schedule change

New timeline packs state tests into a 10-day window next year


City schoolchildren will need to boost their test-taking endurance before next spring, when students in grades 3 through 8 take two state tests just four school days apart.

A revised exam schedule released by the state today dramatically condenses the testing timeline. It also halves the length of time alloted to scoring, eliciting concern from educators statewide about how schools will manage the new schedule.

The state announced last month that it would be moving state English language arts and math tests, previously given in January and March, closer to the end of the school year. City schools officials said then that they had lobbied for the change but hoped that the two tests would be separated by at least some time.

The schedule released today separates the two tests by just four school days. Students will take their English tests during the first three days of the last week in April and their math tests during the last three days of the following week. Unlike in the past, the tests will be given in elementary and middle schools at the same time.

“Lots of panic swirling about,” wrote Niagara Falls educator MrsBrownDog on Twitter today. A few minutes later she wrote, “HOW ARE WE GOING TO NAVIGATE SCORING WITH SO LITTLE A WINDOW BETWEEN ELA AND MATH???”

According to the new schedule, districts will have to submit scores for each exam just two weeks after testing is over. Because the tests are being given together, there is an overlap of one week where both reading and math tests will be scored simultaneously. Last year, districts spent more time grading each test. That duration proved disruptive at some city schools, particularly because teachers were, for the first time, pulled from their classes to grade the exams.

A spokesman for the city schools said next year’s condensed schedule would not be a problem. “We’re confident we’ll be able to meet thet scoring deadlines in the state’s new testing calendar,” said Andrew Jacob, adding, “We’re currently studying several ways to do that.”

City educators were already anxious about the later testing timeline, which was announced as schools were closing for the summer. Steven Evangelista, a charter school principal, said at the time that the change would require teachers at his school to rework the curriculum they had planned.

The state also released details about next year’s math tests today. For one year, the tests will cover a broader swath of material to compensate for the longer time in between tests.

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.