Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More Teachers to Lose Positions—but Not Pay


While schools across New York City have been forced to trim their budgets, the number of teachers who get full salaries and benefits even though they've lost their permanent classroom assignments is expected to rise.

Principals—who are facing an average 4% budget cut at their schools—have started eliminating teaching positions ahead of Friday, when their spending plans are due to the city Department of Education. Those teachers don't stop getting paid; the cost of their salary and benefits merely shifts from their schools' budgets to the department's central office budget. The DOE spent $100 million on these teachers this school year.

There are a little more than 1,000 teachers who have lost their permanent assignments since 2006 but remain on the DOE payroll. "Our best guess is that it will increase" this school year, Joel Klein, the schools chancellor, said in an interview.

The teachers, known as the Absent Teacher Reserve pool, or ATRs, are assigned to schools across the city and perform a variety of jobs, such as substituting or administrative work.

Twenty-six of the ATRs that lost their jobs in 2006 earn more than $100,000 a year in salary, not counting about $30,000 in benefits. Seventy have been working in the school system for 26 or more years. Some could retire, but haven't.

Mr. Klein said he would like to limit how long the DOE pays teachers who can't find permanent jobs, as other cities have done, but hasn't been able to reach an agreement with the United Federation of Teachers.

"Some people prefer not to work, let's not kid ourselves," Mr. Klein said.

A spokesman for the union said "the overwhelming number of ATRs are working every day in schools, many of them as long-term substitutes." He said the "DOE's procedures for linking the ATR teachers with schools have not worked well, even as the system has hired hundreds of new teachers, many of them in the same license areas as teachers in the ATR pool."

The ATRs are different than the teachers in the notorious "rubber rooms," which the city shut down this year. The rubber rooms—which cost the city $3 0 million a year—were populated by more than 500 teachers who had been accused of wrongdoing and removed from their classrooms. The teachers were paid full salaries while their disciplinary cases dragged, and they sat jobless in rooms around the city.

By contrast, the ATRs are not accused of any wrongdoing, but, in the parlance of the school system, they "were excessed," meaning their schools were closed or they lost their permanent assignments when enrollments fell or budgets were trimmed. They are not forced to look for permanent assignments.

While many teachers who lose their jobs in the system quickly find new ones, some end up in the ATR pool for years. More than 900 ATRs were invited to a jo b fair in late June that drew more than 80 schools looking for teachers. The DOE said 90 showed up. Similarly, in May, a job fair for new schools in the system drew 111 of the 1,000 ATRs invited.

The DOE offers schools financial incentives to hire ATRs. That enticed Janet Heller, at Patria Mirabel Middle School 324 in Washington Heights, to look for ATR candidates last year to fill a position. Out of 60 emails or calls put out to ATR candidates, only five responded.

One woman came in for an interview dressed in a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, and told Ms. Heller that she wasn't really looking for a new job but that she thought it was a good idea to go on interviews. "I'm appalled at the quality of the personne l that I've come across and their responses and lack of interest," Ms. Heller said. Still, because of hiring restrictions, principals are forced to hire only candidates already within the school system, including ATRs.

Twenty-one percent of the ATRs have had at least one "unsatisfactory" rating since 2005. In the general city teacher population, only 3% have been rated "unsatisfactory" since then.

Many teachers are worried about wading into the ATR pool. Ira Geringer, an art and technology teacher, learned he lost his position a few weeks ago and was at a fair in June talking to recruiters. Mr. Geringer, who has had three interviews since then and has another Thursday, still doesn't have a job.

"I don't want to end up in the ATR," he said. "You're basically a sub. You don't have any kids you could call your own."

Write to Barbara Martinez at

Tuesday, June 29, 2010



In case you missed the press coverage this past Friday, the UFT and the DoE have made an agreement to start the new teacher rating system in 11 schools this coming September. These schools were chosen from the 34 on the state list for restructuring.

The new rating system was not supposed to affect anybody until the 2011 - 12 school year. That year, it was supposed to be introduced for grades 4 - 8. In 2012 - 3 was it scheduled to affect high schools.

When the new rating system was unveiled, members had a tremendous number of questions about how it would be put into effect. How would teachers in such subjects as art and phys ed be rated? How would we be protected from penalization for having ELL classes, or Special Ed, or repeaters, or truants? The union officers and staff tried to placate us by saying it would be a value-added system, rubrics would be developed, with teacher input, etc., etc., etc.

Now it is clear this was lip service. The new system will start in three months. Where are the baseline tests? Where are the rubrics? Where is the "teacher input"?

This means that this coming June, UFT members will begin receiving the new ratings instead of the old U or S.

And of course this means that by fall of 2012, we will see the first teachers losing their licenses under the new "expedited" process for "removing ineffective teachers."

Merit pay will also begin. There will be two levels of merit pay, "master teacher," 30% bonus, and "turnaround teacher." 15% bonus. To put a pathetic figleaf over what is clearly merit pay, they will have to help other teachers. It is not yet clear how it wil be decided who will get this merit pay, but it looks like it will be a toxic cocktail of student test scores and adminsitrative favoritism.

Massacre of the Probies?
We are hearing reports that in some schools or districts, large numbers of our colleagues who are up for tenure are being forced to sign extensions of probation, or get discontinued (which means de facto fired) . We know of cases where this has been done to teachers who have all "S" observations and no disciplinary record whatsoever, because they haven't passed enough students, or even because their students have too many absences. We've also heard that the DOE has ordered that all ATRs up for tenure be automatically discontinued.

We need your help in getting a fuller picture, so we can begin to pressure the UFT to come to the defense of our newest members. Please reply to this email and tell us what you know is happening with teachers up for tenure at your school.

To print leaflets and mail them out takes funds. Please contribute. Make a check out to Teachers for a Just Contract and mail it to TJC, Post Office Box 545, New York, NY 10028

We are now on Facebook with the name Just Contract. Friend us and check out our great pictures of our actions and events, including some of our recent fundraiser in Upper Manhattan.

We reject the language of business for discussing public education

Sam Anderson sent this along:

Some Christian churches oppose Race to the Top, Obama blueprint

The Graduation2010 Report:

We reject the language of business for discussing public education.>>

Here is an extraordinary letter that should erase any doubt that opposition to the Obama administration's $4 billion Race to the Top is wide and deep.

Sent recently to President Obama and U.S. lawmakers by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, a community of 36 communions with a combined membership of 45 million people, this letter expresses deep concern about the education priorities of Race to the Top and of Obama's "blueprint" for education reform.

It criticizes the administration's effort to push states to increase the number of charter schools, its plan to turn some of the federal money used to help poor children into competitive grants, its punitive approach to dealing with low-performing schools, and the "ugly" demonization of public school teachers.

