Year In Review

Year In Review: New York’s biggest education moments of 2016

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Chancellor Carmen Fariña, center, with Mayor Bill de Blasio, left.

In New York, there were bright spots in 2016: a spike in passing rates on state tests for English and math, the launch of initiatives to reduce inequity in math and reading, and policy changes that support struggling students.

Other moments — the continued struggle with segregation and leaked footage of abusive discipline in action — cast a shadow on the overall progress of this year. Here’s Chalkbeat New York’s recap of some of the biggest education moments of 2016.

  •  One principal, two schools, and a high-stakes experiment gone awry
    “Finally, when critics questioned the idea of putting a single principal in charge of two schools when one of them is among the state’s lowest-performing, education department officials insisted that his role at Medgar Evers would be limited. But now, after Medgar Evers’ acting principal was removed from the school in March due to an investigation and has not been replaced, Wiltshire is devoting significant time and attention to his old school.”
  • NAACP’s call to stop charter schools’ growth reignites debate in New York City
    “Still, while charter schools educate just 10 percent of the city’s students, their parents represent an important political bloc. Tens of thousands of charter school students and their families rallied in September for the sector’s growth, and when asked, many of them dismissed the NAACP’s resolution as out of touch.”
  • In a shift, new rules make it easier for New York City students to switch schools
    “Some students got trapped in violent schools because transfers were available only to students who could show they had been victims of violence. Other students found themselves stuck in small schools with limited course offerings — a particular challenge for students whose interests and goals might have shifted since the high school application process in eighth grade.”
  •  City will hire 100 reading coaches to kick off of universal literacy initiative
    “The reason the city chose to focus on improved reading instruction is clear: Only about 30 percent of city students are proficient in English in third grade. The city has met that statistic with lofty goals: Over the next six years, the city has pledged to increase that number to over 60 percent, and to have every student reading on grade level by 2026. “
  •  Only 8 percent of New York City teachers are men of color. Here’s how the city is trying to change that
    “In a city where Asian, black, and Hispanic boys make up 43 percent of the over one million public-school students, just over 8 percent of the city’s 76,000 teachers are nonwhite men. That leaves thousands of students of color without role models who resemble them, and without teachers who research shows tend to have higher expectations of nonwhite students.”
  •  Eva Moskowitz defends Success Academy teacher shown yelling in video, calls New York Times coverage biased
    “Moskowitz’s less apologetic tone illustrates the recent pressure Success has faced after a wave of negative press, including the coverage of the ‘Got to Go’ list. Critics have long held, and Success has denied, that the high-performing schools have done well because they pressure poor-performing or poorly behaved students to leave — claims that the ‘Got to Go’ list seemed to vindicate.”
  •  Eight top 10s from New York City’s 2016 test scores
    “The percentage of New York City students passing their state English tests spiked nearly eight points this year and math pass rates also improved, giving city officials reason to celebrate. It’s worth noting, however, that the average proficiency scores on both exams still hovered below 40 percent. “
  •  Betty Rosa, new head of New York education policy: As a parent, ‘I would opt out’
    “The statements also illustrate the somewhat precarious position Rosa now occupies as a critic of state education policy. As chancellor, she oversees the State Education Department — which administers the state tests — and whose leader, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, has been campaigning to minimize the opt-out movement’s growth. “
  •  After announcing plans for 12 school mergers, Fariña says to expect many more
    “In a reversal of the previous administration’s policy of creating new small schools, Fariña has announced plans over the past year to combine 25 small schools, arguing that by pooling resources the merged schools are able to offer more advanced classes and enrichment programs.”
  •  Searching for answers to segregation, Fariña enlists top deputy and solicits local ideas
    “At the same time, Fariña continues to regard diversity as a goal achieved largely through grassroots efforts that the education department can support but not spearhead.”
PHOTO: Elizabeth Green
Rajihah Coaxum making a version of the “centerpiece” for teachers participating in the NYC Math Lab.
  • 75 schools will overhaul math teaching, a move Fariña says will reduce inequity
    “‘If you look at your higher-achieving schools or parents who think their children should be higher-achieving, you’ll see that the coursework is different than in schools in other places,’ Fariña told a group of teachers and principals on Tuesday. Later, she said, ‘I want to see a student in the South Bronx having the same access to algebra as a kid in Park Slope.'”


Year In Review

Race Matters: How America’s schools wrestled with segregation in 2016

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
A classroom at Brooklyn Laboratory middle school.

In a year where race dominated the national conversation about identity and equality, American education systems grappled with issues of integration and segregation.

Across America, school systems approached segregation with varied success. Two generations of students in Indianapolis lived through the failure of busing, while a Detroit charter school finds state laws in the way of diversity. In New York, schools inch closer to diversity through revamped admissions policies.

These individual snapshots of how America’s cities struggle with issues of diversity, inclusion and equality paint a broader picture of the current state of integration efforts in the US. Learn about how our communities dealt with the issue in 2016.

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Students eat lunch at the Oaks Academy Middle School, a private Christian school that is integrated by design.
  • Where integration works: How one inner-city Indianapolis private school is bringing kids together
    “Lunch at The Oaks Middle School on the northeast side of Indianapolis has a lot in common with meals at any school: Kids carry plastic trays stacked with sliced fruit and chicken nuggets or soft lunch bags stuffed with sandwiches and Doritos. But here, as the hum of chatter and banging of metal chairs fill the small cafeteria, kids head to tables with students from different ethnic and racial backgrounds.”

Check out all of our 2016 Year In Review coverage here. Like what you see? Make a tax-deductible donation to Chalkbeat today to help support our work in 2017 and beyond.

Walk it out

Hugs, walkouts and tears: How the election’s youngest voices reacted to the results

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
Beacon High School students marched to Trump Tower Tuesday morning.

In any other year, November means a seemingly endless countdown to Thanksgiving break. For many students who bore the brunt of the election’s racial tensions, the weeks after this year’s election were far more fraught.

Through organized protests and, in one case, an impromptu multischool rally, many students who couldn’t cast a ballot found ways to be heard. Chalkbeat reporters were able to listen in. Here’s what we we learned.

  • ‘Education not deportation’: Hundreds of NYC students walk out of class, march to Trump Tower in protest
    “The day after the election, I was in tears,” said Hebh Jamal, a Beacon senior and one of the protest’s organizers. “A lot of my friends are disabled, a lot of my friends are immigrants, a lot of my friends are undocumented. This is scary. Everyone was just so distraught, and we all want to do something.”
  •  How my school embraced student protesters after Trump’s win
    “It became clear that the day would not be spent on ‘traditional’ instruction. Students were angry, afraid and dealing with feelings of rejection. Our principal asked teachers to offer their classrooms as safe places for students to express their feelings. Students gravitated to classrooms and places in the building where they felt they would be heard.”
  • PHOTO: Melanie Asmar
    Denver students chant in protest of Donald Trump.
  •  ‘Not my president:’ Denver students walk out of school to protest Trump election
    “In the words of Trump, we’re seen as rapists and a waste of money,” said Marcus Marrakchi, a junior at STRIVE Prep SMART Academy. “We’re here to prove that we want to get our education.”

Check out all of our 2016 Year In Review coverage here. Like what you see? Make a tax-deductible donation to Chalkbeat today to help support our work in 2017 and beyond.