data dump

Kindergarten gifted classes more diverse than last year, city says

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The percentage of minority students in the city’s gifted and talented kindergarten classes increased this school year from last, according to data the Department of Education released today.

But while the percentages of Hispanic, Asian and multi-racial students all increased, the ratio of black students to the whole class declined by just over one percentage point.

0809-k-gt-enrollment-ethnicityLast year, more than half — 52.6 percent — of kindergartners in gifted and talented classes were white. This year, that percentage is lower, down to 43.5 percent.

The increase in the ratio of minority students to the whole class is a change from the previous year. In 2008, a New York Times analysis of the first class of gifted kindergarten and first-graders admitted under the standardized admissions process showed that the policy had resulted less diversity in admissions, not more.

The number of kindergartners enrolled in gifted and talented classes nearly doubled this year from last, from 874 to 1554 students. (A large increase in both the number of students who took the exam last year and in the number who met the city’s cut-off for admission spurred that jump.)

City officials attributed the increase in diversity to better outreach efforts they said led to a higher number of applicants.

“As our outreach efforts have improved, we have also seen an increase in the diversity of these students. While we still would like to have more diversity, we are encouraged by this progress,” said DOE spokesman Danny Kanner in a statement released with the data.

Below is the full chart DOE officials released to reporters today. Some things to note: the “applicant” numbers reported here don’t refer to the number of students who sat for the gifted and talented admissions test or those who scored high enough to be eligible for the program. Rather, the applicant column here shows only the number of students who tested eligible and then submitted a formal application to one of the city’s programs. The “active” column shows the number of students who actually enrolled.

So these numbers don’t tell us what difference there is between the ethnicity of the students who took the test, those who were eligible for the programs, and those who eventually enrolled. We’ll be asking the DOE for that breakdown. What other information should we be asking them for?

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money matters

Report: Trump education budget would create a Race to the Top for school choice

PHOTO: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos participate in a tour of Saint Andrews Catholic in Orlando, Florida.

The Trump administration appears to be going ahead with a $1 billion effort to push districts to allow school choice, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The newspaper obtained what appears to be an advance version of the administration’s education budget, set for release May 23. The budget documents reflect more than $10 billion in cuts, many of which were included in the budget proposal that came out in March, according to the Post’s report. They include cuts to after-school programs for poor students, teacher training, and more:

… a $15 million program that provides child care for low-income parents in college; a $27 million arts education program; two programs targeting Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students, totaling $65 million; two international education and foreign language programs, $72 million; a $12 million program for gifted students; and $12 million for Special Olympics education programs.

Other programs would not be eliminated entirely, but would be cut significantly. Those include grants to states for career and technical education, which would lose $168 million, down 15 percent compared to current funding; adult basic literacy instruction, which would lose $96 million (down 16 percent); and Promise Neighborhoods, an Obama-era initiative meant to build networks of support for children in needy communities, which would lose $13 million (down 18 percent).

The documents also shed some light on how the administration plans to encourage school choice. The March proposal said the administration would spend $1 billion to encourage districts to switch to “student-based budgeting,” or letting funds flow to students rather than schools.

The approach is considered essential for school choice to thrive. Yet the mechanics of the Trump administration making it happen are far from obvious, as we reported in March:

There’s a hitch in the budget proposal: Federal law spells out exactly how Title I funds must be distributed, through funding formulas that sends money to schools with many poor students.

“I do not see a legal way to spend a billion dollars on an incentive for weighted student funding through Title I,” said Nora Gordon, an associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University. “I think that would have to be a new competitive program.”

There are good reasons for the Trump administration not to rush into creating a program in which states compete for new federal funds, though. … Creating a new program would open the administration to criticism of overreach — which the Obama administration faced when it used the Race to the Top competition to get states to adopt its priorities.

It’s unclear from the Post’s report how the Trump administration is handling Gordon’s concerns. But the Post reports that the administration wants to use a competitive grant program — which it’s calling Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success, or FOCUS — to redistribute $1 billion in Title I funds for poor students. That means the administration decided that an Obama-style incentive program is worth the potential risks.

The administration’s budget request would have to be fulfilled by Congress, so whether any of the cuts or new programs come to pass is anyone’s guess. Things are not proceeding normally in Washington, D.C., right now.

By the numbers

After reshaping itself to combat declining interest, Teach For America reports a rise in applications

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Memphis corps members of Teach For America participate in a leadership summit in last August.

Teach for America says its application numbers jumped by a significant number this year, reversing a three-year trend of declining interest in the program.

The organization’s CEO said in a blog post this week that nearly 49,000 people applied for the 2017 program, which places college graduates in low-income schools across the country after summer training — up from just 37,000 applicants last year.

“After three years of declining recruitment, our application numbers spiked this year, and we’re in a good position to meet our goals for corps size, maintaining the same high bar for admission that we always have,” Elisa Villanueva Beard wrote. The post was reported by Politico on Wednesday.

The news comes after significant shake-ups at the organization. One of TFA’s leaders left in late 2015, and the organization slashed its national staff by 15 percent last year. As applications fell over the last several years, it downsized in places like New York City and Memphis, decentralized its operations, and shifted its focus to attracting a more diverse corps with deeper ties to the locations where the program places new teachers. 

This year’s application numbers are still down from 2013, when 57,000 people applied for a position. But Villanueva Beard said the changes were working, and that “slightly more than half of 2017 applicants identify as a person of color.”