City to reduce number of latecomer students sent to Renewal high schools

Mayor Bill de Blasio meets with students and faculty at Automotive High School. (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

The city will begin sending schools in its “Renewal” turnaround program fewer latecomer students, who often pose extra challenges for schools, Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced this week.

The move offers some relief from one enrollment quandary facing the city’s low-performing schools. Under the city’s choice-based admissions process, low-performing high schools often struggled to fill their seats, some of which the city would later fill with students who entered the system after typical admissions deadlines. Those “over-the-counter” students could potentially pull down the school’s performance even further, in what some have called an enrollment “death spiral.”

“I know that many of you have expressed concerns about the admissions process for ‘Over-the-Counter’ students,” Fariña said in a memo that Renewal schools received Wednesday. “We plan on reducing the number of OTC students who are assigned to Renewal Schools.”

But the move would also restrict the flow of students to Renewal Schools, which have just three years to make significant academic gains, and many of which have seen their enrollment fall for years. Since funding is tied to enrollment, such declines have made it difficult for the schools to offer special programs and elective classes.

Education department spokeswoman Devora Kaye said superintendents and Renewal officials will balance the needs of latecomer students with improvement efforts underway at Renewal schools. At the same time, they will try to help those schools attract more students during the normal admissions process.

“In their critical role, they will be thinking through the best way to refer OTC students to Renewal Schools or other schools in the district — based on student’s needs and while continuing to support the progress underway at each Renewal School,” Kaye said in a statement. “Also, by promoting the new services offered at Renewal Schools — like course specific offerings, community school services, extended day learning, and small group tutoring opportunities — we’ll work to attract community partners and students to these schools.”

The city is also considering redirecting latecomer students in younger grades, she said.

The policy change begins to address a question that some Renewal school staffers have been asking behind closed doors: How can the city expect them to make rapid gains if it keeps sending them students mid-year who may have recently arrived in the country or been released from jail? It comes after the city told two Renewal schools last year facing extra scrutiny from the state — Boys and Girls and Automotive high schools in Brooklyn — that it would temporarily stop sending them latecomers.

Almost all the Renewal schools confront the interlocked challenges of declining enrollments and especially challenging student populations. Over the past two school years, 80 of the 94 Renewal schools have seen their enrollment dip, and 14 have seen more than one-third of their total enrollment disappear since 2013, according to a recent analysis by the city’s Independent Budget Office. The schools are serve an outsize share of English language learners, black students, Hispanic students, and students in temporary housing — all of whom typically post lower-than-average test scores and graduation rates.

Boys and Girls High School illustrates how those challenges can intersect. Its enrollment has plummeted from 2,300 to 500 students in just a few years, leaving it with many needy students but less funding. The over-the-counter freeze was meant to spare the school from receiving many more students with exceptional needs. But even though the relatively small number of latecomer students could hardly plug the school’s growing enrollment gap, some staffers see the policy as one more obstacle to repopulating the school.

“That moratorium,” a Boys and Girls staffer said last month, “chokes us to death.”

The city has more than 400 high schools, 35 of which are in the Renewal program. Since the city’s high-performing schools have many more applicants than seats, it’s likely that over-the-counter students will end up at other schools that are struggling to meet their enrollment targets, but not receiving the benefits of the Renewal program. There are a lot of such students: A 2013 report from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform estimated that 36,000 students enter New York City high schools outside of the typical admissions process.

Between 2008 and 2011, data showed that those students were disproportionately assigned to struggling high schools that the Bloomberg administration had decided to close or would soon begin that process. Some of the schools with the highest share of over-the-counter students in 2011 are now in the city’s Renewal program: Forty-five percent of students at Holcombe L. Rucker School of Community Research were latecomers, as were 36 percent of students at DreamYard Preparatory School and 33 percent of students at Brooklyn Generation School.

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.