off the list

State frees 24 New York City schools from strict oversight

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory School will no longer be in the state Receivership program.

The state has released two dozen New York City schools from strict oversight after they made gains on standardized tests and graduation rates, state officials said Friday.

The 24 schools will shed the state’s “Priority” label, which prompted additional oversight and required schools to execute improvement plans. All Priority schools had previously posted graduation rates below 60 percent or were among the lowest 5 percent statewide in reading and math proficiency.

The announcement is particularly good news for seven of those schools, which faced the possibility of outside takeovers or even closure as part of a separate state Receivership program. Because of the gains they posted, those schools will officially exit the program at the end of this school year.

Friday’s announcement brings down the number of Priority schools in New York City to 56, and the number of Receivership schools to 18.

“Removal from Priority School status shows the hard work being done by students, teachers and administrators at these schools and I applaud them all,” said Betty Rosa, chancellor of the state’s Board of Regents. She added that there is still “a great deal of work to be done.”

It’s unlikely that most of the seven Receivership schools would have faced dramatic intervention from the state if they had remained in the program. To date, just one New York City school has been threatened with outside takeover: a middle school in the Bronx that the city closed last year and replaced with a new school. (City officials also decided to to close another Receivership school, the Monroe Academy for Visual Arts and Design — a move that state officials did not publicly demand.)

The state education department’s decision to reduce the number of Receivership schools has previously frustrated Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But Cuomo, who pushed for the Receivership law as a more aggressive intervention for struggling schools, has warmed to the approach favored by Mayor de Blasio and the state’s unions: infusing low-performing schools with resources instead of shutting them down. The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Many of the schools that are slated to be released from the Receivership program still post relatively low levels of proficiency on state tests. At I.S. 117 in the Bronx, which is also part of the city’s own turnaround program, 12 percent of its students were proficient in reading last year, and 8 percent were proficient in math —though that is 2-3 percentage points higher than the previous year.

Some schools posted more significant gains. Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory School has seen big reductions in chronic absenteeism, and posted a 69 percent graduation rate last year compared with 58 percent in 2015.

Even as state officials are easing up on some schools, they said more schools could be identified for Receivership in the future. Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, New York plans to phase out the Priority school designation and adopt new ways of identifying struggling schools that could make them eligible for Receivership. That plan must first be approved by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Below is the list of 24 schools that will no longer get extra state oversight as Priority schools (an asterisk denotes that it will be leaving the Receivership program as well):

Manhattan:

STEM INSTITUTE OF MANHATTAN
WADLEIGH PERF AND VISUAL ARTS
NEW DESIGN MIDDLE SCHOOL

Bronx:

PS 5 PORT MORRIS
PS 65 MOTHER HALE ACADEMY
PS/MS 29 MELROSE SCHOOL
ACADEMY OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
JHS 22 JORDAN L MOTT*
IS 117 JOSEPH H WADE*
NEW MILLENNIUM BUSINESS ACAD MS*
MS 390
FORWARD SCHOOL (THE)
BRONX ALLIANCE MIDDLE SCHOOL
BRONX HIGH SCH-WRITING & COMM ARTS
SCHOOL OF PERFORMING ARTS*

Brooklyn:

SATELLITE EAST MIDDLE SCHOOL
NEW HEIGHTS MIDDLE SCHOOL
FRESH CREEK SCHOOL (THE)
CYPRESS HILLS COLLEGIATE PREP SCHOOL*
PS 298 DR BETTY SHABAZZ*
BROOKLYN ENVIRONMENTAL EXPLORATION
PS 151 LYNDON B JOHNSON
EVERGREEN MS-URBAN EXPLORATION

Queens:

MARTIN VAN BUREN HIGH SCHOOL*

New Arrivals

In a letter to Betsy Devos, Michigan officials highlight the plight of refugee students — and ask for testing waiver.

PHOTO: Warren Consolidated Schools
Students at Warren-Mott High School in the Detroit suburbs. Officials there say that many students are arriving at the school from refugee camps, including 11th graders who had no formal schooling for nine or ten years. Such students would currently be required to take a state English test during their first year in school.

To teachers who work with recently arrived refugee students, the problem is clear. Although their students will eventually learn English, their language skills at first aren’t comparable to those of native speakers. They’re hoping that officials in the Devos education department won’t be able to avoid coming to the same conclusion after reading the state’s detail-rich request to delay testing new immigrant children in English.

