New York

Test score drops mean uncertainty in screened H.S. admissions

Ananda Kimm-Drapeau, who hopes to attend Stuyvesant High School, is also considering several schools that will weigh her state test scores in admission. The city has instructed schools to screen students with lower scores this year because the state tests were harder to pass, but the process remains uncertain for families and schools alike. (Photo: Oliver Morrison) For eighth-grade students looking to attend a screened high school, the opaque admissions process has gained another layer of complexity — their own state test scores, often lower than they had been in the past. The city has been assuring parents and students that they won't be penalized for the drop in state test scores following the rollout of tougher, Common Core-aligned exams. If a school previously looked for students at a level 3 (out of 4) or above, for example, the city has said the school should look for students who scored at least a 2.25. For schools that tried to limit admissions to students with a 2 or higher, the city is suggesting using a 1.8 benchmark this year. Those equivalencies are meant to assure parents and students that this year's system won't work much differently than last year's. But that leaves two open questions: Will students apply to different schools than they would have because they are nervous about their scores? And will schools will actually look at students who fall closer the bottom of their test score range? "These kids, they were previously 4s and 3s, and now they're 1s and 2s. And they're really stressed about it," said Quincee Robinson, who oversees admissions at Bard High School Early College Manhattan, which screens for levels 3 and 4. "They're worried they're not eligible to apply to our school."
New York

For a deal on teacher conferences, usual adversaries team up

New York

At rally, charter parents stuck between Lhota and a hard place

Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota greets young charter rally participants on Tuesday morning. For a full account of the charter school rally, see Geoff Decker's report here. Just before 11 a.m., Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota leaned down to eye level with five year old Kenyon Lovett, a student at Success Academy Cobble Hill. He wants to be an architect, his mom explained. "What do you want to build?" Lhota asked as dozens of reporters and curious parents pushed closer. "Is that the mayor?" another girl asked as she squirmed toward the candidate. Lhota basked in the attention from parents and students this morning at the end of their march across the Brooklyn Bridge in support of charter schools, greeting children and answering questions outside of City Hall Park an hour after delivering a speech at the Association for a Better New York touting his support for the charter sector. That position puts him at odds with Democratic frontrunner Bill de Blasio, who has advocated for capping the number of charter schools in the city and charging charter schools rent to operate in public buildings. At the rally, many parents admitted that they were perplexed about how to square their Democratic ties and their desire for a mayor who is friendly to the charter school movement. Kenyon's mother Yolanda White told reporters that she had never voted for a Republican. But Lhota's support for charters means that if she can convince herself that his policies are reasonable, "I have no problem jumping the line for him," she said.
New York

As terms end, council members push to curb school closures

New York

Report: District-charter special ed gap not from "counseling out"

New York

NYC sitting out national move to tie charter, district admissions

New York

Touting city's top test scores, officials visit its most elite schools

New York

Principal, King frame tensions over school choice changes

A back-and-forth between State Education Commissioner John King and a Brooklyn high school principal today provided a window into the tensions at play when high-needs students are placed in city schools — at a moment when additional shifts in enrollment policies may be imminent. As King toured the High School for Public Service, principal Sean Rice outlined his worries about serving 35 special education students, up from "almost none" two years ago, in a school with about 440 students. Five or six have been added to his rolls in just the past week, he said. Commissioner John King spoke with principal Sean Rice, center, about special needs students at his school. "It is a major concern," Rice said. "It's going to be challenging for us this year, because we have a teaching staff that has not had extensive experience with students with disabilities." But Rice's situation is rare for how few special education students he has, since some high schools, like William E. Grady High, have more than 20 percent special education students. Figures like that have created a schism between the city and the state for years, as King has criticized the city's school choice policies for allowing some schools to become overloaded with needy students. "I think this is the balance, though, between our concern—which we've long expressed—of students being concentrated in isolated buildings, and attempts by the city, which I think is the right direction, to try and avoid those overconcentrations of students," King said to Rice during a discussion with Chancellor Merryl Tisch and other state education officials.
New York

