Thursday, January 31, 2013

New report analyzes charter schools

Posted By on Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 11:05 AM

A new report from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes indicates that the success of charter schools can be determined within the first three years. Charter schools that are well-managed, high-performing schools from the start are likely to remain so, the report says. And those with problems in their first year aren’t apt to change, it says.

“This report’s findings challenge the conventional wisdom that a young, under-performing school will improve if given time," said Margaret Raymond, executive director of the organization and the study's lead author, in a press release. "Our research shows that if you start wobbly, chances are you’ll stay wobbly."

Researchers looked at the growth in performance of thousands of charter schools in multiple states over a five-year cycle starting with their launch dates. And they examined the replication abilities of charter schools that grew into multiple school organizations. According to the report, schools are of varying quality and the level of quality typically remains constant.

The report also showed that low-performing charter schools, like traditional public schools, are more likely to see gains in the elementary grades. The chance of turning around middle and high schools is less likely.

The report raises real concerns about the wisdom of using billions in federal education money under No Child Left Behind to “fix” troubled schools. Charters are often viewed as solutions rather than alternatives to problematic traditional public schools, and there is a tendency to give failing charters too much time to reverse course.

The report suggests that it is more effective to expand the capacity of high-performing schools to serve more students.

The report doesn’t make a case in support of charter schools over traditional public schools. But it does make the case for investing more funding in great schools, replicating them where possible, and closing low-performing schools sooner rather than later.

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[UPDATED] MCC legislation clears another hurdle

Posted By on Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 8:49 AM

[UPDATE 11:55 p.m.] Winn Companies just e-mailed over the proposal it submitted to MCC. The document is attached at the end of the blog.

Original post: Legislation authorizing county officials to buy space for a new Monroe Community College downtown is headed to the full County Legislature for a vote. The Lej meets on February 12.

County Executive Maggie Brooks submitted the legislation earlier this week, and last night the Ways and Means Committee passed the legislation 9 to 1, with Democrat Carrie Andrews opposed. The county and the college administrations want to buy several buildings and part of a parking lot on Kodak's State Street site. The agreed purchase price is $2.999 million.

At the beginning of last night's committee meeting, developer Gilbert Winn made a last-minute pitch to keep the Damon City Campus in the Sibley building; Winn Development purchased the building last year. Speaking during the public forum, Winn said he could upgrade 275,000 square feet of the Sibley building for $57 million, which is $18 million less than MCC budgeted. He said his proposal also gives MCC more parking spaces than the Kodak site.

Winn wants the Legislature to table the measure so MCC can examine his proposal, but that doesn't seem likely.

Democratic Legislator Josh Bauroth asked whether anyone from MCC had reviewed Winn's proposal. In response, college President Anne Kress said officials had only received the proposal at 4:30 p.m. the same night and that at least one aspect gave her pause. The Winn plan lists an acquisition price of $7.6 million, and SUNY may not look favorably on that proposal, she said, since the college is able to get more space at a lower price from Kodak.

The SUNY board has to approve the purchase of the property. Yesterday, MCC received a letter (see below) from SUNY saying that it believes the purchase of the Kodak property is reasonable at this time.

The county, which holds the college's property in trust, plans to purchase 547,000 square feet of building space from Kodak. The state will reimburse the college for half of the costs of acquiring and renovating space used for educational purposes.

Democrat Andrews, explaining her vote against the Kodak purchase, expressed concern about the certainty of state funding, and said she wanted more time for MCC to review Winn's proposal. Republicans Dick Yolevich, Rick Antelli, Anthony Daniele, Carmen Gumina, Ciaran Hanna, and Steve Tucciarello voted for the legislation, as did Democrats Cynthia Kaleh and Bauroth, though Bauroth paused before casting his vote.

SUNY letter by

Winn proposal by

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Vargas lobbies Albany for education spending

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas was in Albany yesterday responding to Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget and urging lawmakers to increase funding for the Rochester school district, the lowest performing of the state's Big Five school systems.

