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But what about failing schools?
October 2, 2014

Source: Associated Press

By Nicole Brisbane, DFER-NY State Director

It’s the fourth week of school for NYC Public Schools, and we’ve long awaited Chancellor Fariña’s plan for turning around the schools with the largest number of students who are not meeting proficiency on state exams - schools we know serve significant populations of poor and minority students. Finally, the new plan was revealed yesterday at P.S. 503/506 in Brooklyn.

Fariña’s plan started strong with a revamp of the letter grade system previously assigned to schools. The old letter grade system was initially intended to be a tool for internal use, showing schools’ growth on test scores. But in reality, the system provided very little useful information for parents. For example, a school could have earned a high letter grade based on a leap in growth on test scores, but could still have dismal scores overall. Conversely, a school with top test scores but little growth could have received a low letter grade.

The new system takes into account many of the same metrics, including test scores, graduation rates, parent and student survey data, teacher quality rating and curriculum quality. Schools will fall somewhere on a spectrum (including not meeting, approaching, meeting and exceeding) for each metric, but there will be no overall ratings in an effort to force parents to dig a bit deeper into the data points.

Fariña said she plans to use the revamped evaluations to design support specific to schools and that those conversations should be taking place sometime in January.

While we agree the new plans for comprehensive school evaluations are a good thing, we continue to ask, what about failing schools? Many have said that under the Bloomberg administration, school closings and the punitive nature of the rating system were not in the best interest of the communities. Other districts have tried various approaches like creating magnet programs encouraging mixed-income schools, changing leadership and teachers at low-performing schools, giving school leaders more autonomy to create the changes they wish to see in their schools, or allowing public charters to take over low-performing schools. There’s research on all of these approaches, and years of seeing them play out around the country.

The reality of the new rollout is that it doesn’t encourage any changes in what schools are actually doing; it just attempts to measure them on a different scale. At the very least, what we know to be true is that doing nothing is not the answer. Stalling to develop these “nonplans” means another school year will go by where kids are not getting a quality education, and the lack of urgency around what that means for students and families is an injustice.

Maybe come January we’ll hear about the bold new initiatives for low performing schools… but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Guess those principals, teachers, families and students will just have to keep waiting.

Nicole Brisbane is originally from Miami, FL, born to immigrant parents. After graduating from Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Florida State University, she taught middle school intensive reading and language arts to students who were 4 or more years behind their peers. Read more about Nicole here.

DFER-NY Releases Statement on Astorino's Education Plan
September 2, 2014

DFER-NY Releases Statement on Astorino's Education Plan

Craig Johnson, Democrats for Education Reform NY Board Chair, issued the following statement on NY gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino's education plan:

"Rob Astorino's education plan reads like it had been gathering dust in a cave someplace for several years. Rather than dealing with accountability and standards in smart ways, Astorino's plan would take New York back to the days when mediocrity was celebrated, taxpayers were frustrated, and students were not being prepared for the rapidly changing world."


While Adults Play Politics, Kids Continue to Lose
August 15, 2014

By Nicole Brisbane, DFER-NY State Director

I’m not sure I understand Assemblywoman Deborah Glick’s rationale to deprive certain kids of getting a good education. In an op-ed by the New York Post Editorial Board on August 8, they noted that she wrote a letter to the chairman of the State University of New York Board of Trustees demanding they ban new public charter schools in District 2, which she partially represents. Her reasoning for the ban is because District 2 has some of the highest-performing traditional district schools.

District 2 covers some of the wealthiest communities in Manhattan, on the Upper East Side and Midtown West and below. Once you dig deeper into the facts you realize the high-performing schools she references are serving over 80% white students. In the same district, schools that serve a majority African-American and Latino students aren’t making the grade, with dismal performance on state tests.

Parents looking for better alternatives seek out coveted spots in public charters that have to turn kids away in droves because of space. Instead of supporting this opportunity for African-American and Latino students, Assemblywoman Glick seeks to limit it. I guess being an elected official in Manhattan means only representing the interests of white kids who go to good schools.

To read the full op-ed, click here.

Nicole Brisbane is originally from Miami, FL, born to immigrant parents. After graduating from Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Florida State University, she taught middle school intensive reading and language arts to students who were 4 or more years behind their peers. Read more about Nicole here.

Democrats for Education Reform Names Nicole Brisbane as New York State Director
August 12, 2014

Devin Boyle | 202.445.0416 | Devin@dfer.org


Democrats for Education Reform Names Nicole Brisbane as New York State Director

New York - August 12, 2014 - Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) announced today that it has hired Nicole Brisbane to serve as New York State Director. Brisbane comes to DFER from Teach for America, where she led new site development efforts as part of the national team.

“Nicole is someone who has fought for underserved youth for her entire career, whether in the classroom, the courtroom, or in policy advocacy, so we’re excited to have someone of her dedication as our new state director in New York,” said Joe Williams, DFER’s executive director. “With her diverse experience, Nicole will be a valuable champion for ensuring New York’s public school students have access to a high quality education.”

Raised in Miami, Florida, Brisbane graduated from Florida State University and began her career in education as a middle school reading teacher. Later, she attended Emory Law School where she spent time as an Education Pioneer Fellow with D.C. Public Schools and a juvenile public defender and law clerk at a civil rights firm. After law school, Brisbane joined Teach for America as the Director of District and Community Partnerships in Miami, moving into a national TFA role in 2012.

“As DFER’s New York State Director, I will continue to work to build an education system that provides opportunities for all children,” said Brisbane. “There are so many great coalition partners and leaders in the Democratic Party that are working on behalf of New York’s public school children and I look forward to working alongside all of them.”


About Democrats for Education Reform
Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is a political reform organization with 13 state affiliates that cultivates and supports leaders in the Democratic Party who champion America's public schoolchildren.

Oh No He Didn't!
June 16, 2014

By Joe Williams

Poor Rubain Dorancy had no idea what he was walking into. Dorancy, a candidate for the New York State Senate, joined tens of thousands of Americans last week in noting the importance of the Vergara v. California lawsuit. Now he’s got Mike Mulgrew in his grill.

To bring you up to speed on all of the fake-drama that has ensued in the last few days so you can appreciate Dorancy’s plight:

  • Education Secretary Arne Duncan issues a pro-public education reaction to the judge’s ruling. (Joining other pro-public education figures like Rep. George Miller in highlighting the need to do better by kids.) 
  • AFT President rips Duncan to shreds on Twitter and in the press for siding with the young victims in the case and not standing with the rank-and-file in her union. While EdWeek notes that Duncan’s comments were actually “pretty anemic as these things go, and took a typically middle-of-the-road approach. It called on districts and unions to collaborate to write laws that better balance student and adult needs.” 
  • Press reports in New York suggest that Dorancy may now lose the backing of the once-powerful United Federation of Teachers because he dared to re-tweet Secretary Duncan’s original tweet after the Vergara verdict was announced. “With a tweet, Dorancy shot himself in the foot as far as teachers are concerned,” one ball-busting union boss told City and State newspaper. 

If it is any consolation, Mr. Dorancy, look no further than Mayor Bill de Blasio, who probably wouldn’t be mayor right now if the UFT had decided to endorse him in the Democratic Primary. This too shall pass. Keep fighting for the little guys.

UPDATE: Yesterday, Secretary Duncan doubled-down on his comments, offering even more details on what he sees as the lessons learned coming out of Vergara. Important read.


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