Bill de Blasio Modifies Charter School Expansion in New York City!

Dear Commons Community

Mayor Bill de Blasio, seeking to curb the influence of outside providers of education, said yesterday that he would block three charter schools from using space inside New York City public school buildings while leaving untouched a majority of 49 plans rushed through by his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg at the end of his tenure as mayor.  As reported in the New York Times:

“Under the plan, Mr. de Blasio would reverse the decision of his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg, to provide free real estate to the schools so that they could open new programs this fall. The schools had already hired principals and teachers and were in the midst of recruiting students.

Still, Mr. de Blasio, who was a strident critic of charter schools during his bid for mayor last year, showed signs of compromise. In reviewing 49 proposals to share school space approved under Mr. Bloomberg, he left untouched a majority of plans affecting charter schools.

In explaining the changes, city officials noted that some plans approved by Mr. Bloomberg would have required elementary school students to attend class inside high school buildings, and others would have required cutting programs for students with disabilities.

Marion Fleming and other parents at Success Academy Harlem 4, one of the schools that will be unable to move into a public school building, expressed frustration at the decision on Thursday.

“There was a rush to make these decisions by the previous administration,” Mr. de Blasio told reporters on Thursday. “We decided that some of these were not fair, did not make sense, and we took action.”

In limbo since Mr. de Blasio’s victory in November, many charter school leaders were relieved that the new mayor had left most of their programs intact. Some worried about uncertainties ahead. Mr. de Blasio has pledged to charge rent to charter schools, and he has said he will deny, at least temporarily, future requests to use space inside public school buildings — a lifeline for many charter schools given the high costs of real estate in the city.

James Merriman, chief executive of the New York City Charter School Center, said he was disappointed in Mr. de Blasio’s decision on the three schools. “All of these schools were ready to give children a rigorous education in safe environments,” he said in a statement. “Now it seems that they cannot.”

Two of the three schools were proposed by Success Academy Charter Schools, a nonprofit group, and without the public space will most likely be unable to open. Success Academy, which was also involved in the plan to expand the third school, is run by Eva S. Moskowitz, a former city councilwoman whom Mr. de Blasio frequently criticized during the mayoral campaign. He singled out Ms. Moskowitz in expressing his frustration with education in the city, declaring last year: “She has to stop being tolerated, enabled, supported.”

In a statement on Thursday, Ms. Moskowitz said she was startled by the decision — “no parent should have to go through this” — and later spoke to hundreds of parents, students and staff members at Success Academy Harlem 4, the third school affected. She has estimated that the mayor’s plan would affect about 600 students, who are likely to attend public schools instead.”

Mayor de Blasio is right in reviewing these “rushed to implement” arrangements and is showing a great deal of moderation and compromise in reaching his decision about the placement of these schools.  He should be congratulated with the balance that he and Carmen Farina are showing as they try to put the entire public school system on the right track.


Mayors Martin Walsh and Bill de Blasio to Skip St. Patrick’s Day Parades over Gay Ban!

Dear Commons Community,

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh will not participate in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade unless organizers allow a group of gay military veterans to march, joining New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio in protesting parade policies on gay groups.  As reported in The Huffington Post:

“Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants, said Thursday he’s been trying to broker a deal with the city’s parade organizers to allow a gay veterans group sponsored by MassEquality to march in this year’s parade. He said allowing gay groups to participate is long overdue.

“It’s 2014 — it’s far beyond the time where we should be even having this discussion because they’re veterans who fought for this country just like any other veteran,” Walsh said.

“I made a commitment during the campaign … that I would fight for equality and that’s what this is all about.”

But parade planners appeared unwilling to budge.

Lead parade organizer Philip Wuschke Jr. said gay people are not prohibited from marching with other groups. But he said organizers do not want the parade to turn into a demonstration for a particular group.