"Gold standard" study identifies benefits of TFA math teachers

New York

Seven moments in UFT history maybe more pivotal than this one

New York

As UFT elections get underway, dissenters face an uphill climb

P.S. 15 teacher Julie Cavanagh, speaking to teachers at Murry Bergtraum High School last week, is running against UFT President Michael Mulgrew in this year's union elections. It's been nearly three years since Michael Mulgrew was elected to his first full term at the helm of the United Federation of Teachers, which means election season has arrived for the city's teachers union. As would-be candidates work to meet Wednesday's deadline to collect the signatures they need to get on the ballots in April, we'll be keeping you up to date on Mulgrew's re-election bid and about what to expect from the changing union landscape. What is clear is that there won't be much suspense in the race for UFT president, as Mulgrew will almost certainly coast to a second full term. He's backed by the union's longtime dominant party, Unity, whose presidential candidate typically wins by a landslide. Three years ago, Mulgrew received 91 percent of the vote. The unified support that the union's leadership typically receives is one of many ways that the union has remained powerful in the face of threats. In other ways, too, the elections are about more than Mulgrew. There will be hundreds of positions on the ballot, including 90 executive board positions and delegates to the national and state unions, many with significant ability to impact decision-making. The vote totals also offer an opportunity to gauge dissent within the union — and this year, the dissenters are working hard to harness their power.
New York

In new arrangement, teachers' pensions to fund infrastructure

New York

'Restart' partners say they plan to ease into management role

The radical "restart" plans for 14 struggling schools seem likely to get off to a slow start. In exchange for millions of dollars in federal School Improvement Grants, the city announced this week that it would turn over the reins of 14 schools to nonprofit Education Partnership Organizations. But with the start of the school year just weeks away, those groups say that much of their first year will be spent assessing needs and adding support, not making drastic changes. “Whenever you’re in a position of partnering, you’re always balancing the need of that sense of urgency with the idea that there is a certain risk or downside to, say, overhauling the master schedule two weeks before school starts,” said Doug Elmer, the director of Diplomas Now, which will manage Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn and Newtown High School in Queens. The nonprofits put in their bids to take over schools — where they'll control everything from curriculum to hiring to budgeting — in May. But after a delay while the city and teachers union hammered out a deal over teacher evaluations in the struggling schools, the groups learned only in the last two weeks that the city wanted them to become EPOs. And they found only just this week which schools they would take over. The city had asked the schools and organizations to rank each other, then paired them off. "It was a little bit of a flurry," said Sheepshead Bay Principal Reesa Levy of the matching process. But she said she was excited to work with Diplomas Now. "We're actually thrilled. I think maybe this will give us that extra push." The federal government has promised up to $2 million a year for three years for the restart schools.
New York

Church policy could complicate city's new sex ed requirements

Public schools located in former Catholic school buildings will have to find another place to teach newly required sex education. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott surprised principals last night with the news that sex education will be mandatory in middle and high schools starting this year—a decision the New York Civil Liberties Union called "a great step forward for students' health." For schools that operate in space leased from the Archdiocese of New York, the new requirement could induce a scheduling headache. A Department of Education spokeswoman, Barbara Morgan, confirmed that those schools would have to conduct the sex education lessons off-site in accordance with the archdiocese's longstanding policy prohibiting sex education in space that it owns. As Catholic schools have lost students in recent years, the archdiocese has closed dozens of schools, including 27 this year. The city has then rented some of those buildings to relieve its own space crunch. Last year, when the city decided to rent the former Saint Michael’s Academy to house the Clinton School for Artists and Writers, it noted that students would have to return to the school's previous site for sex education. Fran Davies, education spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said today that church officials were still researching the issue. Most public schools housed in rented former Catholic school space are elementary schools, which are not affected by the new requirement. But at least a few middle and high schools, like West Brooklyn Community High School and El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice in Williamsburg, will have to make other plans if they haven't already.
New York

City billing teacher-sharing as a way to keep arts positions filled

More than 50 schools have signed up for a new matchmaking program to help them pool positions. The Department of Education has created a centralized process for principals looking to share teachers with another school —having a teacher work a few days a week at one school, and the rest of the week at another. In a notice to principals, the city said sharing teachers "may be a particularly efficient way to provide arts instruction." In the process's first month, 38 schools have indicated interest in gaining a shared teacher. Eighteen of the schools are looking for an art, music, or dance teacher. Another 28 schools have indicated that they have someone to share, including nine arts teachers, according to DOE spokeswoman Barbara Morgan. It's a positive step toward providing more students with access to the arts, according to Richard Kessler, director of the nonprofit Center for Arts Education. But he's not convinced principals have the support they need to share teachers effectively. Splitting teacher schedules presents a logistical challenge for the principals who pay their salaries and teachers who might have to travel. Kessler said those logistical difficulties are one reason why the practice has become rare after being relatively common in the 1980s. "The majority of principals just don't know how you share faculty from school to school," Kessler said, adding that he did not know of any schools currently sharing arts teachers. “There was a reason why it disappeared — it gets tricky traveling from one school to another. But in tough times, this is certainly better than nothing."
New York

Cuts cost a gym-less school its physical education teacher, too