The letter says:

*"We are concerned today when we hear the civil right to education being re-defined as the right to school choice."

*"While competitive, market based "reforms" may increase educational opportunity for a few children, or even for some groups of children, do they introduce more equity or more inequity into the system itself? We reject the language of business for discussing public education."

The pastoral letter is long but worth the time to read every word
(See attached PDF).

A Pastoral Letter on Federal Policy in Public Education: An Ecumenical Call for Justice

Dear President Obama and Members of Congress,

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA is a community of 36 Christian communions with a combined membership of 45 million persons in more than 100,000 congregations across this country.

Our member churches – from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches – do not agree on all things! We stand united, however, in our conviction that the church is called to speak for justice in public education. We affirm that each life is infinitely precious, created in the image of God, and therefore, that every child should be given opportunity for fullness of life, including a quality and affordable education.

We further affirm that our society's provision of public education—publicly funded, universally available, and accountable to the public—while imperfect, is essential for ensuring that all children are served. As a people called to love our neighbors as ourselves, we look for the optimal way to balance the needs of each particular child and family with the need to create a system that secures the rights and addresses the needs of all children. We know that such a system will never be perfect, and we pledge as faithful citizens to continue to improve the schools in our communities and to make our system of schools more responsive.

We value democratic governance of public schools. We support democratic governance of public schools. Because public schools are responsible to the public, it is possible through elected school boards, open meetings, transparent record keeping and redress through the courts to ensure that traditional public schools provide access for all children. We believe that democratic operation of public schools is our best hope for ensuring that families can secure the services to which their children have a right. On balance, we believe that if government invests public funds in charter schools that report to private boards, government, not the vicissitudes of the marketplace, should be expected to provide oversight to protect the common good.

Public schools must guarantee each child's right to educational opportunity. We value the contributions of parochial schools managed by some of our communions and the contributions of charter schools operated by some of our congregations. We affirm, however, the position of our 1999 General Assembly that "as a general rule, public funds should be used for public purposes."

Knowing that traditional public schools continue to educate more than 90 percent of our nation's 50 million school children, we again echo the 1999 General Assembly that called "on our members to direct their energies toward improving the schools that the majority of children will continue to attend."

As you craft the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, originally the 1965 cornerstone of the War on Poverty, we ask you to remember that the Civil Rights Movement sought to ensure expanded opportunity for all children through public education. In 1954 the Supreme Court eliminated de jure segregation and guaranteed access for all to public schools previously available only to the privileged, and in 1965 Congress began providing federal funding for public schools serving children in poverty through Title I.

We are concerned today when we hear the civil right to education being re-defined as the right to school choice, for we know that equitable access to opportunity is more difficult to ensure in a mass of privatized alternatives to traditional public schools or in school districts being carved apart into small schools of choice. Experimentation with small schools must not cause us to lose sight of society's obligation to serve all children with appropriate services; we must continue to expect public school districts to provide a complete range of services accessible to children in every neighborhood of our cities.

Choice-based alternatives being proposed in local, state, and federal policy pose serious questions that we ask you to consider regarding equal access and public oversight. Here are just a few examples:

*When large high schools are broken into smaller schools or when charter management or education management organizations are brought in to operate small schools, what happens to children with special needs and English language learners when small schools cannot provide the more expensive services such children need?

*In so-called "portfolio school districts" which are projected to manage an ongoing churn of new schools coming into existence and weak schools being forced to close, won't closing public schools and moving the students increase student mobility in cities where poverty already means that too many children change schools too often? What is the consequence for a neighborhood or a community when a public school is closed or its entire staff fired?

*When there is competition to attract students to a range of small schools or charter schools, and when these schools are sought out by parents who are active choosers, what happens to the traditional neighborhood public schools which are left to serve the majority of special education students, English language learners, and homeless children?

*What happens to children whose parents, for whatever reason, do not participate in choice? We recently heard students whose families simply bring them to register at the neighborhood public school called "over the counter" children. Many of us and many of our children have at some time in our lives been "over the counter" children. We have assumed that universally available and easily accessible public schools were part of the American Dream.

The federal Race to the Top competition brings federal pressure on states to remove statutory caps on the authorization of new charter schools. When charter schools are regulated state-by-state, how can the federal government ensure that what has been very uneven charter school regulation across the states be made more uniform to protect the public interest?

Finally as it is proposed that federal grants be made more competitive—in the Race to the Top competition and the President's recent "Blueprint" for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—by deemphasizing Title I formula grants and increasing Title I competitive grants, how will we protect the educational opportunities of children in states and districts that are the losers?

While the Title I formula program has been too small to make up for the impact of family poverty and the 3:1 inequality of school funding among the school districts in most states, it remains the federal government's primary tool for distributing funds by formula according to need, for the purpose of expanding opportunity for poor children.

While competitive, market based "reforms" may increase educational opportunity for a few children, or even for some groups of children, do they introduce more equity or more inequity into the system itself?

We reject the language of business for discussing public education.

Not only has the language of the marketplace entered discussions of school governance and management, but we also notice that the language of business accountability is used to talk about education, a human endeavor of caring.

The primary mechanism of the No Child Left Behind Act has been annual standardized tests of reading and math for all children in grades 3-8, followed by punishments for the schools that cannot rapidly reach ever increasing test score production targets. We worry that our society has come to view what is good as what can be measured and compared.

The relentless focus on testing basic skills has diminished our attention to the humanities, the social studies, the arts, and child and adolescent development. As people of faith we do not view our children as products to be tested and managed but instead as unique human beings, created in the image of God, to be nurtured and educated.

ESEA Reauthorization must expand educational opportunity. As you craft the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we call on you to be faithful to the law's original purpose: expanding educational opportunity by providing additional support for the schools that serve our nation's poorest children. We ask you to address what are too rarely named these days:

The cavernous resource opportunity gaps—from state to state and from school district to school district— underneath the achievement gaps that No Child Left Behind has so carefully documented. We ask you to allocate federal resources for equity and insistently press states to close opportunity gaps.

It is time to guarantee for all children in the United States a comparable opportunity to learn that includes a quality early childhood education, highly qualified teachers, a curriculum that will prepare students for college, work and community, and equitable instructional resources. It is also time to recognize that the blessings of health care remain unequal among American children, as do enrichments like after school programs, and summer experiences.

We value public school educators.

Our biblical heritage and our theology teach us that we live in community, not solely in the marketplace. As we strive to move our imperfect world closer to the realm of God, we recognize that we are all responsible for making sure that public schools, as primary civic institutions, embody our love for one another.

We are called to create institutions that serve families and children with hospitality. We are called to work as citizens for the resources that will support a climate of trust and community within each public school. We are also called to value those whose vocation is teaching.

Lately we have been dismayed by federal policy that encourages states to change laws to eliminate due process, to devalue the credentials of excellent teachers, and to fire teachers and principals as though that were a tested recipe for school reform, when we know that no research supports the President's proposed "turnaround" model that purports to improve a school by firing the principal and at least half the staff.

We look for a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that honors the professionalism of teachers and treats these individuals with respect. Wholesale scapegoating of public school teachers is an ugly and unfortunate development in federal policy.

We pledge to partner with you for just reform.

We pledge to partner with you in prayer and action, working for reform that values the whole child as uniquely created, values teachers, and encourages and equips the family and community to participate in nurturing the full development of every child.

We pledge to partner with you by:
*encouraging congregations to value public education and teachers through sermons, worship, and prayer;
*supporting parent education and adult literacy;
*encouraging congregations to partner with public schools to provide tutors, school supplies, exposure to computers and many other supports;
*supporting out-of-school supports like better and widely available pre-school and after school programs; and
*continuing to educate our members about the value of Community Schools that surround public schools with social supports.

We ask you to partner with us to challenge the unfair and detrimental language of the current discourse in educational reform, to re-examine untested assumptions about public education policy, and to ensure that untested models of school reform are not imposed from above in our nation's most fragile school districts.

Too often criticism of the public schools fails to reflect our present societal complexity. At a moment when childhood poverty is shamefully widespread, when many families are under constant stress, and when schools are often limited by lack of funds or resources, we know that public schools cannot be improved by concentrating on public schools alone.

They alone can neither cause nor cure the problems we face. In this context, we must address with prayerful determination the issues of race and class, which threaten both public education and democracy in America.

Sincerely, The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon General Secretary The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, President On Behalf of the Governing Board of The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

[You can see a list of the members of the governing board by clicking here]

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Interlocking Directorate: Girls Prep charter revision application to contract with Public Preparatory Network

There's lots of info flowing in about the Girls Prep operation. I won't do any sifting or analysis but am throwing it up here for perusal. Thanks to the amazing group of parent activists out there who are doing this work.

Girls Prep charter revision application to contract with Public Preparatory Network, Inc. (“Public Prep”), for the rest of its term.

According to ,
Public Prep is a recently formed not-for-profit charter management organization that was launched by former staff and board members of the Girls Preparatory schools.

The chair of Girls Prep is Sarah Robertson, wife if Spencer of PAVE fame in Redhook's PS 15 and Eric Grannis, husband of Eva Moskowitz, is also on the board.

Also on board: R Boykin Curry, the 4th, ---profiled in the NYT hedge fund piece.
Bryan Lawrence is another. Check Daniel Squadron campaign contributions to see how they buy their own personal politicians.

Suny fiscal dashboard shows Girls Prep has moved into dangerous territory fiscally speaking; see

Mr. Joel Klein, Chancellor
New York City Public Schools
Tweed Hall
52 Chambers Street
New York, New York 10007

Dear Chancellor Klein:

This letter is to inform you that the Board of Regents has received several proposed charter revisions from the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York. They are in the enclosed chart. The New York City School District has the right to comment to the Board of Regents on the proposed charter revisions. All such comments should be submitted to the NYSED Charter School Office no later than June 23, 2010, so that they may be carefully considered by the Board of Regents. If you have any questions, please contact the Charter School Office at the New York State Education Department at (518) 4741762.

Sally Bachofer
cc: Superintendent(s) of public schools within county
Principal(s)/head(s) of nonpublic
schools within county
Michael Duffy
Jonas Chartock

June 15, 2010

Charter revisions:

Girls Preparatory Charter School of East Harlem Revision #2
NYC Dist #8 390 K5
08/24/2009 08/
23/2014 has asked to
· Contract with Public Preparatory Network, Inc. for substantial management services for the remainder of the School’s charter term

Girls Preparatory Charter School of New York
NYC Dist #1 248 K5
03/22/2004 03/21/2009
· Contract with Public Preparatory Network, Inc. for substantial management services for the remainder of the School’s charter term


In the audited financial statement for GPCS for 2008-09 in a NOTE (note B) it is stated that: ... PP manages the operations of the Organization (defined earlier as GPCS and Friends of GP a 501(c) 3) ...

At June 30, 2009 $70, 174 was due from these related parties ...
all amounts are expected to be repaid as cash flow permits.

FOGP address is the same as PS 188 per the 990, per the 990 for 2009.

FOGP supports the school (GPCS) in facility development, recruiting and fund raising

MLR is executive director and Sect of the Bd of trustees of FOGP
in the FOGP 990 filing ML Riccah was paid $99,000( plus $10, 454 in benefit plan contributions ( PART V-A Officer compensation plus on p. 4 there is a mention of $61K in salary I assume also to MLR ( $30,500 for FR and 30,500 for program services.
According to the GPCS annual Report for 2009-09 MLR is "Head of School" and is not a Trustee.

on p. 43 the GPCS exec Dir was paid $43, 333.37 in 2008-09

However according to the SUNY CSI External Evaluation of GPCS of NY, dated Feb 2009 but looking at the 2007-08 school year????,at the 2008 site visit MLR was Secretary of the Bd of Trustees for GPCS..
In July 2007 the new principal Anne Lakritz was hired.
The Exec Dire ( MLR) was the "overall administrator.
She served as the instructional leader from Jan- July 2007 ( the period between when the old principal was fired and the new one was hired.
on p13 of the Ext Eval report MLR reported her role as one of supporting the principal; a one school sup; that holds the mission of the school; has daily meetings w/ the principal.

p, 23 The Bd meets every other month!

In the 7/31/09 renewal application to SUNY the cover sheets lists a management co ( CMO) at it is: PublicPrep ( contact- MLR
on p. it explains that founding principal Nakia Haskins left in the middle of the 2006-07 school year and that MLK was acting Principal.

p. 11 explains how in 2008 the founders of GP established a CMO to oversee the growth of a network of schools 9 GP LES, their "first replication ES", GP Bronx and the proposed MS extension.

PPN will be governed by its own Bd of trustees, led by CEO MLR who will provide extensive support/oversight.

During the next charter MLR will transition form former position as Exec Dir to become CEO of PP.

No changes to 2004 By Laws

PP incorporated in 2008 .. will officially launch in 2009 w/ opening of GP Bronx and proposed MS at GP LES, creating the first complete PP K-8th academy.

PP will open an academy /every 2 years ( = one school/yr) over the next 5 years.
= 6 academies= 3 schools - over 5 years
GP LES 2005
GP LES MS 2009
GP Bronx 2009
BP ES 2011
GB Bronx MS 2013
Future PP academy 2013

according to NYS charter law no more than 40% overlap between CMO/school boards allowed

Chancellor JK has guaranteed leased space at $1/yr.
PP is talking to ONS and exploring leasing Catholic school space.

schools will pay 5-10% of State/Local per pupil revenues to PP ( depending on school maturity)

p. 94 according to School Bd of Trusteed org chart, MLR is a non voting member/Secretary

pp103-104 - weird numbers:

local travel= $4,240.33
Food Hospitality $14,301.12
Recruiting/mktg $53, 626.62
office supplies $19,121.88 ( almost 3 time syr before)
Exec Dire salary- $43, 333. 33 ( last yr= $83, 999.99
NO CMO fee

p. 504
facility related expenses: $30,000 2010-11 ( 5th/6th grades)
$10, 000 201-12 ( 5-7th)
Bonuses for administrators
$223,654 2010=11
$230,364 2012-13
$237, 275 2013-14
(also more $$ for principals/teachers bonuses)

p. 450- agreement PPN/GPCS
p. 435 By Laws 2004
p. 513 CMO org chart

p. 518 job descriptions- one persons job included:
aid in securing space for MS via political leverage and parent activism as necessary
train parent leader s and encourage parent attendance at political events

Friday, June 25, 2010

John F. Kennedy High School Prinicipal Anthony Rotuno and the Missing 90Gs

Rotunno was the guy who sent Maria Colon to the rubber room for exposing grad cheating scandals, effectively ruining her career. Maria, who ran with ICE in various elections was the chapter leader but was left out to dry by the UFT.

More Comments by Leonie Haimson, who savages the coverage of Rotunno by the NY Times:

Anthony Rotunno, who retired as principal of Kennedy HS last month, apparently stole money from student bake sales, among other financial improprieties, according to a new audit from the State Comptroller. See full article from Daily news below.

Not mentioned in the article is how Rotunno was a long favorite of DOE, whose job was protected by them, despite questionable practices of long standing.

Here is an excerpt from a 2004 puff piece about him by Elissa Gootman of the NY Times, lauding his “tough guy” approach to turning around this long-struggling school:

Behind this makeover was Mr. Rotunno and his formula for fixing a school of 5,000, a mix of infusing fun and school spirit into the school day and a determined effort to weed out students standing in the way of improvement…. teachers -- some of them Kennedy graduates still cherishing memories of the school's glory days of science awards and Ivy League acceptance letters in the 1970's and 80's -- generally agree: the school has turned the corner.

But actually teachers despised Rotunno, and in 2005 charges were made by many English teachers that he had improperly student Regents scores to passing. When the DOE finally finished their “investigation” they concluded that he did change scores, but that this was perfectly okay. So much for accountability at DOE!

Here is an excerpt about this from a 2006 column of the much missed former NY Times education columnist, Michael Winerip:

[David Cantor] said that the inquiry had looked only into whether the principal, Anthony Rotunno, had the right to change the Regents grades and found that he did….

So far, only one person has been punished, Maria Colon, Kennedy's union representative, who was the first to speak out publicly about the changed scores. She was removed from Kennedy and assigned to a holding room pending a hearing on her case. Her crime? She allegedly used a school fax to send a Newsday reporter documents revealing the scoring changes.

Here is a follow up piece by Winerip, about new accusations from JFK HS guidance counselors that Rotunno had allowed kids to graduate without the proper credits.

Ms. Werner said, "They started giving out credits like candy." Global history is a four-term course spread over two years, and Ms. Diaz and Ms. Werner say they saw transcripts for students who had failed four terms of global history and were given credit for all four courses after passing the global Regents exam.

This reporter obtained copies of transcripts (with names blanked out) from a teacher who requested anonymity for fear of retribution. In one case, a student who failed three semesters of global history classes starting in January 2003 was given credit for those courses after passing the state global history Regents exam with a 65 in January 2005. A student who failed freshman English 1 and 2 in 2002-03 was given credit for those courses after passing the English Regents with a 68 in January 2005.

In an interview in February, Mr. Rotunno said the policy was not new, just a clarification of an existing policy that went back to the school's beginning.

Despite these new allegations, Rotunno stayed, and the guidance counselors who spoke up in defense of standards lost their jobs.

The culture of so-called “accountability” at DOE, meaning principals can basically do anything as long as they produce better test scores and higher graduation rates, may have made Rotunno believe he was invulnerable in other ways as well.

Unfortunately, a policy of nearly unregulated credit recovery has been instituted throughout the city; and giving out credits “like candy” is now encouraged as the primary means to improve your school’s statistics, save your own job, and possibly get a bonus besides.

This new audit is just one more in a growing list of reports from the State Comptroller, the City Comptroller, and the Special Investigators office showing millions of dollars of stolen and misused funds by schools because of lax financial oversight by DOE, the results of Tweed’s “anything goes” attitude towards principal “empowerment”.


John F. Kennedy High School staffers swipe nearly $90G, even kids' bake sale money

Friday, June 25th 2010, 4:00 AM

Anthony Rotunno (b.) made a hasty exit from his job as principal  of John F. Kennedy HS in the Bronx after state investigators began  looking into an alleged ripoff of some $90,000.

Chu for News

Anthony Rotunno (b.) made a hasty exit from his job as principal of John F. Kennedy HS in the Bronx after state investigators began looking into an alleged ripoff of some $90,000.

Schwartz for News

Related News

Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar? The grownups at John F. Kennedy High School, that's who - a new state report says.

Staffers at the Bronx school swiped more than $90,000 students raised at bake sales and other fund-raisers, state Controller Thomas DiNapoli found.

Principal Anthony Rotunno resigned after probers uncovered the sugary swindle - the latest black eye for a school facing possible closure.

In a particularly egregious abuse, Kennedy staffers blew more than $7,000 on four retirement parties at suburban eateries, the audit found.

"This was the students' money," DiNapoli said. "They raised it selling cupcakes and asking for donations. The students worked hard to raise this money. Whoever is responsible should be punished."

The audit, covering the period July 2007 to June 2009, found that Kennedy staffers misused or stole $91,216.

That money was pooled in what's known as a general school fund, an account used to pay for student activities such as trips and proms. The cash comes from student bake sales, candy sales, other fund-raisers and proceeds from the school store.

The teachers used a chunk of the money to party at Live @ the Falcon, a popular concert hall in Marlboro, N.Y., in September 2007, sources said.