“The theme of the parade is St. Patrick’s Day. It is not a sexually oriented parade,” he said. “All we want to do is have a happy parade. The parade is a day of celebration, not demonstration.”

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he will skip the nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan because participants are now allowed to carry signs or banners identifying themselves as gay.

“I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city,” de Blasio said during a press conference earlier this month. “But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade.”

The parade, a tradition that predates New York City itself, draws more than 1 million people every year to watch about 200,000 participants, including marching bands and thousands of uniformed city workers. It has long been a mandatory stop on the city’s political trail.”

The issue of gays in St. Patrick’s Day Parades has had a controversial history but with the recent  gains we have seen with gay rights and same-sex marriage, it is indeed “long overdue”  for parade organizers to rethink their policies.



Major General Paul Eaton Slams Dick Cheney for Criticizing President Obama’s Foreign Policy!

Dear Commons Community,

Major General Paul D. Eaton, who served more than 30 years in the United States Army in combat and post-combat assignments in Iraq, Bosnia and Somalia,in an interview on Sirius Radio yesterday slammed  former Vice President Dick Cheney for criticizing President Barack Obama on foreign policy.

On Monday, Cheney criticized President Obama’s proposal that called for shrinking the Army to its smallest size in 74 years, saying it would do “long-term damage to our military.”

“And I think the whole thing is not driven by any change in world circumstances, it is driven by budget considerations,” Cheney said. “[Obama] would much rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops.”

Cheney failed to note that military families redeemed more than $100 million in food stamps on military bases in 2013.

During a phone interview with SiriusXM Progress, Eaton focused on Cheney’s role in the disastrous Iraq role.

“Vice President Cheney is one of the architects of the worst foreign policy disaster of the 21st century,” Eaton said. “… the decision to attack Iraq, and to do so in such an incompetent manner, does not give him a platform to say anything about the foreign policy under execution today.”

“Vice President Cheney is who he is. It’s unfortunate that he has not followed the guidance and the model of his former boss, President Bush, and gone off quietly to write his memoir,” Eaton also said

Kudos for General Eaton!



Major New Study: Obesity Rate Drops 43% for 2-5 Year-Olds – Stays the Same for Everybody Else!

Dear Commons Community,

A report, just issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found a 43 percent drop in the obesity rate among 2- to 5-year-old children over the past decade, the first broad decline in an epidemic that often leads to lifelong struggles with weight and higher risks for cancer, heart disease and stroke. Cynthia L. Ogden, the lead author of the report, which will be published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, cautioned that these very young children make up a tiny fraction of the American population and that the figures for the broader society had remained flat, and had even increased for women over 60. A third of adults and 17 percent of youths are obese, the federal survey found. Still, the lower obesity rates in the very young bode well for the future, researchers said.  As reported in the New York Times:

“The drop emerged from a major federal health survey that experts say is the gold standard for evidence on what Americans weigh. The trend came as a welcome surprise to researchers. New evidence has shown that obesity takes hold young: Children who are overweight or obese at 3 to 5 years old are five times as likely to be overweight or obese as adults.

A smattering of states have reported modest progress in reducing childhood obesity in recent years, and last year the federal authorities noted a slight decline in the obesity rate among low-income children. But the figures on Tuesday showed a sharp fall in obesity rates among all 2- to 5-year-olds, offering the first clear evidence that America’s youngest children have turned a corner in the obesity epidemic. About 8 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds were obese in 2012, down from 14 percent in 2004.

“This is the first time we’ve seen any indication of any significant decrease in any group,” said Cynthia L. Ogden, a researcher for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the lead author of the report, which will be published in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, on Wednesday. “It was exciting.”

There was little consensus on why the decline in the 3-5 year-old population might be happening…”



Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Pre-K Plan Will Need Space and Teachers!

