Student teachers

Teaching high schools get a boost as New York City works to diversify its educator corps

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Students at Richard R. Green High School of Teaching in Manhattan in 2016.

Programs aimed at cultivating high school students interested in making teaching a career are undergoing a significant expansion in New York City, in the city’s latest effort to diversify its teaching force.

The city is set to go from five teaching-themed high schools two years ago to 25 schools with courses or clubs meant to set students on a path to heading their own classrooms. And Chancellor Richard Carranza is making a personal pledge to students who participate: Fulfill their goal of becoming teachers, and he’ll assure them a job.

Carranza recently told a group of student reporters that he intends to give employment “contracts” to students at teaching-oriented high schools.

The contract, he said, “will basically say, you’re hired as a teacher in NYC. … Once you get your degree, you’re guaranteed a job.”

Carranza’s pledge — and its potential impact — is largely symbolic: The city cannot guarantee future employment, and even with a growing number of schools seeking to get students invested in the idea of becoming teachers, high school programs won’t produce enough graduates to tilt the demographics of the city’s teaching force.

Still, the pledge adds to the city’s growing roster of initiatives aimed at diversifying its teaching corps. While more than 80 percent of city students are black, Latino, or Asian, less than 40 percent of their teachers are, according to recent state data.

The gap is significant: Research has found that students who have teachers who resemble  them have on average higher test scores and elevated expectations of what they can accomplish.

Carranza’s predecessor, Carmen Fariña, also praised high-school teacher programs for showing students that teaching can be an attractive career choice.

Now, education department spokesperson Doug Cohen said, “We’re investing in strategies to help more New York City public school students become New York City public school teachers” — in hopes those future educators will look more like the students they teach.

It’s unclear how big of a dent the new programs could have in the makeup of the city’s teaching force. Already, nearly one third of the district’s new hires are graduates of the city’s public schools.

But the efforts contribute to a shift already underway in the city’s approach to hiring. The NYC Men Teach initiative has “surpassed its goal of placing 1,000 men of color in the pipeline” to teach in city schools, according to Cohen, and the education department is now working with Educators Rising, a group affiliated with a national teachers association, to develop more teachers of color locally.

The group has started new programs at four high schools — Progress High School, the Brooklyn Institute for Liberal Arts, the High School for Medical Professions, and John Dewey High School — where some students are already participating in weekly programming, led by a school-based staff member, usually a teacher. The programs include an  assortment of future-teacher clubs, classes or guidance into the profession.

These schools join five others — one in each borough — that already had a teaching theme: Bronx High School for Teaching and Professions, Queens High School of Teachers, Manhattan’s Richard R. Green High School, Teachers Preparatory High School in Brooklyn and New Dorp High School in Staten Island.

Joan Weaver, the principal at Richard R. Green said that, like the rest of the city on average, more than 80 percent of the school’s students are Hispanic, black, or Asian. This diversity makes the school fertile ground for growing “the next generation of teachers,” she said.

Students enter the teaching academy junior year and participate in an internship within the school. They are paired with a real teacher whom they assist in the classroom. Senior year, students have “externships” at neighboring schools, where they can begin to figure out what kinds of jobs they might want someday. “They get a chance to say, ‘Oh, wait, I prefer this grade or to teach this,'” Weaver said. “They all think they want to teach little kids” but after working in an elementary school, many discover they enjoy teaching older students more.

And by helping these would-be teachers develop culturally relevant education practices, a centerpiece of Carranza’s vision for the city’s schools, such programs can help participants build the skills they’ll need in their future classrooms.

Starting this year, some students can begin to earn college and Regents credits that will ease the path into the teaching profession, according to an education department official. And the assortment of Educators Rising clubs or programs represent a way to replicate in existing high schools some of what Carranza says he admires at the teaching-themed schools.

“Those classes are diverse,” Carranza told YCTeen, so the students becoming teachers will be, too. “I want to nurture them so they come back.”

 

Follow the ratings

Illinois education officials laud their school ratings — but critics say they don’t go far enough

Illinois rolled out its new school accountability system in the Illinois Report Card late last month.

State education officials publicly lauded their new school rating system Friday, even as a new, nationwide analysis of school improvement plans criticized Illinois’ approach as too hands-off.  

While the state developed a clear rating system as the federal government requires, Illinois falls short in follow-through, according to the report from the Collaborative for Student Success, a non-profit advocacy group, and HCM Strategies, a policy analysis group.  

“The state is taking too limited a role in leading or supporting school improvement efforts,” said the report, which examined how 17 states are implementing school improvement plans under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which was passed in 2015 and replaced the No Child Left Behind Act.

Both those federal laws task states with identifying and helping improve underperforming schools and with creating criteria to judge which schools are doing well. Illinois rolled out its new school accountability system in the Illinois Report Card late last month.

State officials disagree with the criticism.

“Illinois is being held up as a model for other states to follow,” said Ralph Grimm, chief education officer of Illinois, speaking at the monthly state board of education meeting on Friday. “The entire (state) team has to be commended for providing useful information.”

Illinois’ rating system places every public school in the state into one of four categories based in part on scores on the annual PARCC standardized tests (click here to see how Chicago schools ranked).

Only about a third of Illinois students scored proficient or higher on PARCC tests administered last spring. In reading, 37 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 met that benchmark, while in math 31 percent did. Despite that, the state awarded 80 percent of its schools a “commendable” or “exemplary” rating. 

The state labeled 20 percent of schools “underperforming” or “low performing,” the only designations that could trigger state action. Intervention measures include improvement plans, visits from specialists, and additional funding.

