Five city schools earn 'Blue Ribbon' honors for their test scores

Two city charter schools and three city public schools were among just 20 schools in the state and fewer than 300 nationwide that today found out they earned “Blue Ribbon” status from the U.S. Department of Education.

The designation is given annually to schools in each state that meet certain performance standards. It does not bring any financial rewards, but it considered a feather in the cap for schools that earn it. Schools that win get a plaque and are expected to share their strategies for success.

To be nominated, schools must have top scores on state tests. They must also not have any achievement gaps within their student bodies. And after they are nominated, they must complete lengthy applications that includes short essays about their curriculum, their leadership, and how they measure success. New York State was allowed to nominate 19 schools.

The five city winners are Bronx Charter School for Excellence, P.S. 34 in Brooklyn, P.S. 191 in Queens, P.S. 203 in Queens, and Harlem Success Academy 1. This was the first year that any city charter schools took home the honor.

In at least a third of the schools each state nominates, a minimum of 40 percent of students must be considered “disadvantaged” according to federal guidelines. All of the city winners except for P.S. 203 fell into that category, along with just one other school in the state.

New York did not nominate any schools for a designation honoring improvement, nor did any middle or high school in the state win accolades.

City charter school advocates said the addition of charter schools to the winners’ roster showed that the sector was meeting high performance standards.

“This first time recognition for New York City charter schools is further evidence of their success at building great teams of leaders, teachers and staff that deliver outstanding results,” said James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, in a statement.

“This Blue Ribbon Award goes directly to our exceptionally hard working and talented teachers and amazing scholars whose intelligence, great skill and love of learning surprise me every day,” HSA 1 Principal Jackie Albers said in a press release from the Success Academies network. Success CEO Eva Moskowitz is set to congratulate students from the school, the first in the network, at the end of the school day.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

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School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.