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Klein to principals: Failing students need "extra attention" in fall

Thousands of city students who failed their math and reading exams and should have been held back can expect “extra attention” from their schools in the fall, but no formal city-mandated assistance.

That’s the message of a memo Schools Chancellor Joel Klein sent principals this afternoon.

“I expect each of your teacher teams to continue to identify your students’ areas of strength and areas that require extra attention,” Klein wrote. “This is particularly critical for those students who received low scores but did not participate in summer school, and I urge you to work with those families closely to provide the support they need.”

His message echoed what Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press conference yesterday.

“We’re going to tell the schools to keep an eye on these kids,” Bloomberg said, saying he did not know how much more remediation schools could provide. “Less money means fewer employees, and we’re just going to have to find ways to do more things with less,” he said.

Klein’s full email to principals and letter to parents is below:

From: Klein Joel I.
Sent: Thursday, July 29, 2010 5:00 PM
To: &All Principals
Subject: Yesterday’s Test Scores Announcement

Dear Colleagues:

As you know, yesterday the State released the results of the annual New York State math and English Language Arts (ELA) exams for students in grades three through eight.

This year, the State changed the way the tests were graded, holding students to a considerably higher bar than in previous years. As a result, a scaled score that last year was high enough to earn a rating of 3, or “proficient,” may only have earned a rating of 2, or “basic,” this year. The tougher grading system resulted in a significant drop in overall ratings across the entire State, and here in the City, our schools saw a big decrease as well.

Despite the drop in overall ratings, New York City students this year generally earned ELA and math scaled scores that were consistent with last year’s results. And whichever way the scores are cut, whether using this year’s method or last year’s, our students are undeniably making dramatic progress — see the attached chart (entitled “2010 Math ELA NYC Highlights”).

I know that for many of us, receiving considerably fewer proficient scores is dispiriting and disappointing. But we must see this not as a roadblock, but as an important next step in our commitment at every grade level to graduating all students ready to succeed after high school.

I applaud the State’s effort to continue to raise the bar and set higher standards for our students. Together with the new Common Core standards, we can help our students take that next big step to a whole new level of learning. With more writing, problem solving, and critical thinking, you and your colleagues will better connect learning across different subject areas and grade levels.
I ask each of you to lead your school communities in analyzing the data and in galvanizing them for the work ahead. These results will challenge all of us to make the necessary adjustments to curriculum and supports for students so that they can reach and eventually exceed the higher standards. I expect each of your teacher teams to continue to identify your students’ areas of strength and areas that require extra attention. This is particularly critical for those students who received low scores but did not participate in summer school, and I urge you to work with those families closely to provide the support they need.

I am attaching a letter for parents and guardians in English and in nine other languages. You may scroll through the attachment box to view all of the files. Please distribute this letter to parents this summer through whatever channels you may have available (e-mail lists, previously-scheduled meetings, backpacking with summer school students, if applicable). I understand that you may not be able to contact some parents until September, so we are also posting the letter on our Web site and will distribute it centrally via e-mail to parents for whom we have contact information.

Make no mistake about it — we have already made tremendous progress, but we realize we must do even better. We will not give up until every child is receiving a high-quality education and until every graduating student is ready for college or a career. Looking back, and looking ahead, I’ve never been more hopeful that we can reach this goal. I thank you and your staff for all your good work.

Sincerely,

Joel I. Klein

And here is the city’s letter to parents:

the aftermath

What educators, parents, and students are grappling with in the wake of America’s latest school shooting

Kristi Gilroy (right) hugs a young woman at a police check point near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman in Parkland, Florida. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

It’s hard to know where to start on days like this.

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead on Wednesday has elicited both terror and anger — and raised debates that are far from settled about how to keep American students safe.

Here are a few storylines we noticed as the country again grapples with a tragic school shooting:

1. You’re not wrong to think it: There have been a lot of mass shootings, and many recent ones have been especially deadly.

Data on school shootings specifically, though, is notoriously murky. As the Atlantic recently noted, varying definitions can contribute to either “sensationalizing or oversimplifying a modern trend of mass violence in America that is seemingly becoming more entrenched.”

But by NBC News’ count, 20 people have been killed and more than 30 have been injured in school shootings this year. That’s a lot — and more news organizations are now trying to keep a careful tally.

2. The consequences of traumatic events like the shooting at Stoneman Douglas are likely to be felt for some time.

A number of studies have found that violent and traumatic events in and outside of school do real damage to student learning, as we’ve reported — particularly among students who are already struggling. Here are some resources for teachers who need to talk to their students about trauma.

3. The tragedy is already renewing debates over whether or how to arm teachers.

Education Week gathered some of those calls from politicians Thursday. “Gun-safety advocates say that teachers can’t safely and quickly move from the mindset of teaching to being asked to fire a gun at an active shooter,” the story also notes.

