End of an era

New York City to bring high-profile Teaching Fellows program in-house, ending role for nonprofit TNTP

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Schools Chancellor Carmen FariƱa

A flagship program that recruits and trains 20 percent of New York City’s new teachers each year will soon be under new management.

Since it launched in 2000, the NYC Teaching Fellows program, which quickly trains career changers and recent college graduates to fill hard-to-staff positions, has been run in part by the nonprofit TNTP.

Now, the city education department is planning to kill its $4 million-a-year contract with TNTP when it expires in February. Instead, the department will manage the program itself.

It’s unclear exactly why the city chose this moment to end the contract with TNTP. City officials said the organization has effectively run the fellowship program’s day-to-day operations, and said the change was not a cost-saving measure. But it continues the education department’s trend under Chancellor Carmen Fariña of taking more control of, and interest in, professional development and training.

“The contract is ending, we evaluated our options, and we now have the capacity to do this work — and build on it — in-house,” education department spokesman Will Mantell wrote in an email.

Born out of a shortage of certified teachers, the fellowship program was conceived to quickly place professionals from other fields into the city’s classrooms, skirting the traditional certification process.

It has since become a key pipeline for filling positions in the Bronx and in subjects like math, science, and special education — and has helped attract a more racially representative group of teachers to the field. In a typical year, the program sends roughly 1,200 teachers into city classrooms, and about 10 percent of the city’s current teaching force came through the program.

Shael Polakow-Suransky, who served as a deputy schools chancellor under Mayor Bloomberg, said the Teaching Fellows program has for years filled critical vacancies and brought talented teachers into the system, but also raised questions about teacher quality and retention.

“Maybe what we are seeing is the beginning of some shifts to address those issues,” he said.

And while the program is widely seen as a key recruitment tool, it also has a powerful detractor. Just months after Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, the city’s teachers union pressed him to cancel its contract with TNTP. It’s unclear if that lobbying continued, or had any impact on the city’s decision, but the union cheered the move not to extend the contract.

“We applaud the DOE for saving the taxpayers money and moving the program in-house,” United Federation of Teachers chief Michael Mulgrew said in a statement. “For years TNTP has managed to make money from the Department of Education by recruiting teachers who would have come here anyway.”

Teaching fellows receive about two months of intensive training before they start working in classrooms full-time, where they simultaneously earn a master’s degree and complete certification requirements. (The traditional pathway typically involves at least a year of training, including a student teaching stint.)

Until now, TNTP has managed significant parts of that training and recruitment.

“This is a bittersweet moment for us, because we value our involvement in NYC Teaching Fellows enormously,” Dan Weisberg, TNTP’s CEO, said in a statement. “But we’re always pleased when our district partners feel ready to take the reins of these kinds of programs, and we agree the time is right for the city to do that here.”

Education department officials said they did not have plans to downsize the program or significantly change its structure.

“We’re deeply committed to the NYC Teaching Fellows program as a pipeline to recruit and train high-quality teachers for our students, and this administration has expanded and strengthened the program,” Amy Way, the education department’s head of teacher recruitment and quality, said in a statement.

The decision follows a similar plan to move training for aspiring principals in-house. In June, the city ended the NYC Leadership Academy’s involvement in that training program.

breaking

A student is in custody after Noblesville West Middle School shooting that injured another student and teacher

Police asses the scene outside Noblesville High School after a shooting at Noblesville West Middle School on May 25, 2018 (Photo by Kevin Moloney/Getty Images)

A male student shot and injured a teacher and another student at Noblesville West Middle School on Friday morning, police said.

Noblesville police Chief Kevin Jowitt said the shooting suspect asked to leave a class and returned armed with two handguns. The suspect, who police said appeared to be uninjured, is in custody and has not been identified by police.

The teacher, 29-year-old Jason Seaman, was in “good” condition Friday evening at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, police said. The female student, who was not identified by police, was in critical condition at Riley Hospital for Children.

News outlets were reporting that Seaman intervened to stop the shooter, but authorities said they could not confirm that on Friday afternoon.

The Noblesville Police Department has a full-time school resource officer assigned to the school who responded to the incident, Jowitt said. Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies also responded to the shooting.

