truth squad

As city overhauls school progress reports, release is kept quiet

New York City is releasing its annual report cards for every public elementary and middle school tomorrow, and though this event is usually the focus of the week’s news cycle, city officials are trying to keep the release quiet.

Last year, when 97 percent of elementary and middle schools received an A or B on their progress reports, Department of Education officials held a press conference with Chancellor Joel Klein to announce the results. The same was done in 2008. This year, just as the city has changed its formula for assigning the grades and tougher state tests mean more schools will receive a D or F grade than last year or the year before, the DOE is downplaying the release.

There will be no press conference tomorrow. The chancellor, who in years past has taken questions from reporters in public, will spend the day in Washington D.C, according to a DOE spokesman. Instead, reporters have to request a phone interview with DOE Deputy Chancellor for Accountability Shael Suransky and Klein may be made available for some reporters’ calls late tomorrow afternoon.

“The reasoning is that apart from the data itself, the grades schools receive, and which ones receive the grades, there’s no news here,” said DOE spokesman Matt Mittenthal.

Mittenthal said the city would hold a press conference in November when it releases high schools’ report cards. The city has not announced any plans to make changes to the formula that determines high school grades.

For the first time, the city is releasing progress reports for K-2 schools and District 75 schools, which serve high-needs special education students. It is also radically changing the way it doles out grades by switching to a formula that compares similar students’ progress rather than the percentage of students that are proficient.

Out of concern that the newly toughened tests and the increase in failing students would cause schools’ grades to plummet, the city has placed limits on how far schools’ grades can fall. Still, some principals are having a difficult time adjusting to the new scores.

“Some Principals are overwhelmed and frustrated with this latest round of Progress Reports,” said principals union spokesman Antoinette Isable. “This frustration has a lot do to do with the state benchmarks being raised.”

The city’s press office has also decided to forgo the tradition of giving reporters the embargoed grades the night before the official release. This year, the press will have less time to review the information-heavy documents.

on the run

‘Sex and the City’ star and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon launches bid for N.Y. governor

Cynthia Nixon on Monday announced her long-anticipated run for New York governor.

Actress and public schools advocate Cynthia Nixon announced Monday that she’s running for governor of New York, ending months of speculation and launching a campaign that will likely spotlight education.

Nixon, who starred as Miranda in the TV series “Sex and the City,” will face New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in September’s Democratic primary.

Nixon has been active in New York education circles for more than a decade. She served as a  longtime spokeswoman for the Alliance for Quality Education, a union-backed advocacy organization. Though Nixon will step down from that role, according to a campaign spokeswoman, education promises to be a centerpiece of her campaign.

In a campaign kickoff video posted to Twitter, Nixon calls herself “a proud public school graduate, and a prouder public school parent.” Nixon has three children.

“I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today,” she says.

Nixon’s advocacy began when her oldest child started school, which was around the same time the recession wreaked havoc on education budgets. She has slammed Gov. Cuomo for his spending on education during his two terms in office, and she has campaigned for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In 2008, she stepped into an emotional fight on the Upper West Side over a plan to deal with overcrowding and segregation that would have impacted her daughter’s school. In a video of brief remarks during a public meeting where the plan was discussed, Nixon is shouted down as she claims the proposal would lead to a “de facto segregated” school building.

Nixon faces steep competition in her first run for office. She is up against an incumbent governor who has amassed a $30 million war chest, according to the New York Times. If elected, she would be the first woman and the first openly gay governor in the state.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”