Dear Commons Community,

Universal pre-K’s time has come in New York City.  While Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina figure out how to finance it, logistical questions are arising. Specifically:  Where are the classrooms and where are the certified teachers for pre-K education?  As reported in the New York Daily News:

“Fariña and de Blasio begin their project with just 20,000 existing full-day, pre-K seats for city 4-year-olds. They seek to more than double that number to 56,000 seats in the school year that starts in September.

By the middle of the following school year, January 2016, they promise to have enough seats for 73,250 city children, a project that will cost $750 million each year to operate.

To create the seats they need in year one of the project, de Blasio’s team promises to convert 26,000 existing half-day pre-K seats to full-day seats.

They’ll upgrade about 12,000 existing day care slots to meet pre-K specs. And they’ll create about 12,000 new classroom seats from scratch.

Observers say the first roadblock Team de Blasio will run into is finding space for those new classrooms. The new seats alone will require about 1,000 new classrooms by September, and another 1,000 in the following year…

Finding qualified teachers poses another challenge. The expansion will require the addition of 2,000 pre-K instructors, all of whom must pass lengthy background checks. Education Department officials said they do not anticipate a problem filling all the positions.’

Construction of schools and classrooms has never been one of NYC Department of Education’s long suit.  We hope that facilities administrators plan well how the construction will be carried out.  In addition, the schools of education in New York City and especially at CUNY should start preparing now to ramp up their early childhood certification programs.



Sochi Closing Ceremony: Grand and Colorful – From Russia with Pride!


Olympics Closing 7

Dear Commons Community,

The closing ceremonies at the Sochi Olympic Games were nothing short of spectacular.  They were a rightful and proud celebration of Russian culture,  music, dance, art, and literature through the centuries. The color, pageantry, and special effects were as grand as anything ever seen on television. I thought the NBC commentators could have provided a few more details of the scenes and depictions.  Here is an excerpt from a New York Times reporter:

“They opened with an excerpt from Mussorgsky’s lovely “Pictures at an Exhibition”; featured a children’s choir whose members were drawn from all over Russia; starred a giddy crowd of postcompetition Olympic athletes from various countries, rushing in all at once; and hustled people on and off the stage so rapidly that it was sometimes hard to catch why they had been there at all.

There were references to Kandinsky and to Chagall. There was music by Rachmaninoff, Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz. There were ballet dancers. Huge banners depicting some of Russia’s greatest authors — Tolstoy, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, the dissident writer Solzhenitsyn — were displayed as people ran around waving books in the air.

In a charming touch, witty fun was also made of the fact that one of the Olympic rings had malfunctioned during the opening ceremony, leaving an incomplete Olympic insignia of just four rings. This time the Olympic ring pattern was made by performers fanning out across the arena: They opened into the first four rings, waited several minutes and then finally formed the fifth, which was in itself a relief.

There is no doubt that Russia felt it had won a kind of cosmic gold medal during these Games, not least because they seemed to vindicate the grand ambitions of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, whose dream of holding an Olympics here sometimes seemed based more on his own grandiose self-confidence than on reality.

But it worked. After all the fears of terrorist attacks, none materialized.”

Congratulations to Russia and its people for what was accomplished during the two weeks of these games!


Olympics Closing 2

Olympics Closing 3

Olympics Closing 4

Olympics Closing 5

Olympics Closing 6


Olympics Closing I

First Meeting between NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and Charter School Advocates!

Dear Commons Community,

New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and representatives from charter schools had their first meeting yesterday since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office.  While one newspaper account expected the meeting to be “tense”, every indication was that it was cordial and respectful.  As reported in the New York Times:

“During his mayoral campaign, Bill de Blasio criticized charter schools, which are privately run and publicly funded, citing their “destructive impact” on traditional schools. He proposed charging rent to many of them, and spoke of stopping pre-existing plans to expand or open 28 charter schools in the coming school year.

After the private meeting, however, participants said that little to no policy was discussed. Instead, they focused on issues such as “serving our kids who are low-income and at-risk,” said Rafiq Kalam Id-Din, a teacher and principal at Teaching Firms of America Professional Preparatory Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

“On that we are collectively united,” he said.

