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)

pick a school

Denver touts record participation in school choice process

PHOTO: Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Students at McAuliffe International School. The school was among the most-requested this year. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Even as more Denver families participated in the annual public school lottery this year, about four out of five still got into a first-choice school, district officials announced Thursday.

More than 27,000 families submitted school choices, up 17 percent from last year. Officials attributed the big jump to several factors, including additional help the district provided to families to fill out the choice forms, which were online-only this year.

The window of time families had to submit choices was also pushed back from January to February, which gave families more time to tour schools and rank their top five choices.

Match rates – or the percentage of incoming elementary, middle, and high school students who got into their first-choice schools – dipped slightly from 82 percent last year to 81 percent this year. Brian Eschbacher, the district’s executive director of enrollment and planning services, said that’s not bad given that nearly 4,000 more families participated this year.

Deputy Superintendent Susana Cordova said officials are “thrilled” with the record participation. The district received its first choice form at 12:02 a.m. on February 1, just two minutes after the window opened, she asid. The window closed February 28, and families found out last week which schools their children got into.

The reasons families participate in the lottery vary. Some want to send their children to charter schools or to district-run schools outside their neighborhood because they believe those schools are better. Others may be looking for a certain type of program, such as dual-language instruction.

This is the seventh year the 92,600-student district has used a single form that asks families to list their top five school choices. Those choices can be district-run or charter schools.

In part for making it relatively easy for parents to navigate the lottery, Denver has been named the best large school district in the country for choice by the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution think tank for two years in a row.

The district especially encourages families with children entering the so-called “transition grades” of preschool, kindergarten, sixth grade, and ninth grade to submit choice forms.

This year, the biggest increase in participation came at the preschool level, with 777 more families requesting to enroll in preschool programs, a 17 percent increase from last year. The second-biggest increase was at the high school level, with 359 more families participating.

The most-requested high school was the city’s biggest, East High School in east-central Denver. East is one of several more affluent Denver schools participating in a pilot program that gives preference to students from low-income families who want to choice into the school.

Last year, the pilot program resulted in every eighth-grader from a low-income family who applied for a spot in East’s freshman class getting in. Results from this year are not yet available for East and the other schools participating in the program, Eschbacher said.

The most-requested middle school was McAuliffe International School in northeast Denver. The most-requested elementary school was Swigert International School, which is also located in the northeast and follows the same International Baccalaureate curriculum as McAuliffe.

Shutting down

Two charter schools led by former Mayor Willie Herenton will close

PHOTO: The Commercial Appeal
Willie Herenton

A former superintendent who now leads six charter schools told Shelby County Schools he will close both of his network’s high schools this summer.

Du Bois High School of Arts and Technology and Du Bois High School of Leadership and Public Policy were already in danger of losing their charters because of poor academic performance. The charter network is led by former mayor and Memphis City Schools superintendent Willie Herenton.

In a letter to parents, Herenton said the decision was based on a shortage of “highly qualified” teachers. The letter was provided to Chalkbeat by Lemichael Wilson, who has three sons enrolled in the charter network.

“The market for securing the caliber of high school educators that meet these qualifications is very competitive and has made it increasingly challenging for us to compete as we would like,” the letter said, referring to meeting requirements such as proper certification for classes students need to graduate.

Wilson described the rate of teacher turnover at the arts and technology school as “ridiculous.” He recalled that in one year, his son had multiple teachers for a single class.

“I chose Du Bois because of the reputation of Dr. Herenton being with Memphis City Schools as superintendent and thought that the school would have an educational focus that was stronger than what it was — that the governance of the school would be better than what it was, and the administration would be better than what it was,” he said.

The decision affects a total of 287 students enrolled at both schools as of Feb. 1, according to Shelby County Schools data. That’s down from 322 students enrolled last year.

The high schools in Whitehaven and Southeast Memphis opened in 2013 and 2014 and are two of six in Herenton’s charter network. All but one of them are in danger of being shut down by the state next year because they rank in the bottom 5 percent of schools with low student test performance in Tennessee.

The arts and technology high school was also one of seven charters under Shelby County Schools that are in danger of closing if they don’t improve within two years, based on the district’s own evaluation. Three of those seven are in Herenton’s network.

Reached by phone, Herenton referred all requests for comment to Shelby County Schools, though the district did not play a role in closing the school this year.

A Shelby County Schools spokeswoman said the district would work with the charter network “to ensure that families are informed of their options” for next school year.

A request for comment from the charter network’s board chairman, Ernest Strickland, was not immediately returned.

The full letter is below: