Pay for Public Teachers

Are public school teachers well paid? Does paying teachers well correlate to higher quality education? In New York state, it seems teachers are well paid, according to this 2013 data. In fact our state has the highest average salary for public school teachers, beating Massachusetts, DC, Maryland Connecticut and California. Salaries average over 75K. The nationwide average is 56K. See this blog post at Higher Ed Data Stories (lovely name for a blog…). That’s a good job, I think. Especially as teacher pay has actually declined in the past five years in many states. I’ve always wondered why the cost of an ed degree plus certification and/or your masters seemed so high, in both tuition dollars and time invested, given the relatively low pay you start at.  I’m going to see how Buffalo public salaries measure up and try to compare them with local charter and private school salaries. My guess is there’s quite a range. It’s possible that competitive pay in a city like New York skews the state data…

Here’s the link to the Dept of Ed’s excel chart:




Stressing about schools and the public benefits of public school

Over the summer this blog will primarily be links to articles I read about education. There’s a lot going on in the Buffalo District right now if you’re following the paper – ah, receivership for some “failing” schools, and a new state ed commissioner with ties to the area – MaryEllen Elia – who dropped by recently with various threats. This all promises lots of fun times for the next school year, given that the District has yet to find a new superintendent to respond to her demands. (BN article here) While some of her sternness is probably warranted, given the poor united front our Board presents, it’s yet another episode in what seems to be a regular clash between the District and the State. State wants more (but doesn’t want to _give_ more), and the District digs in its heels and slows the process. Threats, demands, ensue. I’d be happier if we could get some solid leadership first. But I don’t know that the District will ever get the control it wants. I fear that if the Union doesn’t attempt to be more flexible with the District, the State will make moves to nullify it anyway. In other news, Paladino seems to be always out of town for recent meetings, or is he purposely not attending?

But the reading: Gabrielle Blair at Design Mom has a post about “choosing schools” for her six children and how she’s managed the stress of it all. I think she makes a lot of sense, and she has a nice perspective because she has had kids in so many different schools through moves, and given the age spread of her children. The perfect school doesn’t guarantee your kid’s happiness or future success. Nicely done.

Gabrielle Blair on “Why We Don’t Stress Out About Choosing A School“.

The (most recent) Paladinian Saga

After something he said at a “failed tea party rally” in Olean (I keep trying to picture what that looks like) about “damn Asians” getting (too) free a ride at SUNY schools, parents and citizens in Buffalo are protesting with a movement to get Carl Paladino off the school board. (BN article on Paladino’s comments here). Anyone who pays less attention to the pandering to white folks and more attention to the economics of higher ed knows that foreign students actually subsidize in-state/local student tuition by paying many times more than the “resident” student. Nor can anyone on a non-resident visa declare in-state residency. But no matter. It’s the failed tea party that counts. Not to mention that’s there shouldn’t be anything wrong with subsidizing anyone’s student tuition, foreign or native, if that’s what the system needs to run a thriving university. Also, can we point out how cheap the SUNY system is compared to other state systems? It’s impressively affordable.

Paladino was voted onto the School Board last year by the people of Buffalo. When I asked people why they thought he would be effective, many referred to the fact that he got the toll booths on I-90 moved, I suppose to indicate that he while he may not be a very likable person, he gets things done. And people really want things done in this school district right now. Personality aside, has he done that? Or been able to do that? My sense is no. From what I have observed, his need to control people, his anger and his scary vindictiveness get in the way of any civic work he wants to do. Beyond that, there is a distrust of his own business regarding its relationship to charter schools, in that people see his mission as deplete the District’s public schools in favor of promoting Charter Schools (in the way of the Tea Party or other conservatives’ goals). He owns buildings that lease space to local charter schools and thus stands to profit from their expansion. Anyone who follows local politics seems aware of this.

I was willing to see what he’d do until I saw how nasty his behavior was, especially in public and in School Board meetings. There’s unlikable, and then there’s the constant performance of being the meanest. When Interim Superintendent Donald Ogilvie helped orchestrate a compromise on the Board at a March meeting, regarding the turnaround plans for four out -of-time schools, Paladino made what now seems like a very Paladino gesture. After the meeting, he turned on his once-ally, accusing him of “treachery” and submitting an angry resolution for Ogilvie’s firing. (Link also below). As far as I can tell, this lost us a year of Ogilvie’s service. Ogilvie decided to end his contract as Interim Super this June instead of continuing for another year. Now the Board has to search for a new Super on shorter notice, and it seems clear that no sensible or competent person could really want this job. Hooray, Buffalo. How can we avoid mayoral control when the School Board has devolved into an embarrassing circus? How will a district without a leader even being to implement the required changes of the “Orfield report?” If the district can’t make some of those changes, there will be federal sanctions.

(Key quote from that report: “Nobody is ever going to muzzle me,” Carl Paladino)

In any case, the movement to remove Carl Paladino from the School Board is hashtag Mad As Hell and CanCarl, or #MadAsHell and #CanCarl. You can see it on Twitter below, and many people are posting photos of themselves on Facebook with the hashtags.

Twitter #CanCarl

Should you like to educate yourself on Paladino’s past and who he is, you may start with a search in the Buffalo News, but, it’s a time-consuming education.  Good luck.  BN Articles w/ “Paladino”.  (As of June 12).

And welcome to Buffalo.

Local school rankings by Buffalo Business First

The journal Buffalo Business First has posted its yearly school rankings for WNY schools, according to academic performance, for Elementary, Middle, and High Schools.

It has ranked all 262 Elementary Schools, public, private and charter. (A Buffalo school makes the top 10, can you guess which one?)

Elementary Schools Ranked

Methodology: Here’s what BBF says about their methods. (truncated). Full article here.

“All of Business First’s rankings are based on the latest four years of test results and graduation rates available from the New York State Education Department.

This year’s rankings have been generated from data for the period of 2011 through 2014.

The formulas detailed on this page make use of these statistics to calculate an annual score (on a 100-point scale) for each district or school. Annual scores for the past four years are then averaged according to a 4-3-2-1 ratio, with the most recent year being given the greatest weight.”


(From BBF article). Business First rates all Western New York public and private elementary schools that participate in the statewide testing program for third and/or fourth graders, as well as all Rochester Area public elementary schools that take part in the same program.

Fifty percent of each school’s annual score is determined by its students’ scores on the statewide English tests for third, fourth and fifth graders.

The other 50 percent is based on the statewide math tests for third, fourth and fifth graders.

That means a total of 12 statistical indicators are analyzed to determine each elementary school’s annual score — two results per test, six tests per year. That equals 48 indicators over a four-year period.

If a school did not offer a specific statewide test (such as an elementary school that does not extend to fifth grade), or if fewer than five students took a given test, that exam was excluded from Business First’s calculations for that school. No penalty was assessed.

Three types of elementary schools have not been rated:

• Schools that have been open for less than two years, or that have not generated at least two years of test data.

• Elementary schools that don’t extend to third grade.

• Private schools that don’t participate in the statewide testing program.


Posts on Middle and Highs to follow. I’m not actually sure why we need a ranking of Elementary Schools, but hey, there’s data, and we love rankings. One thing it obviously shows is that the Buffalo public schools are, with a few exceptions, at the bottom of the entire region, and yes, you can move to Amherst, Williamsville, or Clarence and get a high-performing public ES.


Elmwood Education group

I just noticed on Facebook that there is a group of “parents of young children” promoting the “other” Elmwood public schools in an effort to organize parents and presumably attract parents to those schools. This is, of course, a fantastic idea. If parents can organize, you don’t have to hope for an lottery charter spot or an elusive gifted/64 spot. You do not have to pay for private school. You can simply enroll your child in the proximity school. (Not that it’s ever simple, but we can hope.).  I haven’t yet talked to anyone involved, but they have a website and seem to be running a table at the EV Farmer’s market.  They seem to be promoting 45 over the other proximity schools, which would be 30 (Frank Sedita) or 19 (Native American), after a meeting to decide which school to organize around. Here is their site:

“Our goal is that, within 2 years, there will be less confusion when Elmwood Village families ask ‘Where do I send my child for public elementary school?’ Instead, there will be a clear answer as to what local public school meets the needs of Elmwood Village families. These needs are defined as a nearby location, a community atmosphere, a high level of education, a strong family investment, and a promising future.”

School Zone blog procures BPS criteria schools admission details

Thanks to the Buffalo News team, the School Zone reporters have finally gotten some information from the District on how applications and admissions to the city’s criteria schools work. As I note on our “Applying to Schools Primer” page, actual information on how students are selected does not exist on the BPS website, at least not in any useful detail. (Which leaves applicants subject to endless rounds of speculation and neighborly rumor as to how it _ostensibly_ works.). Let’s hope Central Registration continues to work on spreading this information to all citizens and making the website user friendly. Then perhaps they can move on to improving customer service…

Here’s the link to the School Zone post:

and their uploaded PDF:

Orfield Report published, meeting today

Gary Orfield of the Civil Rights Project will present his findings to the Buffalo School Board at 5:30 today. The meeting is located at McKinley High School (PS 305) on Elmwood. Board of Ed meeting agenda can be viewed here.

Orfield was hired by the Board of Ed to address a civil rights complaint filed by parents about the city’s criteria schools. Complaints were filed with the US Education Dept’s Office of Civil Rights. You can read the report here, and Sandra Tan of the Buffalo News has summarized his findings here. The Board of Ed cannot reject all of his recommendations, according to their agreement with the Office of Civil Rights. They have until August to inform the Office what they will accept or reject from the recommendations.

The basic finding on criteria schools:

“There was very unequal access to these schools,” said Orfield, adding that a civil rights complaint that precipitated his report “was correct.”

Expanding access to criteria schools, and expanding the criteria schools themselves, as he recommends, could help families seeking better public schools for Buffalo kids, though some parents have expressed concern that this alone will not de-segregate city school populations.