In June 2008, they celebrated at Yonkers eateries Dunwoodie Pizzeria & Restaurant and Tombolino Ristorante. And they dined at Pasta Amore, an Italian restaurant in Piermont, with sweeping views of the Hudson River.

"Kennedy officials told us that they reimbursed the account for $7,114 [for the teacher parties]; however, they were unable to provide any evidence to indicate that this had occurred," DiNapoli's report says.

The Education Department is investigating how the rest of the money disappeared.

Among the audit's other alarming findings:

  • The Kingsbridge school owes $60,559 to a vendor for yearbooks, caps, gowns and championship rings purchased from 2004 to 2007.
  • Kennedy is also on the hook for $22,790 to a vending machine company for supplies bought for the school store.
  • The school spent $713 of the students' cash on teachers' keys.
  • The school's treasurer bounced 15 checks worth a total of $28,825 because she didn't even know the accounts were depleted.

The report pins blame squarely on Rotunno's shoulders.

"The Kennedy principal did not establish basic accountability for student funds," the report says.

Rotunno stepped down in May, officials said.

"When we confronted Mr. Rotunno with the draft audit report a month ago, he resigned and will never work in the Department of Education again," said Education Department spokesman Danny Kanner.

Reached on his cell phone, Rotunno said only, "That's something that would have to be handled by the Department of Education."

A department supervisor has taken control of the finances of the troubled school, which is one of 34 facing possible closure by the state.

Read more:


Bill Reynolds
(518) 474-4015


June 25, 2010


More than $83,000 in student funds was either misused or stolen at the Bronx’s John F. Kennedy High School, according to an audit released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Auditors found that most of this money was owed to vendors dating back to 2004, but the vendors were never paid and the money cannot be accounted for. Additionally, the school spent more than $7,000 of the student funds for four separate teacher retirement celebrations, which is not authorized. DiNapoli’s auditors also found that the school’s treasurer bounced tens of thousands of dollars in checks because she did not know there wasn’t enough money in the account.

Because DiNapoli’s auditors suspect money was missing or stolen from the John F. Kennedy High School, the findings were immediately referred to the Office of the Auditor General within the Department of Education (DoE) who contacted the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the DoE. DiNapoli noted that the DoE was quick to act on the findings.

“This was the students’ money,” DiNapoli said. “They raised it selling cupcakes and asking for donations. The students worked hard to raise this money. Whoever is responsible should be punished.”

The Kennedy audit was conducted in conjunction with audits of other NYC schools and how they expended General School Funds (GSF). The audit covered the period July 2007 to June 2009.

The breakdown of the missing or misused funds, which auditors have totaled at $83,389, is as follows:

  • The school owes $60,599 to a vendor for yearbooks, caps, gowns, and championship rings purchased for prior school years 2004-05, 2005-06, and 2006-07; and
  • The school owes $22,790 to a vending machine company for supplies purchased for the school store. This same company provided at least a $1,500 in monthly credit to the school as a commission on vending machine sales. School officials said they used the credit to purchase merchandise for the school store, but auditors found that the store’s shelves were virtually empty.

Additional findings in DiNapoli’s audit include the following:

  • The school spent $7,827 on items unrelated to students’ needs including $7,114 for four separate teacher retirement parties at restaurants and $713 in locksmith expenses (for teacher keys);
  • The Kennedy treasurer bounced 15 checks totaling $28,825 because she was unaware that there were insufficient funds in the GSF account;
  • Kennedy officials did not maintain basic accounting records to document GSF activity and that DoE-required approval processes were routinely circumvented and ignored; and
  • There were no records kept for sales at the school store. Cash register tapes were not used when ringing up sales; there were no records to indicate the total daily cash intake before the proceeds were taken to the treasurer for deposit.

In a related audit issued on May 25, 2010 Report 2009-N-11, DiNapoli’s auditors examined the use of GSF accounts at the other high schools located on the John F. Kennedy school campus: Marble Hill High School for International Studies (Marble Hill), Bronx Theater High School (Bronx Theater), Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy (Bronx Engineering), and Bronx High School of Law and Finance (Bronx Law and Finance). (The English Language Learners and International Support Preparatory Academy did not have an account.) Significant problems were identified in this audit as well. Among the findings in this audit were that:

  • Poor accounting records prevented the auditors from fully accounting for GSF funds.
  • At Bronx Law and Finance, the principal used GSF funds to pay for 80 credit card charges totaling $5,312; $4,060 of which were unrelated to student activities.
  • At Marble Hill and Bronx Theatre, principals had unauthorized debit cards that were sometimes used to make cash withdrawals, including over $1,260 that was ostensibly used to pay for certain senior prom costs, but not supported by either invoices or receipts.
  • All GSF accounts must be approved by DoE, yet the principals at Bronx Engineering or Bronx Law and Finance opened GSF accounts without the DoE’s approval.

DiNapoli recommended that the NYC DoE:

  • Ensures that the GSF accounts are reimbursed for the inappropriate expenditures;
  • Conduct a detailed review of the remaining untested GSF expenditures;
  • Provide training to DoE principals on the Kennedy campus regarding their responsibilities in overseeing student funds; and
  • Ensure GSF funds at the Kennedy campus are used only for appropriate purposes.

School officials have 90 days from the release of DiNapoli’s report to develop a corrective action plan.

The full audit can be found here:

NOTE: GSF bank accounts are the accumulated funds donated to and/or raised by the students and/or school organizations to support extracurricular and co-curricular student activities. This includes funds raised for senior year activities, such as the senior prom and yearbook; funds raised by students from bake sales; and other fund raising activities undertaken to offset extracurricular expenses.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Spotlight: Karen Lewis Candidate for President of Chicago Teachers Union

Fifth in a Series of Political Newcomers/Challengers to Illinois Politics

Karen Lewis has found herself in a hot run-off race for President of the Chicago Teacher’s Union. Lewis belongs to the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE). “CORE had no intention of running,” says Lewis, “we came together to push the union to do the right thing. We saw a ‘tepid response’ to the members. I thought that [protecting jobs] was the whole point of all unions.” Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart, of the UPC party, will face her in a run-off election on June 11th.

Lewis is a chemistry teacher at Martin Luther King College Prep on the city’s south side. She attended Reavis and Kozminski elementary schools. She left Kenwood after her junior year to attend Mount Holyoke College and transferred to Dartmouth when it went coed. Karen Lewis is the only black woman in Dartmouth’s class of 1974. She has a Master's degree in Inner City Studies Education. She also holds a second Master's of Fine Arts degree in Film & Video. She is Nationally Board Certified. Both of her parents were CPS teachers. Her husband is now retired from CPS. “So Chicago public schooling is in my blood,” she says.

