Resolutions and comments on the flaws in process & results of the DOE’s Contract for Excellence “plan”
The DOE received over 100 public comments as well as many resolutions from Community Education Councils, protesting the city’s inadequate Contracts for Excellence and class size reduction “plan”.
Below are the comments submitted by Class Size Matters. Here is the DOE formal response.
From: Leonie Haimson [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 5:35 PM
Cc: email@example.com; John B. King Jr.
Among the many flaws in DOE’s public process this year:
1- The public comment page at http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/funding/c4e/Public+Comment+2011-2012 had no information about a deadline for public comment; see attached htm page which was saved on 11/22/011. None of the flyers cited a deadline either. (see attached)
2- The location of the D15 CEC meeting listed on the page is incorrect; the meeting took place at 284 Baltic St. in Brooklyn not 131 Livingston Street.
3- Two of the CEC meetings, for D13 and D17, were scheduled for Nov. 29, after the deadline for public comment was past.
4- There was no public outreach on the part of DOE about these meetings, aside from a notice on the C4E webpage, which violate requirements in the law about robust public notification.
5- The DOE’s power point presentations were obscure and confusing, and included no information about the city’s approved CSR plan and/or its targets and goals.
6- The DOE officials who gave these presentations read from a misleading script that said, “Contracts for Excellence is not about class size reduction but about targeting needy students”; yet it was about both class size and needy students, since the C4E law required NYC to reduce class size as its sole legal obligation in terms of results.
7- The DOE officials who gave the presentations improperly said they would not answer questions, but that attendees who had questions should email them to DOE instead.
8- The entire process of public comment took place too late in the year, in November, after most of the funds have been already spent.
9- There were no borough hearings, as required by state law, and as many as six CEC presentations were held the same evening, making it impossible for informed and concerned advocates to attend.
In all, the public process has been a mockery of what the state law intended, and instead has shut parents out of any meaningful role in the development of the city’s C4E and class size reduction plan.
The results in terms of the plan itself and the results have been disastrous:
1- DOE has not allocated a single penny centrally to class size reduction – despite the fact that the city’s only mandated, measurable goal was to reduce class size.
2- Rather than reduce class size, class sizes have risen each year for the past four, and in the early grades are the largest in eleven years.
3- Even those schools that were below the C4E goals in 2007 (D1, D4, D5, D13, D15 and several more) are now above the goals; this could not possibly be what the law was designed to achieve.
4- The city’s plan has merely left a certain proportion of the funding to principals to allocate to one of the six allowed categories, and then provided them inadequate supervision and support to ensure that they used the funds appropriately.
5- The DOE has undercut efforts from principals by cutting school budgets four years in a row, even when the state funding was increasing, which in itself violates the requirement in the C4E law that the funds be used to supplement rather than supplant.
6- DOE has also undermined principals’ efforts to reduce class size by sending them more students when their schools registers as underutilized; through a formula that pegs class sizes to at least 28 in 4th-8th grades and 30 in HS, rather than the goals in the city’s adopted class size plan.
7- DOE has not accounted for $182 million in C4E funds, but instead claims that these funds were allocated to schools as part of “maintenance of effort” without any evidence of how they have been spent.
8- The largest allocation in district-wide initiatives after team-teaching strategies is “dedicated instruction,” categorized as “additional time on task” but it is not clear how that is being defined and what is being offered in addition to what was already provided.
9- The city is also spending funds to subsidize the Leadership Academy, which in multiple studies has proven to be a complete failure.* The Contracts for Excellence program was instead designed to be used for reforms that have been proven to work.
10- There are two new spending categories this year, “maintain class size” and “minimize class size growth”; though neither one can be defined as class size reduction.
11- In any case, schools have not reduced class size; in every single district in the city and in nearly every school, class sizes have risen sharply since 2008 (see #2 and #3) and thousands of teaching positions have been eliminated.
12- There is nothing in this year’s plan which will stop class sizes from further increasing
and our children to be further disadvantaged and denied a real chance to succeed.
13- Instead, DOE has treated the C4E funds as a slush fund, and used these dollars to replace its own financial support to schools.
14- The city has consistently disinvested in the classroom, while spending excessive amounts on out of classroom positions, more consultants, bureaucrats, and an expanding contract budget that equals $4.5 billion this year, with an increase of 18%.
The result has been a total abrogation of city’s responsibility to our children and their legal obligation under the law. For more, see the attached power point.
I urge you the DOE to revise its plan based on the comments above and re-allocate every possible dollar towards hiring additional teachers and reducing class size.
* See Damon Clark, Paco Martorell and Jonah Rockoff, School Principals and School Performance, Calder Institute, 2009; and Sabatino Pasquale, Jr, The effect of the New York City Leadership Academy on student outcomes in New York City schools, 2009, which concludes: “The results offer no evidence that participation in the Leadership Academy is an effective means of preparing principals for successful leadership.”