Vargas wants more funding to meet a district goal of getting 90 percent of city third-graders to read at grade level — that number is currently about 30 percent. Vargas sees reading proficiency as the foundation for learning and one of the main reasons many city students score poorly on tests and often don’t finish school.

He also wants Cuomo to increase the proposed $20 million in funding for expanded learning. Vargas said city students can reach the state’s higher achievement standards, but they need more time. And teachers, he said, need more professional development.

And Vargas wants the state to fund full-day kindergarten. Attendance in kindergarten is now a legal requirement for Rochester’s children, but the state only funds a half-day, with the district funding the other half. If the state could fund the whole day, Vargas said, the district would be able to employ about 60 reading teachers for all grade levels.

Vargas also talked about the need for a more flexible transportation policy. If the district could bus students who live closer than 1.5 miles — the current threshold for busing — it would encourage more families to choose neighborhood schools, he said.

Speaking before the New York Senate Finance Committee, Assembly Ways and Means Committee, Senate Education Committee, and the Assembly Education Committee, Vargas said most of his funding recommendations align closely with the governor's own proposals.

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MCC legislation advances

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 8:45 AM

County Legislature Democrats still have questions and concerns about Monroe Community College's plan for a new downtown campus at Kodak's State Street site.

Earlier this week, County Executive Maggie Brooks submitted legislation that, if approved, would authorize the county to buy several buildings and part of a parking lot from Kodak. The Recreation and Education Committee approved the legislation last night; "yes" votes came from the three Republican members as well as Democratic Legislator Glenn Gamble, while Democratic Legislator Joe Morelle Jr. voted against the measure. Morelle said he's not convinced that Kodak is the best choice for students or taxpayers.

In interviews prior to meeting, Democratic Leader Carrie Andrews said she still has significant concerns about parts of the project, including the amount of space MCC needs versus how much it's actually buying.

Democratic Legislator Cynthia Kaleh says that, because of the information her caucus has received from MCC officials, she is more comfortable with a Kodak campus. Andrews and Kaleh serve on the Ways and Means Committee, which will take up the MCC legislation during its meeting at 6 p.m. today.

Last night, Gamble and Morelle each questioned MCC President Anne Kress and representatives ofthe county administration. They focused on utilities, the amount of space MCC is purchasing, and transportation issues. The responses:

· Kress said the county and college haven't decided whether they'll hook the Kodak site buildings into a city steam heating district. The buildings they're purchasing include heating and cooling utilities for the entire complex and MCC could use that resource instead. Kress said the issue "still needs to be defined" in a final purchase contract.

· Kress also said that college and Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority officials are talking about ways to improve bus transportation for city campus students. About 40 percent of MCC students — the figure includes the Brighton and city campuses — use public transportation, Kress said.

· The state is aware of how much space MCC wants to acquire and that not all of it will be used immediately, Kress said. She said she doesn't expect any problems with state aid because of unused space. The extra space creates the opportunity to expand educational and work force training programs. It could also house some administrative offices that are currently located on the Brighton campus, Kress said. That would free up instructional space on the Brighton campus, which has limited space for expansion, she said.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

School choice is a slice of the education pie

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2013 at 12:42 PM

The 30 or so children assembled in Rochester Prep Elementary School’s gymnasium are not students; they’re scholars in the charter school’s "believe it and you’ll be it" vernacular. At times, they jumped to attention, marched, and even stepped to a cheer in honor of the higher education institution their homeroom is named after, Howard University.

The students were participating in a press event to raise awareness about National School Choice Week. Clad in dark blue shirts and khaki trousers, they are undeniably the school’s best advertising. Rochester Prep’s emphasis on high achievement coupled with discipline exemplifies the reasons parents are attracted to charter schools, which are perhaps the most tangible result of the school choice movement.