“They call me a rookie,” she says referring to her opponents in the race. Lewis, however, was a teacher’s delegate for the union while at Lane Tech High School, Chicago’s largest high school. She taught at Lane for 15 years. She is still a delegate at Martin Luther King College Prep. Lewis was also appointed by CTU President Marilyn Stewart to the State Teacher’s Certification Board in August 2009; she is one of three members. As a background, the State Teacher’s Certification Board consists of 5 teachers from the Illinois Education Association, 5 from the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and 3 appointed by the CTU president. There are also professors and deans from various colleges and universities and representatives from superintendents and Chicago Public Schools. “I love school and I love to learn. I have 150 kids [at Martin Luther King College Prep] who I love and respect”, she says.

Nearly 20,000 of the 26,000 members eligible voted. According to a Sun Times article Union guidelines require that a candidate must win with 50 percent plus 1vote in order to avoid a run-off election. Deborah Lynch was also a candidate but did not win this time around. Lynch is chairman of the ProActive Chicago Teachers Caucus (PACT). She has spoken to Ms. Lewis and, on behalf of herself and her caucus, has thrown her support to Ms. Lewis. PACT is supportive in making the Union strong and in being more responsive to union members. PACT especially supports Lewis' commitment not to re-open the CTU contract, to protect the pension fund, to fight school closings and to restore transparency and democracy in the CTU.

Karen Lewis stated after Election Day “What this election shows us is that teachers and paraprofessionals are fed up. CORE’s success is we are a big-tent, grass-roots group led democratically from the bottom up. That was why CORE began in the first place – to activate and energize all members in running the Union.”

A Rally Hidden in Obscurity
Ron Huberman, Chicago Board of Education’s CEO, has warned that CPS will need union concessions to plug a $600 million deficit. He has proposed up to 2,700 teachers and union members could be out of a job if class sizes rise from an average of 30 to 35. On the afternoon of May 25, 2010 the CTU, CORE, PACT, and students and parents organized a massive rally with over 5,000 people in attendance. Originally decided on at an early May CTU meeting, the rally received little coverage by the media, despite being so large that it closed down Clark Street. According to , CORE members refuse to accept the fuzzy math, nor the layoffs and class size increases proposed by Ron Huberman. Lewis saw the rally as a great success, though she was disappointed by CTU President Stewart’s last minute cancellation of a scheduled press conference at city hall that afternoon. Many attendees were also disappointed later that evening to find little if any coverage of their organizing efforts on the evening news.

Union Busters and Pinochet’s Chile
On Sept. 11, 1973, the four branches of Chile's armed forces overthrew the government of Salvador Allende in a violent coup. The coup continued to victimize sectors of the Chile, especially the labor unions. Unions received the fiercest repression.
In April of this year Florida Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the most far-reaching education bill of its kind ; legislation that would have made it easier to fire teachers. This legislation also proposed paying teachers according to student test scores. Though Crist once favored the legislation and still supports the idea of performance based pay, he began having second thoughts about how the bill would achieve those goals. According to a Business Week report “when a friend back home in St. Petersburg called him and questioned how his special needs child could be fairly tested. ‘It touched my heart, frankly,’” Crist explained, "his son's teacher came to him and was crying about how she might be evaluated." Lewis explains, “We are not in control of a child’s environment at home or their level of poverty. Standardized testing says we care more about a kid’s zip code than the kid.” She goes on to explain that through standardized testing “we know more about their parents and if they went to college.” CORE proposes a ban to using test results to punish, label or denigrate schools, students or teachers.
After school hours are extraordinarily important. Lewis believes that CPS should not be getting rid of art and music programs. “Our children have very little recess time until after the ISAT tests are over. It’s like they are in lock down,” she explains. CORE supports full funding of technology, art, music, World languages, physical education and electives for all students.

“We have teacher’s who are with their kids all day from breakfast through lunch and then to the end of school,” she says. Teachers have little if no time to brainstorm with other professionals during the school day. “CPS is trying to do education on the cheap,” she says. This isolation is a tactic that Lewis believes is meant to bust the union.

Race to the Top
Lewis believes part of the problem with the school system is the belief that it ought to be based on a “CEO model”. “We have had many CEO’s: Paul Vallas, Arne Dunkin and now Ron Huberman,” she says, “these people do not have a clue about what goes on this side of the desk.” Lewis believes that the CEO model results in punishment and the militarization of the schools. “It is failing miserably,” she says. In regards to Charter schools, she believes that the charter schools do no better when they are dealing with the same kids. Lewis also notes the disparity between schools and the resources that they have to offer. “Some schools have little technology, no air conditioning while others have state of the art equipment,” she says. There is an inequality in school funding yet all children are held to the same standardized tests. Many times in working together with the parents teachers discover the realities of home life for students and the struggles that they carry with them on a daily basis. Divorce is a major issue which affects a student’s life, and sometimes is overlooked as a major factor in student learning. “But if you think divorce is an issue, imagine working with a student who has seen their own parent murdered,” she explains referring to a recent event in which a kindergarten student witnessed his parent gunned down. “We don’t have a psychologist or social worker at every school every day to help these children deal with their life stresses. They say it costs too much,” she says. Lewis wonders if these kids are not given social services outside of school to help them move on from a traumatic life situation, how will the child focus and learn. She goes on to criticize “They give the same test to this kid who has witnessed his father murdered as they give to the kid who comes from a healthy home where the parents are together. They will test these two kids with the same measurement!” Lewis supports the full funding of counselors, social workers, nurses, psychologists and special needs staff needed to support students.
Lewis also criticizes the White House’s efforts to impact education in an urban city such as Chicago. “Race To The Top is Obama's No Child Left Behind on steroids, “ she explains, “It's misguided and forces states to compete for money that will only be available for a short period of time but REQUIRES states to enact laws that tie teacher pay/evaluations/tenure decisions to test scores.” The business model regime is destroying the passion and the joy of teaching and learning. Lewis says teachers are seeing more and more young kids saying that they hate school. “School has become mind-numbing, “ she explains. To CORE and Lewis the CEO/Race to the Top model is not the answer. “It is about winners and losers; a race to the top. In this country we can’t have that,” she says.

“We are being eaten alive in Springfield,” says Lewis asking “ What are the lobbyists doing?” Lewis believes it is unconscionable that there even was a voucher bill (sponsored by Rev. Meeks) being debated. “The fact that there was also a Diabetes bill proposing to allow any school staffer to administer diabetes shots at school is also unconscionable,” she says.