This doesn’t even get at the debate about whether anyone should have access to the kind of gun the shooter used. Students from the district, for their part, told Broward schools chief Robert Runcie Thursday “that the time is due for a conversation on sensible gun control,” the Miami Herald reported.

Whether other technology and infrastructure can help keep students safe is a topic of ongoing discussion in communities across the country. Colorado lawmakers are considering a bill to help schools buy communications systems that would allow them to talk directly to police and other emergency responders. Officials from districts that already use this equipment described them as a way to increase safety without “turning our schools into prisons,” even as they also assured lawmakers that the radios were just as useful for serious playground injuries and broken-down buses as for the much rarer active shooter situations.

In Tennessee, one school district near Nashville announced plans to close schools next Monday to review all safety plans with school staff and local law enforcement.

4. In some places, the shooting is unlikely to change the school safety debate at all.

In New York City, for example, conversations about school safety in recent years have revolved around discipline policies and metal detectors (though police have seized an increasing number of weapons from city schools). There’s little appetite there to arm teachers.

5. But all across America, the shooting and others like it have added a frightening tone to what it means to teach and learn in schools today.

“I know you are waking up this morning to a nightmare,” a former educator wrote in a “love letters to teachers” on Teaching Tolerance. “I know you are frustrated, tired and weary of the news. I know you are wearing your coat of bravery today.”

“I’m so, so angry and I’m having a hard time today looking at my students and not thinking about what happens when it’s my school’s turn,” wrote one commenter on the Badass Teachers Association Facebook group.

getting to graduation

New York City graduation rate hits record high of 74.3 percent in 2017

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the 2017 graduation rate at South Bronx Preparatory school.

New York City’s graduation rate rose to 74.3 percent in 2017, a slight increase over the previous year and a new high for the city.

The 1.2 percentage point increase over the previous year continues an upward climb for the city, where the overall graduation rate has grown by nearly 28 points since 2005. The state graduation rate also hit a new high — 82.1 percent — just under the U.S. rate of 84.1 percent.

The city’s dropout rate fell to 7.8 percent, a small decline from the previous year and the lowest rate on record, according to the city.

“New York City is showing that when we invest in our students, they rise to the challenge and do better and better,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement Wednesday.

More graduates were also deemed ready for college-level work. Last year, 64 percent of graduates earned test scores that met the City University of New York’s “college-ready” benchmark — up more than 13 percentage points from the previous year. 

However, the gains came after CUNY eased its readiness requirements; without that change, city officials said the increase would be significantly smaller. But even with the less rigorous requirements, more than a third of city students who earned high-school diplomas would be required to take remedial classes at CUNY.

Phil Weinberg, the education department’s deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, noted that CUNY’s college-readiness requirements are more demanding than New York’s graduation standards — which are among the toughest in the country.

We will work toward making sure none of our students need remediation when they get to college,” he told reporters. “But that’s a long game for us and we continue to move in that direction.”

The rising graduation rates follow a series of changes the state has made in recent years to help more students earn diplomas.

The graduation-requirement changes include allowing students with disabilities to earn a diploma by passing fewer exit exams and letting more students appeal a failed score. In addition, students can now substitute a work-readiness credential for one of the five Regents exams they must pass in order to graduate — adding to a number of other alternative tests the state has made available in the past few years.

About 9,900 students used one of those alternative-test or credential options in 2017, while 315 students with disabilities took advantage of the new option for them, according to state officials. They could not say how many students successfully appealed a low test score; but in 2016, about 1,300 New York City students did so.

The news was mixed for schools in de Blasio’s high-profile “Renewal” improvement program for low-performing schools. Among the 28 high schools that have received new social services and academic support through the program, the graduation rate increased to nearly 66 percent — almost a 6 percentage point bump over 2016. Their dropout rate also fell by about 2 points, to 16.4 percent, though that remains more than twice as high as the citywide rate.

However, more than half of the high schools in that $568 million program — 19 out of 28 — missed the graduation goals the city set for them, according to a New York Times analysis based on preliminary figures.

Graduation rates for students who are still learning English ticked up slightly to 32.5 percent, following a sharp decline the previous year that the state education commissioner called “disturbing.” City officials argue that students who improved enough to shed the designation of “English language learner” in the years before they graduated should also be counted; among that larger group, the graduation rate was 53 percent in 2017.

Meanwhile, the graduation-rate gap between white students and their black and Hispanic peers narrowed a smidgen, but it remains wide. Last year, the graduation rate was about 83 percent for white students, 70 percent for black students, and 68 percent for Hispanic students. That represented a closing of the gap between white and black students by 0.4 percentage points, and 0.1 points between whites and Hispanic.

Asian students had the highest rate — 87.5 percent — a nearly 2 point increase from the previous year that widened their lead over other racial groups.

Christina Veiga contributed reporting.