The Report and Advisory Board Review Commission, a body with four mayoral appointees and three City Council members, including Speaker Quinn, and Council Members Brewer and Comrie, will hold a public meeting on October 30, 2012, to vote on whether to eliminate 21 reporting requirements and advisory boards, including the DOE’s legally mandated reporting on class size and Temporary Classroom Units (or TCUs.) (For more on this Commission, see their website at www.nyc.gov/ReportsandBoards )
Two laws were passed by the City Council in 2005, mandating reporting on class size and TCUs, as parents, elected officials, and other members of the public were seriously concerned that excessive class size and substandard facilities substantially disadvantaged our public school children. Yet there was little data available to delineate the scope of the problem. The legislation required twice yearly reporting on class size and annual reporting on TCUs.
The Mayor himself recognized the seriousness of the problem, as shown by the fact that in 2006 he promised to reduce class size in grades K-3 to 20 or less, and eliminate the need for TCUS or trailers, by means of an accelerated capital plan.
Yet class sizes in all grades have grown sharply since 2007, and in K-3rd grade are now the largest in 13 years, and the numbers of TCU’s have not significantly diminished either.
Now, the DOE proposes eliminating the November class size report, and merely keeping the February report, claiming that the second report is more “accurate.” Yet the reality is that the November report contains the MOST accurate information we have about the class sizes that children experience during the first few months of the year. These months are a crucial period for students to be able to form attachments with their teachers and engage in learning. Yet in many NYC schools, children face class sizes of 30 or more during this time, and/or are switched from class to class in order to meet the union contractual limits.
By the time of the February class size report, which includes class size data from January 31, class sizes are smaller, especially in high school. High school class sizes on average fall by 4% in general education classes and 11% in special education classes between October 31 and January 31 of each year. This is not because the DOE has hired more teachers, but because thousands of students have dropped out or been discharged, in large part as a result of being subjected to inadequate learning conditions in the form of overcrowded classes.
Thus, it is critical that the DOE be required to continue the November report, in order to capture the actual classroom conditions that students encounter at the start of the year which cause them to struggle and become disengaged.
As regards TCUs, the DOE has asked to entirely eliminate these annual reports, at various points making mixed and sometimes contradictory claims, including that the data in these reports is replicated elsewhere, that is not “essential,” and/or not “required” by the original legislation. These claims are all factually incorrect. More information on this is contained in our rebuttals to the DOE’s rationale to eliminate reporting on class size here and on TCUs here.
We are asking parents to write a letter to the Commission, urging the members to retain these two critical reporting requirements, by sending an email to ReportsAndBoards@cityhall.nyc.gov
The Chair of the Commission, Elizabeth Weinstein, director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations, is supposed to post her recommendations as to whether to waive or retain each report no later than Tuesday, October 23rd.
Our earlier testimony on the continued need for this reporting is posted here.
The testimony of CM Jackson, as well as public interest groups, on the continued need for this reporting is posted here.
The testimony of Michael Mulgrew, President of the UFT, is posted here:
The DOE’s official response to the public testimony is here:
Here are our rebuttals to DOE’s inaccurate rationales for eliminating reporting on class size and TCUs.
A sample message you can send is below. Thanks!
Dear Commission members:
To eliminate the November reporting on class size and the annual report on temporary classroom units (TCUs) would severely undercut transparency, accountability and the public’s right to know the extent to which large classes and substandard facilities continue to undermine the quality of education that NYC public school children receive. If the Department of Education were allowed to eliminate and/or restrict the reporting on these two critical issues, it would harm our ability to accurately diagnose the extent of these problems and adequately address them.
We now have the largest class sizes in the early grades in 13 years, and the number of children sitting in trailers has not significantly diminished since these laws were passed in 2005, even though the condition of these trailers has continued to erode. Instead of attempting to obscure the lack of progress we have made, our public officials should be spurred towards providing our students with reasonable sized classes, located in adequate and safe structures.
I urge you to retain the mandate for these two reports, the November class size report and the annual TCU report, which the City Council approved and the Mayor signed into law in seven years ago. Now is not the time to turn your back on NYC children.
Name, address, and affiliation if any