The state released its ratings just days after Chicago released its own batch of school ratings, which take into account a different set of metrics and a different standardized test.

Grimm said the next step will be asking the state’s lowest-performing schools to draft improvement plans and then connecting them with experts to implement their changes.

The state ratings pay particular attention to how schools educate certain groups of students — such as children of color and English language learners. Improvement plans will focus on ways to raise their achievement levels.

Under the latest state rankings, nearly half of Chicago schools failed to meet the state’s threshold for performance, with a disproportionate number of high schools on the low-performance list. Nearly all of under- and low-performing Chicago high schools are on the South Side and sit in or border on the city’s poorest census tracts.

The state could grant underperforming schools $15,000, and  the lowest performers can apply for $100,000 under its IL-Empower program — which helped schools improve by funneling federal funds to them. Advocates have welcomed the change to a carrot to help schools pull themselves up, after years of sticks that overhauled and cut funding for low-performing schools.

Nationally, the Collaborative for Student Success report applauded Colorado for its streamlined application system, and Nevada for asking districts to directly address equity.

The collaborative criticized Illinois for failing to involve parents and community members in its plan. The group also said the state needs to give districts more guidance on putting together school improvement plans. 

carry on

These 16 Denver charter schools won renewal from the school board

PHOTO: AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post
Sebastian Cruz waves to Rev. Leon Kelly as he works with children in a classroom during his after-school program at Wyatt Academy in September 2018.

The Denver school board on Thursday night unanimously renewed agreements with 16 of the district’s charter schools. The lengths of those renewals, however, varied from one year to five years — and signaled the board’s confidence in the schools to deliver a quality education.

The board also accepted Roots Elementary’s decision to close and surrender its charter at the end of this school year. The Park Hill school is facing low enrollment and high costs.

Denver Public Schools is a charter-friendly school district that has for years shared tax revenue and school buildings with its 60 publicly funded, independently operated charter schools. The schools are controversial, though, with opponents viewing them as privatizing public education.

Every charter school in Denver has an agreement with the district that spells out how long it’s allowed to operate. To continue running after that time period, the charter school must seek renewal. The arrangement is part of the deal for charters: They get the flexibility to operate independently, but they must periodically prove to the district that they’re doing a good job.

The school board relies on one set of recommendations from Denver Public Schools staff and a second set of recommendations from a districtwide parent committee in deciding how long a leash to give each charter school. The district staff and the parents on the committee consider factors such as test scores, school culture, financial viability, and the strength of a school’s leaders when making their recommendations.

They also consider a school’s rating on Denver Public Schools’ color-coded scale based largely on academic factors. The School Performance Framework, or SPF, labels schools either blue, green, yellow, orange, or red. Blue means a school has a distinguished academic record, while red means a school is not meeting the district’s expectations.

The staff recommended the school board renew the charters of all 16 schools that applied. Two other charter schools — DSST: Cole Middle School and Compass Academy — are also up for renewal this year. But because they earned the district’s lowest rating, they must go through a separate process in which they will present a detailed improvement plan. Their renewals will depend on the strength of their plans, which is why they weren’t included in this batch.

The board approved the 16 renewals Thursday without discussion. All of the new terms begin next school year. Here’s the rundown:

STRIVE Prep Federal, a middle school in southwest Denver
Year opened: 2006
School rating: Green
Renewal: Five years

DSST: Green Valley Ranch High School, a high school in far northeast Denver
Year opened: 2011
School rating: Green
Renewal: Five years

Rocky Mountain Prep Creekside, an elementary school in southeast Denver
Year opened: 2012
School rating: Green
Renewal: Five years

DSST: College View High School, a high school in southwest Denver
Year opened: 2015
School rating: Green
Renewal: Three years, with a possible two-year extension

KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership Academy, a high school in far northeast Denver
Year opened: 2015
School rating: Blue
Renewal: Three years, with a possible two-year extension

KIPP Northeast Elementary School, an elementary school in far northeast Denver
Year opened: 2015
School rating: Yellow
Renewal: Two years, with a possible three-year extension

Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest, an elementary school in southwest Denver
Year opened: 2015
School rating: Yellow
Renewal: Two years, with a possible three-year extension

Wyatt Academy, an elementary school in northeast Denver
Year opened: 2003
School rating: Yellow
Renewal: Two years, with a possible two-year extension

KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School, a middle school in far northeast Denver
Year opened: 2011
School rating: Yellow
Renewal: Two years, with a possible two-year extension

Downtown Denver Expeditionary School, an elementary school in central Denver
Year opened: 2013
School rating: Yellow
Renewal: Two years, with a possible two-year extension

Denver Justice High School, an alternative high school for at-risk students in central Denver
Year opened: 2009
School rating: Yellow
Renewal: Two years, with a possible one-year extension

REACH Charter School, an elementary school in central Denver
Year opened: 2015
School rating: Yellow
Renewal: Two years, with a possible one-year extension

Monarch Montessori, an elementary school in far northeast Denver
Year opened: 2012
School rating: Orange
Renewal: One year, with a possible two-year extension

STRIVE Prep SMART, a high school in southwest Denver
Year opened: 2012
School rating: Orange
Renewal: One year, with a possible two-year extension

Academy of Urban Learning, an alternative high school for at-risk students in northwest Denver
Year opened: 2005
School rating: Red
Renewal: One year, with a possible one-year extension

Rise Up Community School, an alternative high school for at-risk students in northeast Denver
Year opened: 2015
School rating: Red
Renewal: One year