learning to remember

Ten days before 10th anniversary, city launches 9/11 curriculum

As the city prepares to observe the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that took place on Sept. 11, 2001, the Department of Education is making curriculum materials — and grief counseling — available to teachers.

“As educators and parents of children who grew up in the years before and after 9/11, we have a responsibility to help them learn that the attacks of 9/11 were an attack on all New Yorkers, our nation as a whole, our freedoms, and our way of life,” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott wrote in an email to teachers today announcing the new materials.

High school seniors had just started second grade on 9/11, and most city students have “little or no recollection” of the day, Walcott noted in the letter to teachers. That’s one reason why a team of teachers and administrators at the DOE worked with the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, scheduled to open next year, to develop a collection of 9/11-themed lesson plans. Those plans went online today.

The lesson plans are meant to be used in social studies, history, English, and art classes across all grade levels. The 10 to 20 lessons for each grade level are divided across the themes of “historical impact,” “community and conflict,” “heroes and service,” and “memory and memorialization.”

Children in kindergarten through second grade might learn about bravery and examine mementos, now in the museum’s permanent collection, that children sent to firefighters after 9/11. Middle schoolers might analyze memorial songs released shortly after 9/11. And a high school class might study the recent history of Islamist extremism or develop museum exhibitions of their own. Each lesson is connected to new Common Core curriculum standards being rolled out this year.

The department is also planning to offer counseling services to teachers, staff, and students who need them, Walcott said.

Walcott’s letter to teachers is below.

Dear Colleagues,

September 11, 2011 will mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. On that day, our nation will honor those killed ten years ago, as well as the brave men and women who risked and sacrificed their lives to save them. The ceremony in New York City, where 2,753 people were killed on 9/11, will be attended by President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush, thousands of families who lost loved ones, rescue workers, and other dignitaries.

As we plan for the opening of school on September 8th, it is important that you are prepared to engage students in a meaningful discussion about the events of 9/11. For those of us who lost someone close that day or otherwise experienced it, thinking and talking about 9/11 may still evoke strong emotions. Many of your students, however, will have little or no recollection of the event itself. To help you and your staff engage in lessons about the attacks that are both meaningful and academically enriching, we have partnered with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum to create a curriculum for students in grades K-12.

The lesson plans are divided into four themes: Historical Impact, Community & Conflict, Heroes & Service, and Memory & Memorialization. Each lesson approaches its theme in a different way, drawing upon artifacts and oral histories from the collection of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which is scheduled to open in September 2012. They are written for use throughout the school year and across subjects, including Social Studies, History, English Language Arts, and Art. Each lesson is also aligned with the Common Core State Standards to ensure relevance to your teaching and goals for the school year.

The brutal nature of the attacks raises difficult emotions and challenging questions. To broaden the resources at your disposal for discussing the attacks and their aftermath, we have developed a 9/11 FAQ, a basic primer on the history of the World Trade Center and the Twin Towers, the 9/11 attacks and their perpetrators, and the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. Information will be posted online about counseling resources available to you to support students and staff who may need assistance on this special anniversary, especially those who were directly affected either by the attacks or the rescue and recovery efforts.

These materials can be downloaded for classroom use from the 9/11 Memorial. The DOE has also developed a 9/11 Resource page, with links to the 9/11 Memorial, as well as additional instructional resources and professional development opportunities for educators.

We must never forget those who lost their lives and the heroism of our first responders on that terrible day. As educators and parents of children who grew up in the years before and after 9/11, we have a responsibility to help them learn that the attacks of 9/11 were an attack on all New Yorkers, our nation as a whole, our freedoms, and our way of life. I hope that you review these resources and urge your teachers to make use of them in the classroom.

Dennis M. Walcott

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.