“We do know that the situation resolved extremely quickly,” Jowitt said. “We don’t know what happened in the classroom, so I can’t make any kinds of comments about what [the resource officer’s] involvement was.”

Students were evacuated to Noblesville High School on Friday morning, where families met them.

Jowitt said an additional threat was made at the high school, but they had “no reason to believe it’s anything other than a communicated threat.”

Police continue to investigate. They said they do not believe there are additional suspects. Noblesville Police spokesman Bruce Barnes could not say how the student acquired the guns, but he said search warrants have been issued.

Noblesville West Middle School enrolls about 1,300 students. Noblesville is a suburb of Indianapolis, about 20 miles north in Hamilton County. The district has about 10,500 students.

The frenzied scenes Friday outside the school have become sadly familiar. Already, there have been 23 school shootings in 2018 that involved someone being injured or killed, according to media tallies.

Just last week, 10 people were killed and 13 others were injured in a shooting at Santa Fe High School outside Houston. A student at the school has been arrested and charged.

In February, 17 people — 14 students and three staff — were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and a 19-year-old faces multiple charges.  The Parkland tragedy set off a wave of student activism across the country — including in Indianapolis — calling for stricter gun control.

“We’ve had these shootings around the country,” said Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear. “You just never think it could happen in Noblesville, Indiana. But it did.”

Noblesville Schools Superintendent Beth Niedermeyer praised the “heroic” efforts of school staff and students, saying they followed their training on how to react to an active shooter situation.

Barnes also hinted at the broader trauma that school shootings can have on students and communities.

“We ask for your prayers for the victims in this case,” he said. “I think that would include a lot of kids, not only ones that were truly the victims in this case, but all these other kids that are trying to make sense of this situation.”

Watch the press conference:


A Chalkbeat reporter is on the scene:

In a pattern that has become routine, Democratic and Republican politicians offered prayers on Twitter.

temporary reprieve

Parents score a temporary victory in slowing the closure of a small Brooklyn elementary school

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
Protesters gathered at the education department's headquarters to protest a recent set of closure plans.

A judge blocked the closure of a small Brooklyn elementary school Thursday — at least for now.

Three families from P.S. 25/the Eubie Blake School filed a lawsuit in March backed by the public interest group Advocates for Justice, arguing the city’s decision to close the school was illegal because the local elected parent council was not consulted.

Brooklyn Supreme Court judge Katherine Levine did not make a final ruling Thursday about whether the closure plan violated the law. But she issued a temporary order to keep the school open while the case moves forward.

It was not immediately clear when the case will be resolved or even if the school will remain open next year. “We are reviewing the stay and will determine an appropriate course of action once the judge makes a final decision on the case,” education department spokeswoman Toya Holness wrote in a statement.

The education department said the school has hemorrhaged students in recent years and is simply too small to be viable: P.S. 25 currently enrolls just 94 students in grades K-5.

“Because of extremely low enrollment, the school lacks the necessary resources to meet the needs of students,” Holness wrote. The city’s Panel for Educational Policy, a citywide oversight board that must sign off on all school closures, voted in February to close the school.

But the school’s supporters point out that despite low test scores in the past, P.S. 25 now ranks among the city’s top elementary schools, meaning that its closure would force students into lower-performing schools elsewhere.

“Why close a school that’s doing so well?” said Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters and one of the lawsuit’s supporters. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

The lawsuit hinges on a state law that gives local education councils the authority to approve any changes to school zones. Since P.S. 25 is the only zoned elementary school for a swath of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the department’s plans would leave some families with no zoned elementary school dedicated to educating them, forcing students to attend other district schools or enter the admissions lottery for charter schools.

That amounts to “effectively attempting to change zoning lines” and “unlawfully usurping” the local education council’s authority to determine those zones, according to the lawsuit.

But even if the education department loses the lawsuit, the school’s fate would still be uncertain. The closure plan would theoretically be subject to a vote from the local education council, whose president supports shuttering the school.

Still, Haimson hopes the lawsuit ultimately persuades the education department to back away from closing the school in the long run.

“My goal would be to get the chancellor to change his mind,” Haimson said. “I don’t think the future is preordained.”