Former Rochester school board member Allen Williams and City Council President Lovely Warren presided over the event at Rochester Prep. Williams, who recently founded the New York Center for Educational Justice, said parents should be able to choose the school that is best for their child’s education. Boundaries and ZIP codes shouldn’t dictate enrollment, said.

He says he also wants to see the state’s cap on charter schools lifted, and calls for parity in funding between charter and traditional public schools. The latter would almost certainly sound the death knell for traditional public schools.

Williams, who lost his seat on the city school board to Mary Adams, is not optimistic about the future of city schools. While there are pockets of success, he says, “The district has been at it for the last 40 years, and what we’ve seen is decline.”

There are a lot of good teachers, he says, who do what they can.

“But there are a lot of people who benefit from the system the way it is,” Williams says.

And that may be the biggest difference between Rochester Prep and some city schools. The beneficiaries at Rochester Prep are clearly the students who are scoring higher on tests than most of their peers in the city school district.

And they’re doing it without the benefit of higher paid teachers or a modernized building.

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Fracking waste water questions linger

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2013 at 10:02 AM

As New York's environmental review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing progresses, there are still unanswered questions about what happens to the waste water from drilling. It's unclear whether state municipal water treatment plants would be able to handle heavily contaminated fracking waste.

That's why a recent article on Mother Jones' website caught my attention. It points out that in Pennsylvania, where the bulk of the fracking is taking place, most of the waste water is sent to Ohio for disposal. Citing an Akron Beacon Journal article, it says that in 2011, 35 percent of the waste water — about 7 million barrels — from Pennsylvania was sent to Ohio to be disposed of in underground injection wells.

New York's proposed regulations stipulate that any driller who wants to use high-volume hydraulic fracturing in a shale formation would have to have a DEC-approved waste water disposal plan. But the acceptable disposal options are unclear. (This ProPublica article on injection wells says that large disposal wells have been "deemed unsafe" in New York and Pennsylvania.)

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Brooks submits MCC legislation

Posted By on Mon, Jan 28, 2013 at 4:50 PM

County Executive Maggie Brooks has submitted legislation that, if approved by the Legislature, would authorize Monroe Community College to acquire new space for a downtown campus.

Specifically, the legislation authorizes MCC to buy several buildings on Kodak's State Street site. The County Legislature's Recreation and Education Committee will take up the referral during its meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The full Legislature meets on February 12. (The legislation appears at the end of this blog.)

The legislation says the purchase price would be just shy of $3 million. The college would buy several buildings and part of a parking lot.

The college's board chose buildings on Kodak's State Street site as its preferred location for a new, permanent downtown campus. MCC plans to invest $72 million to buy and renovate the buildings and move the downtown campus from its current location in the Sibley building on East Main Street.

Rochester Mayor Tom Richards opposes the move, saying students would be better served by keeping the campus at the Sibley building. Legislature Democrats have sided with the mayor. But in December, they joined with Republicans to unanimously support a measure granting permission for the county to borrow $28 million for a new downtown campus.

This statement from Brooks was posted on the county's website:

“Today, at the request of MCC President Anne Kress, I proudly submitted official legislation to the County Legislature that authorizes the acquisition of what will become a state-of-the-art new campus for MCC in downtown Rochester. The College’s plan has been thoroughly vetted and received widespread community support in multiple public forums and throughout the site selection process. I am pleased that the planning stage is now complete and I look forward to seeing MCC begin construction on a new downtown home that will best serve the needs of its students for years to come.”

MCC legislation by

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Another crazy mayor's race in store for Rochester?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 28, 2013 at 3:28 PM

Did you enjoy your two-month respite from local election news? I hope so, because that’s over now.

On the national level, people started sizing up 2016 almost the second the 2012 elections ended. Hillary Clinton can’t buy a pair of shoes without people reading ulterior motives into the purchase. “Hillary bought flats today — a sensible choice for someone who plans to spend a lot of time on the campaign trail!”