There is a pension raid. “We are giving legislatures money every year. We have five paid lobbyists. Occasionally we get a report from them. We are given very little background or information on what they are doing on our behalf,” she says regarding the lack of lobbyist’s accountability to the union members. Lewis believes that every single teacher should know how to track a bill. Bills should be on the CTU website. “We also need to initiate bills,” she explains, “and our union is not doing that.” Lewis also believes that more focus should be given to equitable funding for schools. “We need an elected school board, because what we have now is not democratic, “ she says. CORE proposes the repeal of mayoral control of schools and the restoration of teacher’s right to collectively bargain class sizes, counselor loads and stop school closings and reconstitutions. Lewis says teachers get a lot of directives and little information from the CTU. “So many teachers are apathetic because they have little information on many different issues, “ she explains, “ When CORE came we caught the ear of the teachers.” CORE proposes to restore democratic practices to the House of Delegates. CORE also supports the idea of publicly-available video/print transcripts to hold delegates and leadership accountable. “Send field reps to the schools, not to the Mart,” is one CORE initiative referring to the Merchandise Mart, location of the CTU offices.

In regards to the past several years, Lewis has noticed a great decline in union pride. “We told the union that they are making decisions that have tremendous impact on an entire community, and [they make these decisions] without even coming to public hearings.” Lewis says that last year the union was not coming to public hearings. “CORE attended every budget meeting, every school closing meeting and every new opening for charter schools,“ she says. Because of that involvement, six schools were removed from the school closing list. “That has never happened before.“ says Lewis explaining, “The union took note of this and the board took notice as well.” This year they both started attending the public hearings and school closing hearings and they acknowledged what they had not done in the past. As a result, Ron Huberman decided that the idea of announcing school closings in January was not a good one.

CORE invited the union to their grass-roots educational, or GEM, partnership meetings. The Grassroots Education Movement involves community organization such as “KOCO” or Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, the Pilsen Alliance, Blocks Together, Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), Chicago Youth In Charge, Gender Justice, just to name a few. CTU came to a meeting that CORE held on how to organize a school closing. Since then they have not attended another meeting. There has been no working relationship since.

Lewis believes it is imperative to address the budget mess. We need to start training our delegates to do real mobilization. They need training not only in contracts and employee discipline codes but also working with delegates to work with their colleagues too, “ she says. CORE supports leading legislation to fund all schools equitably and return all TIF (Tax Increment Financing) funds to each school taxing district. CORE recently sued the union for not releasing the budget figures. Lisa Madigan, Attorney General for Illinios, also mandated that the union comply to CORE’s freedom of information request. This issue is still in court. To date the budget has not been released to CORE.

Lewis believes strongly that parents should feel welcomed inside a school building. Parents should be working with teachers and paraprofessionals on a regular basis. “Here at Martin Luther King College Prep I have died and gone to ‘teacher heaven’,“ she says. Principal Wright and Lewis’ colleagues and parents are all very supportive. “I always ask parents ‘what can we do together to help your child’,” she says. Lewis believes strongly in the CORE effort to be all inclusive with teachers, paraprofessionals, community organizations, and parents. She says this “makes the students the ultimate winners.”

On June 11th Chicago teachers will have their say in which direction they would like their union, their profession and their school day to go. In union meetings Lewis complains “we no longer have that ‘family feeling’; brother and sister.” In an interview Lewis once said, “CORE invites all caucuses and Union members to join us to reinvigorate rank-and-file members and wake up the sleeping giant that is the Chicago Teachers Union.”

A Bipartisan Consensus Around Bad Ideas


Dear Graders:

Valerie Strauss has conducted a compelling E-mail interview with educational historian Diane Ravitch, Ravitch criticizes the current prevailing educational theories being pushed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama: “Yet everyone — teachers, parents, administrators — feels helpless, not knowing where to turn because they are now up against a bipartisan consensus around bad ideas. . . . The biggest mistake they have made is that they bought into the consensus around high-stakes testing, this NCLB belief that someone must be punished if scores don’t rise every year, especially ‘bad’ teachers. . . . I would urge him [President Obama] to stop using language of failing, punishing, closing, and firing and speak instead of improving, building, supporting, and encouraging.”

The local connection, of course, is that these bad theories are exactly those promoted by Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Mayor Fenty (and, according to his own rhetoric about supporting “school reform,” by Council Chairman Gray). Ravitch says “the emphasis on evaluating teachers will simply produce more teaching to the test, more narrowing the curriculum, more gaming the system,” and that teachers and parents are perfectly aware of that, but that politicians of the left and right have joined to support these faddish bad theories.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Charter School Supporters Buy the NY State Legislature

Education Reform Costs...Integrity Loss

On May 28th of this session (this is how I think…in session…not in session) the Senate voted to lift the cap on the Charter Schools in New York which will lift the cap for Wall Street to continue to make money from our citizens in the name of “school reform.” With all the issues concerning Charter Schools, with the City of Albany taxed beyond its limit to sustain two school systems, one open and accountable the other secretive, sparsely populated, ethically challenged with a questionable mission.

Now, sure, the Guv still needed to sign the bill, and the Assembly, which I had thought was on lock down with Shelly Silver hanging tight with the unions, still needed to vote on the bill. But, still, when the cantankerous folks in the upper chamber voted to lift the cap on Charters, I got a little worried about the future. My worries were warranted.

The other day I heard about a guy named Steve Bahar. Seems that Steve was running for the Assembly down in Queens against Assemblywoman Carrozza…he was anti-charter school expansion. (Seems they have many of the same issues in the city that we have in Albany!! Can you imagine?) When Steve was gaining on Carrozza he got a call from a couple of Charter “bundlers.” What’s a bundler? Why, I’m so glad you asked.

A bundler is, essentially, a lobbyist who can deliver funds to candidates which are not easily tracked back to the donors and are not easily attached to the candidate. Interesting news, I hear there is a new database which will track “bundling” though it’s not yet searchable.

So, back to Bahar. Seems he gets these calls and the bundlers offered to “bundle” $100,000 to $200,000 for him if he changed his stance on Charter School expansion and joined the Wall Street savvy pushing for lifting the cap in development of more Charters. Of course, he turned them down but didn’t provide the names of the bundlers for fear of scaring off future donors to his campaign.

So, I got to thinking about the recent vote in the Senate which brought me such disappointment in my favorite of chambers. So, I pulled the list of those who support charter schools and I researched donations provided to our electeds (and opponents) from known supporters of Charter School Expansion. Contributors researched include: Democrats for Education Reform, Whitney Tilson, Anthony Davis, Boykin Curry, Coalition for Public Charter Schools, the Waltons (Walmart, Walton Family Foundation…biggest funder of Brighter Choice), Brian Meara, Joel Greenblatt and a little bit of Lynch…of course.

