Friday, May 25, 2012

Mike Mulgrew and Class Size

On May 14, 2012, UFT President spoke to New York City Council about the DOE continuing to report on class sizes throughout NYC. 

I have a question: If Mike was really concerned about class sizes, and was not just talking about it, wouldnt he stop the rubber room dumping procedure (which, as we know, did not stop, just was changed to many rooms with a few people rather than alot of people in a few rooms) and, want proper investigations of people to occur before removal from the classroom? And dont forget that the signpost of the harm of this process is the fact that when an employee is targeted for any reason, there is usually no one who knows how to teach the class he or she was removed from, so the kids suffer just as much as the removed person. It would seem to me that any person speaking out about class size would try to change the teacher dump in favor of proper procedures to protect the students in the class from permanent harm by not having a competent teacher taking the removed teacher's place.

How say you, Mike?
Ernest Logan (CSA President), Mike Mulgrew, Mike Mendel, Leroy Barr


Class size and temporary classroom units

Testimony submitted by UFT President Michael Mulgrew to the Report and Advisory Board Review Commission of the New York City Council

The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) wishes to thank the Report and Advisory Board Review Commission for the opportunity to share our views on reporting class size and temporary classroom units. We commend your commission for taking the time to scrutinize the demands on the New York City bureaucracy and to seek ways to streamline reporting and make all agencies efficient. While we don’t support exempting the Department of Education (DOE) from reporting scrutiny, the greater priority we believe, is examining the impact of reducing or eliminating critical information that parents use to judge the quality of their children’s education.
We strongly urge this commission and the full New York City Council to maintain the current reporting by the Department of Education (DOE) on class size and transportable classrooms.
Before adopting the mayor’s recommendations to reduce reporting in these areas, we must remember what came before and anticipate the possible outcomes.

Class Size Reporting

Before class size reporting, teachers, parents and the public were without clear information on class sizes by school. The only consistently available data for city schools were derived from the New York State Education Department (NYSED) system-wide averages aggregated by grade only. The city’s education community could not tell how many classes were too large, where the biggest class size problems existed or any pertinent details at the school level. Worse, the data was always two years old — or more.
The City Council’s addition to the New York Charter law in 2005 requiring the DOE to report average class sizes at the school, district and grade level twice a year moved the agency toward greater transparency and enabled parents and advocates to lobby effectively for the needs of their children. The DOE’s development efforts in designing the class size report have largely paid off; the report is extensive, detailed, user friendly and it’s been fine-tuned over time.
Additionally, we need both reports because they reflect two separate student counts — October 31 and January 30. Each report adds unique value to understanding the breadth of the problem with over size classes. This case is best made in viewing high school data. Year-to-year we’ve seen high school class sizes show significant fluctuation between the two counts. If the administration only released the February report for instance, the public would miss the typically larger class sizes in the fall.
Most significantly, using these new reports the Campaign for Fiscal Equity was able to quantify the number of classrooms needed in order to reduce class size in each grade and school to comply with state mandates, and identify where the DOE most needed to add seats. Combined with the School Construction Authority’s Enrollment-Capacity-Utilization Report (The Blue Book), it allowed the public to see in detail where there is available space, and whether new capacity should be added. In addition, it can pinpoint what grade levels, what districts and neighborhoods may require more classrooms.

Temporary and Non-standard Classroom Reporting

The law also requires annual detailed reporting on “temporary and non-standard classroom” space. Temporary in our view, is a misnomer. According to our review of the data, in 2001 3.86% of all public school students in traditional schools elementary through high school were in temporary structures. By 2011 the number had dropped a mere percentage point still leaving 2.86% or 28,605 of our school children trying to learn in structures never meant for long-term use. This translates to a reduction of only about 1,000 children per year back to standard classrooms.
The UFT has received numerous complaints about these trailers and their current conditions — most of them are over 10 years old. The wooden ramps are rotting, the metal siding is coming loose and other deteriorating conditions are developing. In addition, environmental issues have developed in some of the trailers. Providing instruction under sub-standard conditions compromises children’s education. Parents need to know what is going on in their schools and the earlier in the school year, the better.
The administration proffers a modest cost saving as a rationale for eliminating the November class size report and redundancy with the Blue Book as it relates to eliminating the report on temporary classroom space. But what about the cost to children who linger too long in over-size classes or risk hazards in unsuitable space improperly labeled temporary?
In addition, while the class size reporting provides a solid template for public scrutiny, the Blue Book could offer further refinements and more accurate views of capacity and utilization. It is why for instance, as the CFE pointed out in its 2007 report “A Seat of One’s Own,” class size data reports and the Blue Book must be considered together, because changing class size modifies the capacity of a school.” And from its 2010 report “Capacity Counts,” we agree with the CFE’s assessment that “Inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and a lack of transparency have wide and durable repercussions.”
In weighing the benefit to the parents, their children and the public against the negligible savings of some staff time, we believe the balance overwhelming tips toward more comprehensive, accurate reporting at the earliest possible date. Despite its preliminary nature, parents are better able to advocate for their children earlier in the term with the November class size report; and limiting their access to the temporary structures data by eliminating the October report we believe is ill-advised.
We reject the administration’s view that eliminating these reports constitutes progress. To the contrary, it’s a step backwards. We can do better for the children in our public schools. As the administration seeks greater accountability, safeguarding these reports would be a step in the right direction.
Read more: Testimony

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