work ahead

Who’s who on New York City’s School Diversity Advisory Group

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
Mayor Bill de Blasio released a school diversity plan that calls on a working group to come up with additional ways to encourage integration.

The city has rounded up parents and academics, students and advocates, teachers union and charter school representatives, and others, to flesh out the education department’s school-integration plan.

The “School Diversity Advisory Group” includes more than 30 members from a range of backgrounds handpicked by City Hall. The task given to the group, which began meeting last month, is to evaluate the city’s current proposals and recommend additional ways to promote school integration.

Integration advocates hope the group will push for more ambitious goals than those outlined in the de Blasio administration’s diversity plan, which some critics knocked as overly timid when it was released last June.

But others have faulted the panel itself for being insufficiently diverse, saying it should include more parents and representatives of different religious groups. They also have raised concerns that officials could disregard the group’s non-binding recommendations.

Shino Tanikawa, a parent-leader in Manhattan’s District 2, said the city formed a similar advisory group to suggest improvements to its method for calculating how much space is available in schools. But its proposal for smaller class-size targets in the later grades went unheeded, she said.

“My fear is a replay of the Blue Book Working Group,” she said, referring to the overcrowding group. “We developed recommendations and the most important one was rejected by the administration.”

Here are all of the group’s members.

Executive Committee

Amy Hsin, Queens College
Hazel Dukes, NAACP
Jose Calderon, Hispanic Federation
Maya Wiley, New School
Richard Kahlenberg, Century Foundation

Members

Alexa Sorden, Principal, Concourse Village Elementary School
Amy Stuart Wells, Teachers College, Columbia University
Andrew Averill, Teacher, The College Academy
Ashley Valente, Teacher, P.S. 396
Asya Johnson, Principal, Longwood Preparatory Academy
Cassandra Baptiste, Teacher, The Children’s Workshop School
Celia Green, Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Committee (CPAC)
David Jones, Community Service Society of NY (CSSNY)
David Kirkland, NYU Metro Center
DeKaila Wilson, Senior at Pelham Lab High School and Director of DeCriminalization at IntegrateNYC
Dennis Parker, ACLU
Diana Noriega, The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families (CHCF)
Frances Lucerna, El Puente
Frantzy Luzincourt, Alumni of Leon M. Goldstein, Sophomore at City College, and Director of Strategy at IntegrateNYC
Henry Rubio, CSA
James Merriman, NYC Charter School Center
Janella Hinds, UFT
Kim Sweet, Advocates for Children
LaShawn Robinson, Office of Equity and Access, NYC DOE
Liam Buckley, Student, NYC Lab High School; Chancellor’s Student Advisory Council (CSAC)
Lois Herrera, Office of Safety and Youth Development, NYC DOE
Marco Battistella, Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Committee (CPAC)
Marisol Rosales, Superintendent, Manhattan high schools
Matt Gonzales, NY Appleseed Foundation
Matthew Diaz, Junior at Bronx Academy of Letters and Director of Outreach at IntegrateNYC
Meisha Ross Porter, Superintendent, District 11
Nequan Mclean, Education Council Consortium (ECC)
Noreen Mills, Principal, Carroll Gardens School for Innovation
Rebecca Rawlins, Office of District Planning, NYC DOE
Ryan J. S. Baxter, PASSNYC (Promoting Access to Specialized Schools in New York City); REBNY
Sarah Kleinhandler, Office of Student Enrollment, NYC DOE
Shino Tanikawa, Education Council Consortium (ECC)
Sister Paulette LoMonaco, Good Shepherd Services
Sonia Park, Diverse Charter Schools Coalition
Vanessa Leung, Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF)
Wayne Ho, Chinese-American Planning Council
Yolanda Torres, Division of Family and Community Engagment, NYC DOE
Yousof Abdelreheem, Student, John Bowne High School; Chancellor’s Student Advisory Council (CSAC)

Measuring schools

State education officials prepare 0 to 100 index to measure schools, slam push for A-F grades

PHOTO: Denver Post file

State education officials are preparing to roll out a new tool for parents to quickly learn which schools are succeeding and which ones are struggling. They’re also lashing out at another school measurement approach that’s been proposed in the legislature.

The dueling options are part of a national debate about the best way to measure schools.

