annals of transparency

New York won't publish its Race to the Top application

New Yorkers who want to see details of the state’s Race to the Top plan that officials hope will win them a $700 million grant will have to wait for three more months.

Half of the states that submitted applications yesterday have posted their applications online, but New York State isn’t among them. That’s because the state plans to keep the application’s contents under wraps until the federal government announces the competition’s first round of winners and losers in April.

“If New York does not win a Phase 1 award, we will in all likelihood apply in Phase 2. Therefore, the release of New York’s application at this time could compromise the State’s ability to compete in the next round,” said Tom Dunn, a spokesman for the State Education Department.

But a U.S. Department of Education spokesman, Justin Hamilton, said the department plans to post all of the first-round applications in April, whether or not they’re successful. That’s two months before the competition’s second-round deadline in June.

And Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch has said she thinks it is important for the public to understand that the plan, which she called “eloquent and articulate,” is about more than charter schools.

“I want to talk about what’s in this application,” she told me yesterday. “I want people to understand how broad it is.”

“I think [NYSED has] articulated a bold strong application, and when people in this state understand how good it is…they will be infuriated that this opportunity is slipping through their hands,” she added.

But without the complete application, New Yorkers will have to rely on education officials’ public statements on the application and an 18-page summary that the department has posted to its website. Notes from Regents meetings over the past several months also give clues to what may be included in the application but give no guarantee.

Here’s Dunn’s full statement:

The US Department of Education has said that it plans to post all state applications and final scores on its website at the conclusion of each phase of the Race to the Top competition. Because RTTT grants will be awarded in a two-phase process, a state that does not win a Phase 1 grant is entitled to reapply in Phase 2.  If New York does not win a Phase 1 award, we will in all likelihood apply in Phase 2. Therefore, the release of New York’s application at this time could compromise the State’s ability to compete in the next round.

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.