that never happened. Instead, the DOE has opted to extend East Harlem Scholars Academy’s stay and allow the charter to open a second school in the same complex.

    In addition to limiting the choices of high-quality middle school education for Harlem students, parents and teachers of Central Park East I — which has occupied the Jackie Robinson Alternative Education Complex for more than 15 years — worry that their resources and space are in jeopardy given the charter school’s encroachment. If the co-location plans are approved, the new East Harlem Scholars Academy II will add a grade each year until it reaches 540 students. The DOE will be voting on the charter schools’ co-location plans at its PEP meeting on March 11 in Brooklyn.

    Central Park East I and II’s struggle to expand in Harlem amid the DOE’s favoritism toward charter schools is not an isolated occurrence. Of the 31 charter schools currently in Manhattan, 28 are above 96th Street. As new charter schools continue to open in Harlem and utilize public school space, successful public schools like Central Park East I and II will not be allowed to expand even though there is a high demand for them by Harlem parents. In the past few years, Harlem schools have had to struggle with limited expansion opportunities, overcrowding and fewer resources as the DOE has granted public school building space to charter schools despite the objections of parents and educators.

    About Central Park East I and II

    Central Park East I was founded in 1974 by Deborah Meier, a visionary educator and scholar, in an effort to provide better education for children in East Harlem by using small classes, a nurturing environment and the progressive education ideals of democratic learning. Its sister school, Central Park East II, opened in 1981. Both schools have received rave reviews and accolades from parents and community leaders, and their successes have been documented in David Bensman’s book,

    Central Park East and its Graduates: Learning by Heart (2000) and in the film Music of the Heart with Meryl Streep, among others.

    Parents for Central Park East Middle School

    For information and interviews, contact Dina Montes at 917-535-0176

    or Raven Snook at 917-941-9040

  17. Student

    As a student who is currently a senior this year at Eagle Valley High School I feel like i too should be able to put in my two cents. recently this year Our school has received national recognition for being in the top 10% of all highschools in the nation ranking 2160 of 21,035 high schools around the country. Although I personally do not know all the details as to what has happen from my four years I have seen Massive improvements. Students are now finding themselves enjoying and partaking more than ever and it definately has something to do with the gates foundation. Also, Mary Ann Stavney is one of the most dedicated teachers who is willing to fight till the end of time to help provide her students with one of the best educations that the nation has to offer. Despite your criticisms, we have thrived and will continue to thrive while climbing the ladder of success.

About this Blog

By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum

Region
Houston
Grade
High School
Subject
Math

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