Michigan’s elected board of education last year scrapped plans to assign letter grades to every school in favor of providing parents with a dashboard of information about test scores, graduation rates, and other measures of success such as attendance rates and student discipline.

That “parent dashboard” was unveiled last month. As soon as next week, the state is planning to beef up the dashboard with a new score, from 0 to 100, that is intended to summarize the quality of every school in the state.

The new index will give each school a single number based on seven factors, including test scores and graduation rates, the availability of classes like art and music, and proficiency rates for English learners. The index was part of the state’s plan to comply with the new federal school accountability law. 

Several factors will go into the index, though most points will be determined by test scores: 34 percent will be based on the percent of students who pass state exams. while 29 percent will be determined by whether test scores show students are improving. The rest of the score will be driven by school quality factors such as availability of arts and music (14 percent), graduation rates (10 percent), and progress by students learning English (10 percent). The last 3 percent will measure the percentage of students who take the state exam — a factor designed to discourage schools from giving the exam only to their highest-performing students.

Venessa Keesler, deputy superintendent at the Michigan Department of Education, said the index is not a ranking system, so multiple schools could end up with the same index score.

That’s a switch from the school ranking system Michigan has been using in recent years in which every school was placed against all other state schools, primarily on test scores. The schools in the bottom 5 percent of state rankings faced intervention, including the threat of closure.  

But GOP lawmakers say the parent dashboard and the index are too complicated, and they want to see an A-F letter grade system.

Lawmakers introduced legislation last week that would give every school a report card with six A-F grades measuring their performance in different categories. Bill sponsor Tim Kelly called it a “middle of the road” option that isn’t as simplistic as giving schools a single letter grade.

That plan came in for significant criticism Tuesday from the state board of education.

“This really isn’t OK,” said Nikki Snyder, a Republican board member. “If we want parents, students and teachers to be empowered, this is not the kind of chaos and confusion we should inject into our system. I absolutely do not support it.”

Another school board member, Casandra Ulbrich, the board’s Democratic co-president, raised concerns over how the scores would be decided.

“Someone has to create a complicated algorithm to determine the difference between A to B to C,” she said. “I have some real concerns about that.”

“I generally agree with Rep. Kelly,” said Richard Zeile, the Republican board co-president, “but school letter grades would be more misleading than helpful.”

A-F school ranking systems, which were used in 18 states as of last spring, have been divisive across the country, with some hailing them is a tool to increase transparency and others viewing them as too simplified and too easy for parents to misunderstand.

next steps

How to tackle New York’s severe school segregation? State policymakers spitball ideas

PHOTO: Monica Disare
Regent Collins and Regent Johnson engage in a discussion after a Board of Regents meeting in 2016.

A New York conference on the extensive research on the benefits of school integration. A convening of the state’s civil rights groups. A commission on equity and integration.

Those are some of the ideas being considered by a group of state policymakers tasked with addressing school integration in New York, which has some of the country’s most severe racial segregation. The group was established by Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa in 2016 to research topics that the board would have to weigh in on; over time, it has come to focus on school integration and racial equity.

At its meeting Tuesday during the Regents’ monthly gathering, the group also floated ways to desegregate schools. One idea was to create incentives for schools that take steps to enroll students from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The group’s ideas build on other state efforts to combat school segregation. In 2014, New York’s education department launched a series of grants designed to improve schools by integrating them; the latest rounds of grants will expand the program to more schools and is more focused on training district leaders to combat school segregation. And as part of a plan they were required to submit last year under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, officials discussed the idea of developing a new measure of school and district integration.

Those efforts come four years after a widely cited study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles found New York’s schools to be the most segregated in the country.

The group’s plans are still in their infancy: They will likely still be submitted to the full board, which would then have the chance to vet them before voting on whether to approve them.

Meanwhile, the group is still debating its own mission and objectives. During Tuesday’s discussion, one member suggested having the incentive program focus on “equity” rather than desegregation because some schools are unlikely to ever enroll many students of different races.

Regent Judith Johnson, who co-chairs the group, said Tuesday that she has struggled to figure out exactly what it should focus on — and how much to push integration in parts of the state where doing so could prove deeply unpopular. In New York City, many parents have resisted changes that would reroute their children to different schools in order to promote integration; in less diverse cities and towns, integration would likely require moving students across district lines.

“Not every district wants to address this issue,” Johnson said. “And so the question becomes: What is the role … of the Board of Regents?”