That puts Michigan on track to become the second state to ask for a waiver from the federal law that requires a child who arrived in the U.S. this year to take a standardized English test within a year after arriving — even if they’re just being introduced to the language. The law also requires states to count such students’ scores in decisions about whether to close low-performing schools.

“We wanted to balance between presenting hard data and some anecdotes,” said Chris Janzer, assistant director of accountability at the Michigan Department of Education. “We’re hoping that the case we present, with some of the stories, will win us approval.”

The stories hone in on the Detroit area, home to the nation’s largest concentration of Arabic speakers, including many newly arrived refugees fleeing wars in the Middle East. This population is unique in more ways than one: It includes more than 30,000 Chaldean Christians who arrived after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 — the largest such population in the world outside Iraq. And many of its children must deal with the aftereffects of violent displacement even as they attempt to attend school in what is in many cases an entirely new language.

The state’s waiver request offers Hamtramck, a hyper-diverse city enclave in Detroit, as an example:

Hamtramck has many recent arrivals from war-torn regions in Yemen and Syria and has students from remote villages with no formal education background, as well as many others with interrupted learning. New students can have toxic stress and can even be suicidal, and often require wraparound services. Older students are also often burdened with the responsibility of helping their families financially, emotionally, and with childrearing.

Even the luckiest new arrivals would benefit if Michigan receives a waiver from parts of the federal Every Students Succeed Act, says Suzanne Toohey, president of Michigan Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

“The intent of the waiver is for the most needy students, but it will help all students,” she said, adding that it typically takes 5-7 years for an English learner to catch up to her native-speaking peers.

With that in mind, Toohey says current federal requirements don’t make sense.

“It would be like an adult who is many years out of school, and who took French for two years of high school, going to France and trying to take a college course,” she said. “It’s just not going to happen.”

Following the same logic, Michigan officials are asking Devos’ education department to put the brakes on federal requirements for testing recently arrived English learners. If the waiver request is approved:

  • In their first year in Michigan schools, those students wouldn’t be required to take the state English language arts exam.
  • In their second, they would take the test, but schools wouldn’t be held accountable for their scores.
  • In year three, the growth in their scores on the English exam would be factored into school ratings.
  • And in year four their overall score — known as proficiency — would be counted as well as their growth.

That’s still too soon to begin testing English learners, Toohey said, noting “the waiver is a start, but we haven’t gotten all the way there.”

Even so, the proposed change still faces substantial obstacles. New York’s request for a similar waiver was denied by the U.S. Department of Education in January. In its response, the department said it was holding New York to its responsibility to “set high expectations that apply to all students.” Janzer says his staff studied New York’s waiver and concluded that Michigan’s should include more details to humanize the situations of the affected students.

Michigan officials are currently working to incorporate public comments (there were seven, all of them supportive, Janzer said) into its request, which is expected to be submitted in the coming weeks. A decision isn’t expected from federal officials for several more months.

Whoever reads the 10-page document in Washington, D.C. will be confronted with details like these:

  • Lamphere Schools, of Madison Heights, MI, has received a significant influx of students from Iraq and Syria, and at least one elementary school’s student body is roughly 70 percent recently arrived students from these two nations. Lamphere reports that some students initially undergo temporary “silent periods,” a researched stage of second language acquisition, where children are watching and listening, but not yet speaking.
  • Warren Consolidated Schools, of Warren, MI, reports that they have many students from refugee camps, including students who are testing in 11th grade after having no formal schooling for nine or ten years. Warren Consolidated has received 2,800 students from Syria or Iraq since 2007.

Read the full document here. Most local details are on pages 7-9.

live stream

WATCH: Candidates for Detroit school board introduce themselves live

PHOTO: Koby Levin
Detroiters at IBEW 58 wait for candidates for school board candidates to address them.

The nine candidates for Detroit school board are gathering Thursday evening at IBEW 58 in Detroit to make their cases in advance of the November general election in which two seats are up for grabs.

The candidates have already introduced themselves in video statements, but this is one of their first chances to address the public in real time.

We’re covering the event — including a live stream the candidates’ opening statements, which should start around 7 p.m.

Click below or check out our Facebook page to see what they have to say.