Lovel

Locally, though, we caught a bit of a breather after the mayoral chaos of 2011 and the big Brooks-Slaughter Congressional clash last year. That ends today with the announcement that City Council President Lovely Warren may run for Rochester mayor.

I’d been laboring under the presumption that if incumbent Tom Richards runs again — no means a sure thing — he’d have a clear field. After all, the general consensus is that he’s been a strong mayor, and the party seemed to be behind him, even after the rocky start.

Of course, more than one person — including Molly Clifford, the city’s director of fire administration, and City Council member Elaine Spaull put his or her mayoral dreams on hold in 2011 so Richards could run. And it’s been clear for a long time that Warren would go for mayor, the only question being when.

Questions about Warren’s connection to state Assembly member David Gantt are bound to come up. Some people feel that Gantt already has too much power and influence in Rochester and they’d undoubtedly be nervous about a Gantt protégé in the top job. But there have been concerns about Richards’ background, too. Richards comes from the corporate world and some people initially questioned whether he truly understood the poverty affecting Rochester’s inner city; they worried he’d lean in favor of business interests. This election could turn on whether Richards has done enough to dispel that perception.

Anyway, I’m betting that Warren’s announcement smokes out other wannabes and finally gets Richards off the fence.

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Week Ahead: Chat with the police chief, fighting violence in Rochester, Pittsford project meeting, A Taste of Soul

Posted By on Mon, Jan 28, 2013 at 9:20 AM

Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard will hold the last in a series of one-hour Twitter town halls at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, January 29. You can ask the chief questions on any topic and offer comments on policing in Rochester.

You must have a Twitter account to participate. Follow #rpdchief.


Rochester Mayor Tom Richards and Police Chief James Sheppard will host their third public forum on violence in Rochester at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 29, in the Edgerton Community Center, 41 Backus Street in the Northwest Quadrant.

"I want to hear directly from our citizens about their experiences and their ideas to reduce violence,” Richards says. “I encourage everyone to take part in these community forums so we can create strategies that will have a lasting effect on decreasing violent behavior."

Citizens are asked to discuss the issue of violence under four broad categories: Open-air drug sales and drug houses; gangs, guns, and the culture of violence; bullying and truancy; and house parties.

At the meetings, RPD crime prevention officers are available at breakout sessions for each of topic and members of city staff serve as facilitators. Citizen suggestions are recorded and used to enhance the Rochester Police Department's long-term violence-reduction strategies.

The final forum is on Tuesday, February 5, in Cobbs Hill Park, Lake Riley Lodge, 100 Norris Drive. Christine Carrie Fien


The Village of Pittsford Board of Trustees meets at 5 p.m. today (Monday, January 28) to discuss an issue pertaining to the controversial proposal to put an apartment project at 75 Monroe Avenue.

A notice on the village website says trustees will discuss a “guidance memo” to the village Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals and the Architectural Preservation and Review Board regarding 75 Monroe. The memo is in draft form, so copies are not publicly available. It could be an effort by trustees to outline what the boards should focus on when reviewing the project.

The meeting is at Village Hall, 21 North Main Street. Jeremy Moule

The Rochester school board will present A Taste of Soul from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 1, in honor of Black History Month. The culinary traditions of African Americans will be prepared by the students of East High’s culinary program.

The event is at East High School, 1901 East Main Street. It’s free and open to the public, but early registration is recommended, since seating is limited. Registration: www.rcsdk12.org/atasteofsoul or 262-8621. Tim Louis Macaluso

Friday, January 25, 2013

School Choice Week rally in Rochester

Posted By on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 at 2:49 PM

City Council President Lovely Warren and advocates of school choice will hold a rally at 8:45 a.m. on Monday, January 28, in recognition of National School Choice Week. Warren will talk about the achievements and importance of Rochester's charter schools. The rally will be held at True North Rochester Prep Elementary School, 899 Jay Street.

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