There were indications of conflict that could still arise. After the meeting, James Merriman, the chief executive of the New York City Charter School Center, urged Mr. de Blasio, who did not attend, to abandon his proposal to halt the expansion or opening of the charter schools, which are slated to serve about 5,600 students. Students have already enrolled in classes at these schools in the fall. “I have a simple question for him,” said Mr. Merriman of the mayor. “Can he look every parent in the eye who expects to send their child to these schools in the fall and say to them, ‘The school that I will now force you to go to is going to be better than the school I am taking away from you’?”

Mr. Merriman said he expected Mr. de Blasio to make a decision on the proposal this week.

Charter schools flourished under Mayor Bloomberg, benefiting from Wall Street donations and free rent. Now, the charter school sector is struggling to determine how it will work with the de Blasio administration.

There are 183 charter schools in New York City, serving about 70,000 children, or about 6 percent of the student population citywide. Some parents, teachers and principals have argued fiercely against policies that would restrict charter growth. They have organized rallies attended by thousands and advertised extensively to share their view.

More recently, though, charter school leaders have signaled their willingness to work with the administration. This month, a coalition representing 45 schools and educational groups, and more than 13,000 students, released a statement announcing a desire for “a more collaborative working relationship with Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña.”

Charter school advocates would be wise to find common ground in working with the new administration.



Ukraine: Power to the People!

Ukraine Protests

Dear Commons Community,

As events unfold in the Ukraine, it appears that the protesters have succeeded in having President Viktor Yanukovich removed from office. As reported by Reuters:

“Ukraine’s parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovich after three months of street protests, while his arch-rival Yulia Tymoshenko hailed opposition demonstrators as “heroes” in an emotional speech in Kiev after she was released from jail.

Yanukovich abandoned the capital to the opposition on Saturday and denounced what he described as a coup after several days of bloodshed this week that claimed 82 lives.

Supporters cheered former prime minister Tymoshenko as she left the hospital where she had been held. When she spoke later in Kiev, her reception was mixed.

Her release marks a radical transformation in the former Soviet republic of 46 million people. Removal of the pro-Russian Yanukovich should pull Ukraine away from Moscow’s orbit and closer to Europe.

It is also a reversal for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dream of recreating as much as possible of the Soviet Union in a new Eurasian Union. Moscow had counted on Yanukovich to deliver Ukraine as a central member.

Members of the Ukrainian parliament, who abandoned Yanukovich after this week’s bloodshed, applauded and sang the national anthem after declaring him constitutionally unable to carry out his duties. An early election was set for May 25…

In a television interview the station said was conducted in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, Yanukovich said he would not resign or leave the country, and called decisions by parliament “illegal”.

“The events witnessed by our country and the whole world are an example of a coup d’etat,” he said, comparing it to the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany in the 1930s.

Interfax news agency said border guards refused to let Yanukovich exit the country when he tried to fly out from the eastern city of Donetsk…

Despite Yanukovich’s defiance, the dismantling of his authority seemed all but complete. His cabinet promised a transition to a new government, the police declared themselves behind the protesters and his arch-rival Tymoshenko went free.”

I would add that the faces in the photo above are those of people who have probably worked hard all their lives and simply want a better future for their children and grandchildren!



University Outlook Article – The Hype, the Backlash, and the Future of MOOCs!

Dear Commons Community,

If you get a chance, please check out my article just published by University Outlook, entitled “The hype, the backlash, and the future of MOOCs”.  In it, I try to provide a balanced treatment of where MOOC technology fits into the overall scheme of online learning and speculate about its future.  MOOCs have much to offer but their purveyors need to tone down the hype and stop treating them as a solution to all the issues in higher education.   Here is an excerpt:

“Speculating about the future is always a risk, however, it is desirable for trying to understand what MOOCs can contribute for the betterment of education.  Without a doubt, MOOCs have presented possibilities of scale that need to be evaluated and considered by faculty, administrators, and policymakers.  MOOC providers also have capital and resources that can be put to good use if invested wisely.  Some thoughts.

