New York

A behind-the-scenes look at how new Common Core meetings are being organized

An upcoming opportunity to discuss education policy on Long Island with Commissioner John King is invitation-only and has a cap on the number of parents who can attend, according to an email sent out this week by a district superintendent who is participating in the event. 

The meeting will include 15 Long Island districts, all of which are allowed to invite 50 people, according to the email. Each district is allowed to invite a limited number of parents (15), teachers (12), administrators (12) and board members (7). Tickets are reserved for four students per districts as well. 

The email, which was shared with GothamSchools, was sent out by Port Washington Superintendent Kathleen Mooney to school board members and district employees after she was briefed on the forum’s details in a meeting with state Senator Jack Martins, who is helping to coordinate the event. The forum is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 13 at Mienola High School from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

The planning details outlined in the email are a sign of just how concerned state officials have grown about the push back that King has received in meetings with parents and school community members. The meetings are designed to discuss contentious issues like the state’s Common Core rollout, increased testing, and student privacy.

A local meeting with King earlier this month was derailed by raucous crowds who heckled the commissioner. The incident prompted the state to call off the remaining forums and start planning their own, a move that drew criticism.

The new forums are being organized in partnership with state lawmakers, and King has promised they would happen more frequently and include more intimate policy conversations with parents. 

From: Kathleen Mooney 

Subject: Commissioner King Forum – Nov. 13, 2013

Date: November 6, 2013 at 1:16:20 PM EST

Some of you may be aware that Senator Jack Martins is hosting a forum with Commissioner King for the 15 school districts in his area.  The forum is scheduled for:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mineola High School

4:00PM to 6:00PM

The event is by invitation only.  I attended a meeting earlier today with Senator Martins and the other superintendents of the districts involved to find out the details of how this forum will be structured.  The details are as follows:

The forum will be divided into four 30 minute question and answer sessions.  The four topics will be the Common Core Learning Standards and their roll out/implementation, APPR, Testing/Assessments, and inBloom/student privacy.  Each superintendent was asked to submit 10 questions on each topic to Senator Martins by Tuesday, November 12, 2013.  The questions are to include the name of the person asking and the person’s role.  Each district will be provided with the opportunity to ask at least two questions during the forum and the person who submitted will be called upon to ask it directly to the Commissioner.

Because of the short turnaround time, I will need your questions by Friday, November 8, 2013 in order to collate them and have them ready to give to Senator Martins by Tuesday.  In addition, each district was provided with 50 tickets, that are numbered,  to be distributed among various constituencies.  The distribution is as follows:

BOE members     7

Administrators     12

Teachers             12

Parents               15

Student Leaders    4 (2 from Schreiber, 2 from Weber)

I am asking the leadership of each group to determine who will receive these tickets and to let me know by Friday, November 8, 2013.  Since the number of tickets is limited, those who accept must attend.  If you are unable to distribute all of your tickets, please let me know and I will offer them to other groups who may have a waiting list.  Once the invitees have been identified they will receive their numbered ticket from my office.  You can let people know that the event will be livestreamed and can be viewed on the Mineola School District website.  The atmosphere is to be civil and dignified.  No placards or banners will be permitted.  Senator Martins is the moderator.

I apologize for the short notice, but I have only learned of the specifics for the forum late this morning.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.


defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.