Those Senators who consistently voted in support of charter school expansion is listed here along with the contributions they accepted (besides the ever popular but untraceable bundling) here.

I also extracted much of the history of “contributions” to our legislators, potential legislators and our governor. See those contributions here. Wanna know how much it costs (on the books…wink, wink) to buy the Senate? Here ya go…$302,600. The largest pricetags for their support belong to Craig “Mr. Honest” Johnson… $52,400, Kevin Parker….$26,800, Jeff “Pay to Play” Klein…$28,950, freshman Senator Daniel “fast learner” Squadron…$34,000 and our fearless leader Malcolm Smith’s pricetag this time…$35,000. Perhaps Eric “show me the money” Adams should get some pointers from his cohorts he only got $5000 for his vote.

Now, I didn’t even take a glance at what money changed hands with these “supporters” over in the Assembly but you can if you just look up your favorites right here. Now, we all know that this expansion wouldn’t fly through without the support of the governor, right? I mean, he’s the man with the “plan” down at the cap, right? Wanna know his pricetag for just this one little lifting of the charter school cap? Remember, this is just the money he’s accepted “on the books” from these Charter School supporters over the years…(not counting the funds his Lt. Guv campaign)…$169,400.

We don’t need more Education Reform (read that with sarcasm: Charter Schools) we need government reform…we need the Citizens to regain their voice in this State.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Questions on KIPP Study

From Leonie:

Unfortunately, this report is not online yet; whether it was KIPP or Mathematica who leaked it in advance to the WaPost and Houston Chronicle before people could read it for themselves seems to me to be a rather questionable practice.

Excerpt from WaPost article: “By seventh grade, half of the KIPP schools studied showed growth in math scores equal to an additional 1.2 years of school.”

What about the other half? This is a weird way to present results.

But attrition rates at the KIPP schools, measuring the portion of students who failed to complete four years at the schools, varied widely. In a third of the schools studied, attrition was significantly higher than in other local public schools

Did this third of schools overlap with the schools that hadbetter results?

In the Houston Chronicle story the authors say:

"What we're finding is results that are positive," said Brian Gill, a senior social scientist with Mathematica Policy Research Inc., a Princeton, N.J.-based nonprofit research group. "They're statistically significant in most cases, and they're educationally big."

Statistically significant in most cases?

…. Researchers concede that KIPP schools enroll fewer special education students and non-English speakers. They also note that more lower-performing students end up withdrawing from KIPP.

"It is true that the ones who leave are lower achieving than average, but that tends to be true of kids leaving any school," Gill said. "Kids who are highly mobile tend to be lower performers."

Interesting way to report the push-out problem.

However, an initial analysis of the report by Professor Gary Miron of Western Michigan University concludes that this initial study report misrepresents the attrition data.

According to Miron, "While it may be true that attrition rates for KIPP schools and surrounding districts are similar, there is a big difference: KIPP does not generally fill empty places with the weaker students who are moving from school to school. Traditional public schools must receive all students who wish to attend, so the lower-performing students leaving KIPP schools receive a place in those schools."

In contrast, Miron explains, "The lower performing, transient students coming from traditional public schools are not given a place in KIPP, since those schools generally only take students in during the initial intake grade, whether this be 5th or 6th grade."….

Professor Miron conducted his own quick analysis, using the Common Core database, and concluded that there is a 19% drop in enrollment in KIPP schools between grades 6 and 7 and a 24% drop in enrollment between grades 7 and 8. (This analysis only included KIPP schools that had enrollments in all three grades). In comparison, traditional public schools in these grades maintain the same enrollment from year to year.

In addition, the study shows, KIPP does enroll fewer sped and ELL students.

I also have seen no response so far to the argument that much of the gains are due to peer effects; which in turn relies upon the ability of KIPP to weed out low-performing or poorly behaved students.

Report finds KIPP students outscore public school peers

By Bill Turque

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Middle school students in the Knowledge Is Power Program, a charter school network with a major footprint in the District and other cities, significantly outperform their public school peers on reading and math tests, according to a new study.

But the report, from Mathematica Policy Research, to be made public Tuesday, is unlikely to resolve debate over what is behind the network's success. Skeptics say that the program benefits from highly motivated parents seeking alternatives to ineffective public schools and that KIPP often winnows out students who don't fit its program.

The study, which KIPP commissioned, comes as the Obama administration is promoting the spread of strong charter schools as a strategy to improve urban education.

Founded in Houston in 1994 by two young alumni of Teach for America, KIPP has grown into a national network of 82 schools -- including seven in the District -- that serve children from low-income backgrounds. KIPP students put in a longer day than most of their public school counterparts, attending class from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekdays. Many are also in class every other Saturday and for three weeks over the summer. A rigorous incentive system penalizes students for poor behavior and missed assignments. "Work hard, be nice" is the credo.

KIPP schools routinely outscore many that serve middle-class students. Its three middle schools in the District -- KEY, WILL and AIM academies, with a combined enrollment of 960 -- are among the city's highest-performing on the DC-CAS standardized tests.

Mathematica studied 22 KIPP middle schools, including AIM and KEY, comparing test scores of charter students to scores of selected students in regular public schools who matched their academic and demographic backgrounds. Researchers examined test data starting in third grade. KIPP middle schools begin in fifth.

By seventh grade, half of the KIPP schools studied showed growth in math scores equal to an additional 1.2 years of school. Reading gains for KIPP were not as dramatic but still significant, the researchers reported, reflecting an additional three-quarters of a year of growth.

Mathematica said it found no evidence that KIPP schools were systematically drawing students with more economic advantages from surrounding school systems. But attrition rates at the KIPP schools, measuring the portion of students who failed to complete four years at the schools, varied widely. In a third of the schools studied, attrition was significantly higher than in other local public schools. In another third of the KIPP schools, the rate was lower. Skeptics say that students who can't function in the rigorous school culture are often pushed out -- a claim that KIPP rejects.

Richard Barth, chief executive of the KIPP Foundation, called the study "powerful affirmation" of the program's approach.

"It is really reassuring to us and our parents and teachers that the hard work pays off," said Susan Schaeffler, executive director of KIPP schools in the District. "But there's nothing in here that would surprise my teachers. They are on the front lines doing the hard work every day."

In subsequent studies, researchers plan to examine 50 KIPP schools and drill further into the question of parental influence on achievement. Future studies also will compare students who won KIPP admission by random lottery with those who sought admission but did not win.

In addition, Mathematica is completing a study for the U.S. Education Department of 40 charter schools in 16 states that use lotteries to determine admission. Results are expected this summer.