First, the founders of MOOC companies and their investors need to tone down their own hype  and stop trying to sell their products as if they will resolve all of education’s problems. For example, should the MOOC approach really be designed for students who have remediation and other learning needs and who lack the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Daphne Kollner, founder of Coursera, recently commented at the Sloan Consortium Annual Conference that such students would probably better be served by face-to-face instruction. (Kollner, November 2013)

Second, with the substantial financial resources at their disposal, MOOC companies should develop more pedagogically sound course materials that can be used in blended online formats rather than fully online formats.  In fact the future of MOOCs, might indeed lie with blended learning that allows for the meaningful involvement of faculty.   To do so, they may have to even jettison the MOOC brand because their final products may not be massive in terms of hundreds of thousands of student enrollments and may not be open or free.  Rather than course providers and developers, they might rebrand themselves more as providers of high-quality content giving faculty the option as to how to best use their materials.

Third, as private enterprises, MOOC developers need to figure out a way to return their investments and make a profit.  The past fifty years of instructional software providers are littered with hundreds of companies that have went bankrupt.   As some point, the initial capital will run out and these companies need to generate revenue.  It is likely that some will succeed but some will not. This is a major conundrum for MOOC developers that distinguishes them from faculty and instructional design competitors at colleges who develop their own online courses and materials on modest budgets primarily for pedagogical reasons and not with the intent to turn a profit.   It might be that MOOC providers can concentrate on developing and providing courseware targeted for certain disciplines and subject matter that can benefit from enriched content.  It might be that they can concentrate on specific student populations such as the adult and continuing education market.  It might be that MOOCs can be used as recruitment tools for students in colleges or for employees in private industry especially those interested in serving and working with global populations.

There are a number of possibilities but the MOOC developers know best their resources and should study their markets carefully to determine where they can provide a valuable service or product.  If they nurture these markets and deliver the best products they can, they will secure their future.”


20th Annual Sloan-C ALN Conference – Call for Presentations!

Dear Commons Community,

I am passing along this email I received from one of my colleagues at the Sloan Consortium announcing the call for presentations for its Annual ALN Conference which will be held in October in Orlando.  If you have not been to one of these conferences, it is the premiere event for information and research on  online learning.



Dear Sloan-C friends,

We are excited to announce that the 20th Annual Sloan Consortium International Conference on Online Learning Call for Presentations is now OPEN! Please help us spread the word by sharing the messages below with your friends and colleagues (deadline is May 5th, 2014).

Message to email/post on Facebook or Linkedin:

Call for Presentations is open for the 20th Annual Sloan-C International Conference on Online Learning (ALN): Driving Innovation with Online Learning! Since this year’s theme is “Online Learning: Driving Innovation with Online Learning,” the Sloan Consortium is specifically looking for proposals that address:

Be a part of this e-learning experience that will be held at Disney World’s Swan & Dolphin Resort in sunny Orlando, Oct 29-31, 2014. Deadline is May 5th, 2014-submit now!  

Post on your Twitter account: (3 choices)


  • #Sloanc is CALLING FOR PRESENTATIONS! CFP for #aln14 in Orlando is now open! Submit today!
  • Annual #Sloanc #aln14 Conf “Driving Innovation with Online Learning” CFP is OPEN! May 5th deadline.
  • Call for Presentations for #Sloanc #aln14 conference is now open!

Thank you in advance! Your help makes all the difference.

Hayley and The Sloan-C Marketing & Conference Teams

Hayley Worthman

Marketing Assistant
The Sloan Consortium
(339) 237 0891(339) 237 0891(339) 237 0891
Skype: hayleybkatz
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