feel the love

Duncan: NYC reform initiatives a model for stimulus spending

Flanked by people who often find themselves arguing — Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Joel Klein, and teachers union leader Randi Weingarten — U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today offered praise for them all.

At a press conference this afternoon in Brooklyn, Duncan said all three New Yorkers have helped make the city an example for how school districts across the country could “remake public education” with their share of $100 billion in federal stimulus funds.

Some of the stimulus money is meant to plug deep holes in states’ education budgets. But Duncan said he wants states to use other funds allocated in the stimulus package to adopt accountability-oriented reforms along the lines of some recent New York City initiatives, such as the creation of a comprehensive data system, called ARIS, and the introduction of a program that gives some teachers bonuses based on their students’ test scores. The city Department of Education said in a press release today that it might try to use some of its stimulus money to expand those initiatives.

Those programs could be funded through Duncan’s discretionary “Race to the Top Fund,” through which the education secretary will give grants to states that want to try new approaches to helping students do better. “I fully expect New York City and New York State to put together a great proposal” for the funds, Duncan said. “In many ways, you are already setting the standard — including the pay-for-performance program here pioneered by the leadership right here in this city.”

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Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with students, parents, and teachers from Brooklyn's Explore Charter School

Duncan departed from his prepared remarks to compliment Bloomberg’s “extraordinary courage” in taking control of the city’s schools and to say that he has learned a lot from Klein, whom he called “a good, good friend of mine.” Duncan also called Weingarten “a remarkable leader” and said he and President Barack Obama will work closely with her. “She is going to be a strong, strong voice for reform,” Duncan said. Video of the lovefest is above.

Even if they don’t see a cent of the Race to the Top Fund, New York City’s public schools and colleges are slated to receive about $1.9 billion through the federal stimulus act signed into law this week, Duncan said today. That money would prevent teacher layoffs, fill in some budget gaps, add new funds for poor students and children with special needs, and support preschool, technology, and job training programs.

The city DOE’s full press release is after the jump.

Mayor, Chancellor, Secretary Duncan Detail How the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Will Help NYC Schools

Stimulus Money Could Help City Avoid Severe Staffing Reductions in Public Schools

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg joined with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today to announce how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will help New York City public schools in the coming years. Based on preliminary analysis, the City estimates it will receive $535 million in State Fiscal Stabilization Grants in each of the next two years, if the funds are allocated to local school aid through the traditional formulas. In addition to the stabilization grants, the City’s preliminary analysis estimates that its schools are eligible to receive in each of the next two years approximately $300 million from an expansion of Title I funds for high-needs students, approximately $100 million from the expansion of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding, and more than $25 million in educational technology funds. At today’s announcement, the Mayor, Secretary, and Chancellor were joined by State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith, Assemblywoman Rhoda S. Jacobs, the American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan, and Explore Charter School Founder and Director Morty Ballen in Brooklyn.

“Support from Washington will help us to weather this economic crisis. Working with the State, we hope we’ll be able to keep more of our teachers in our public school classrooms,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We all want to ensure that our schools keep innovating and that our students keep learning – while shielding our schools and classrooms from potential harm. I am confident our colleagues in Albany will join me in making our difficult budget situation as tolerable as possible for all of our schools.”

“We’re not just facing an economic crisis in America. We’re facing an education crisis. A University of Washington report says up to 600,000 education jobs are at risk,” said Secretary Duncan. “But we’re also facing a historic opportunity to remake public education – a once-in-a-lifetime chance to lift the quality of education for every child in America.”

“Stimulus dollars will go a long way in helping us to prevent our country’s financial crisis from turning into a crisis in our classrooms,” said Chancellor Klein. “We look forward to working with our partners at the State level to ensure this money is directed equitably and where it’s needed the most – our classrooms.”

“The passage of the federal stimulus bill will allow New York school children, their parents and their teachers, to rest easier in the coming budget year,” said State Senate Majority Leader Smith. “With the influx of desperately needed funding, I am confident that we will continue to make a meaningful investment in our most critical resource – our children. Our schools, from Binghamton to Brentwood, and every town in between, will benefit from the investments in the bill, particularly for our high needs districts throughout the state. I am hopeful that between the direct school grants, expanded state aid and opportunities for additional funding, we can continue to improve student performance while ensuring a wise and productive use of public funds.”

“Parents and teachers here in New York City and all across America are applauding President Obama for his strong and steadfast commitment to our nation’s children and public schools, and rightly so. In addition to providing a much needed boost for the economy, the stimulus package also represents an investment in education that will help prevent severe cuts to public services – a huge step to averting layoffs in schools and providing teachers and students with the tools and supports they need to succeed,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “While this aid is exactly what our schools need, parents must understand that we are not out of the woods yet. The State has to make sure that the stimulus money is spent wisely and actually gets into classrooms. Even so, the package is truly a bold first step, and we are grateful to President Obama and Secretary Duncan for their recognition and support of public education.”

“We applaud President Obama and Congress for making education an important priority of the stimulus package and paying close attention to the needs of economically disadvantaged youngsters and special education students,” said Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan. During this time of severe economic crisis, we look forward to working with the city and state to ensure that this funding goes as far as possible to protect our children’s education.”

In addition to the stabilization funds, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act also allows states and school districts to apply for $5 billion in grants to support new approaches to closing the achievement gap and boosting student achievement . Working in cooperation with the -New York State Education Department, New York City would be able to use these funds to -continue building on the momentum of the reform efforts and enormous progress in improving graduation rates. These grants, which will be allocated by the U.S. Department of Education, are known as the Race to the Top Fund. This includes $650 million to provide funds to school districts that have made significant gains in closing the achievement gap to expand their work and to document and share their successful practices. These funds could help further implementation of the New York City Department of Education’s (DOE) computer system that allows teachers to share effective instructional strategies between schools. The remaining $4.35 billion in the fund will be awarded to states, working with local districts, that have demonstrated innovative ways to boost student performance and closing the achievement gap. New York City can also apply for grants to expand its Schoolwide Performance Bonus Program, which rewards educators for improving student achievement, from the $200 million Teacher Incentive Funds.

Charter schools such as Brooklyn’s Explore Charter School may also be eligible to apply for funding for renovation and repair of school facilities. Named a National Charter School of the Year by the Center for Education Reform, Explore Charter earned an A on its 2007-2008 Progress Report. The school serves 425 students, and more than 1,700 families are on the school’s waiting list.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.