details emerge

Fariña set to reveal new school rating system in policy speech

PHOTO: Patrick Wall

The city is revamping the way it rates schools, putting less emphasis on test scores and getting rid of the A-to-F school letter grades, according to a news report that appeared shortly before Chancellor Carmen Fariña is set to give a major policy address Wednesday morning.

Instead of issuing schools annual progress reports with an overall letter grade, as the city has done since 2006, the education department will now create separate reports for school leaders and for families, according to the report, which appeared Tuesday evening in the New York Times. Those school reports will eschew letter grades for categories like “not meeting target” or “exceeding target.” And they will factor in other measures of a school’s quality, such as the rigor of its courses and the results of parent and student surveys, to balance out student test scores, the Times article said.

Fariña has promised those changes for months, and they reflect Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign against the previous administration’s use of test scores as the primary way to judge schools and – when their scores were consistently low – to consider closing them. De Blasio and Fariña have both slammed the Bloomberg administration’s A-to-F school ratings as overly blunt and unreliable. Fariña even told a group of educators earlier this year that she hadn’t checked their schools’ letter grades “because I don’t care.”

Fariña has previously proposed merging the information included on the data-based progress reports with the findings of official reviewers who interview school faculty members and observe lessons. The new ratings system will reportedly give more weight to the findings from those visits, called “quality reviews.”

Meanwhile, the city is tweaking the quality review process so that more schools will receive visits this year, according to a person briefed on the plans. Some of the lowest-performing schools have been told to expect three formal reviews this year.

What is still unclear is how the city will use the new school ratings.

In the past, schools that received three consecutive failing grades on their progress reports could face closure. De Blasio has said closure will now be used only as a last resort, but he has not specified how the city will intervene at schools that are earn consistently low ratings. With the school year underway, educators and advocates have been calling for the city to detail its plan to improve troubled schools.

Behind the scenes, the city recently launched an intensive-support program for about two-dozen schools that were identified as struggling. The plan involves principal coaching, teacher training, and even a special superintendent to oversee the high schools. Two of those high schools will not be sent any new students during the year, since late enrollees can destabilize schools.

But that program only includes a fraction of the city’s low-performing schools. More than 370 schools saw 90 percent of their students struggle on last year’s state tests, according to a recent report by a pro-charter group that is demanding “bolder leadership” to improve those schools.

That group, Families for Excellent Schools, has paid for television commercials this week and is planning a major rally on Thursday to draw attention to those struggling schools. The group is aligned with major charter school networks, such as Success Academy, and one solution it offers for the problem of low-performing schools is to create more charter schools – an approach de Blasio has criticized.

Fariña is expected to give more details about the new school-rating system and her plans for struggling schools during her speech Wednesday at P.S. 503/P.S. 506 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.