DOE grants reprieve to Alfred E. Smith's automotive program

A technical education high school the Department of Education slated for closure is getting a reprieve — sort of.

Instead of shuttering the Bronx’s Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School entirely, the DOE is now proposing to keep the school’s automotive technology program open. The school’s other programs, which include home construction, carpentry, electrical and plumbing, will still be closed.

About 500 of the school’s 1,100 students are enrolled in the automotive program this year, said DOE spokesman Danny Kanner.

Kanner said the DOE’s proposal was revised after receiving strong community feedback against eliminating the Bronx’s only automotive technical education program. Kanner also cited “the strength of the school’s corporate partnerships,” which include IBM, BMW and a number of city dealerships for other car companies including Toyota, Lexus, Buick and Nissan, according to the school’s website.

In the space vacated as the school’s other trade programs phase out, the DOE is now proposing to open two new schools, one for engineering training and the other dedicated to older students who lack enough credits to graduate. The original phase-out plan for the school didn’t detail what would replace it.

Jeremiah Cherry, a 2006 Smith graduate who has worked at a Brooklyn electrical firm since leaving the school, was audibly delighted when he heard that Smith would remain open. But he was less excited to hear of the plan to phase out other trade programs, including his own, electrical construction technology.

“I don’t want them to just keep automotive. I want them to keep the building trades, too,” he said. “Those are really important parts of the school.”

Earlier this year, a group of teachers, alumni and supporters of Smith released a music video featuring footage of students participating in trade workshops at the school, with lyrics written by one of Cherry’s colleagues, Mark Noakes, and set to the song “Can’t Stop Me,” by Jadakiss.

“This is something that needs to stay in the Bronx,” Cherry said, who still lives near the school and said he frequently returns to work with current students.

“A lot of my friends who graduated with me — if it wasn’t for Smith, it wouldn’t be good for them, to tell you the truth,” he said. “It opened the door to teaching them to work with their hands, to learning a skill, so they could go out in the world with something to do.”

Here’s the full statement on the DOE’s new proposal, from spokesman Danny Kanner:

Based on community feedback and further analysis of the programs and capacity of the school, the Department of Education has decided to modify its proposal to transform Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School. In its place, the DOE will submit a new proposal that will keep open the school’s automotive technology program and phase out the school’s other programs. A second proposal will be submitted to open two schools in the facility that will focus on over-age and under-credited students, and engineering training and education.

Given the community’s desire to sustain the only automotive CTE program in the Bronx, the strength of the school’s corporate partnerships, and the uniqueness of the automotive program, the DOE has decided to modify its proposal.

No sooner than 15 days after the posting of the revised Educational Impact Statement, a joint public hearing will be held on the modification of the proposal to phase-out Alfred E. Smith. This proposal will be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy at its February meeting. The second proposal concerning the opening of two schools in the building will be subject of a separate Educational Impact Statement and will be voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy at its March meeting.

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.