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September 7, 2017
Want to understand Betty Rosa’s vision? Check out the Bronx ‘community school’ she visited.
In many ways, P.S. 55 embodies Rosa’s philosophy that students’ social and emotional needs must be met before they can learn.
September 1, 2017
After blasting Success’s board chair, Chancellor Rosa to visit Success Academy on first day of school
This follows recent friction between the State Education Department and SUNY, Success's authorizer, and sometimes Success Academy itself.
haters gonna hate
June 29, 2017
Bronx borough president to high school grads: ‘Start breaking the mold of what the face of techies look like’
The tech industry in New York City has a diversity problem. The Bronx Academy for Software Engineering was launched to help solve it.
March 31, 2017
With diversity still dismal at specialized schools, New York City officials and parents shift focus to gifted programs
One common theme is emerging: The city needs to start earlier if it wants to include more black and Hispanic students in gifted and specialized high schools.
March 8, 2016
How one New York City school handles eighth grade’s biggest drama: high school letter day
Eighth-graders received their high school matches Friday, a day that can unleash unbridled elation, or crushing dejection.
avoiding the space wars
March 6, 2015
After pushback, Bronx charter replaced with D75 school in co-location plan
The earlier P.S. 277 co-location plan never sat well with parents and staff, who testified in January that it would mean giving up a valuable technology room.
October 15, 2014
Special-ed students in some neighborhoods face longer odds when looking for help
Ten percent of services are going unprovided for students who live in four Bronx ZIP codes with an average median household income of $22,000. That figure drops to 1.5 percent in the city’s five wealthiest enclaves, which have an average median income of $162,000.
October 10, 2014
Co-located 'Learning Partners' forge bonds as they swap ideas
Three of the seven schools in the Bronx's John F. Kennedy High School campus are building a community as they trade ideas through the Learning Partners program.
December 9, 2013
De Blasio must end 'crisis' in Bronx school district, report says
Esperanza Vazquez and other members of the New Settlement Parent Action Committee, which released a new report Friday, at a District 9 rally in 2012. (Photo courtesy of New Settlement PAC.) Michelle Reyes recalls that when her oldest daughter attended school in the South Bronx’s District 9 in the early 90s, many of her classmates learned little and dropped out. Two decades later, when her youngest daughter was a district student, Reyes saw much of the same — many floundering schools and struggling students. By some measures, such as graduation and dropout rates, District 9 has advanced with the rest of the city since Mayor Bloomberg took office. But the district remains stubbornly among the city's very lowest performers, and a new report by a parent-led advocacy group and a think tank argues that the next administration must aggressively attack the district's long-term problems. The report, released Friday by the New Settlement Parent Action Committee and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, suggests several ways the de Blasio administration could do that, beginning by creating a district-level improvement plan with input gathered at public forums.
October 1, 2013
Bronx BP education liaison suspended for using position for personal gain
Erica Veras, an education and community liaison in the office of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., tried to use her position to help her…
July 8, 2013
In her own words, a graduate who aims to use the arts to help
This is the second of two video profiles on students who received college scholarships from New Visions for Public Schools this year. Winners, who must attend high schools in the New Visions network, will receive up to $5,000 a year for all four years of college to pay for academic expenses. Read more about the nine other graduating seniors that New Visions honored. In a one-bedroom apartment in the West Bronx where Diamond Walker lives with her younger brother and mother, she talks about how it was sometimes difficult to get her work done. There's violence on her block, neighbors doing drugs in her hallway, and, with the library an unsafe walk away, nowhere quiet to study. "It's just really distracting and sometimes it's discouraging," said Walker, who graduated last month from the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics. "You're trying to do so much to make it better and it seems like nothing is going the right way."
April 23, 2013
Parents with Families for Excellent Schools start to get political
Parents involved with Families for Excellent Schools sit in a small group discussion to talk about the answer to a question posed by the group facilitator: "What are the characteristics of a quality education?" Regina Dowdell stepped up to the microphone and made an honest admission to the room full of fellow parents. "I personally didn't know exactly what the mayor did," said Dowdell, whose daughter attends Girls Preparatory Bronx Charter School. "I think that's an important focus today."
August 14, 2012
Bronx students got half of in-school police summonses last year
About 21 percent of the city's middle- and high-schoolers attend schools in the Bronx. But 48 percent of the summonses that police handed out in schools last year went to Bronx students. That is one statistic about policing in city schools that the New York Civil Liberties Union is highlighting now that it has a full year of school policing data in hand. Since last year, the New York Police Department has been required to publish information every three months about arrests it has made and summonses it has issued in schools, where it has more than 5,000 officers assigned. Between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012, police officers made 882 arrests in city schools and issued 1,666 summonses for behavior, according to the NYCLU's tally of the year's data. Virtually all of the arrests — more than 95 percent — were for black and Latino students, who make up about 70 percent of the city's enrollment. Three quarters were of male students. And 20 percent were of students between the ages of 11 and 14. Two-thirds of the summonses were issued for "disorderly behavior," a category of offense that the NYLCU argues usually amounts to typical teenaged behavior. Those behaviors are best dealt with by educators, not by directing students into the criminal justice system, the group argues.
July 25, 2012
Instruction is key to new charter school's construction effort
To learn more about what's in each photograph, click to read the caption. When Ife Lenard and her crew first entered the third-floor classrooms that will house the Children's Aid Society Charter School this fall, they found a dusty rotary phone, a decades-old beer can, and lockers coated with grime from years of middle-schoolers' use. But Lenard, the founding principal, can already envision how the classrooms — now gutted — will look come September, when the school opens to 130 kindergarten and first-graders in a South Bronx public school building. That vision includes lots of floor rugs and tables for small-group activities, computer stations, fall colors such as "squash yellow," a terrarium, and an aquarium, Lenard said as she led a procession of Children's Aid Society officials, clad in bright orange hard hats, including director Richard Buery, on a walking tour of the school earlier this week.
June 13, 2012
Principal wears multiple hats to run special education school
Principal Ava Kaplan in her office at special education school, P186 in the Bronx. On a sunny Friday morning, the hallways in a Bronx school buzzed with excitement as students prepared to celebrate their prom in the first floor cafeteria, which had been converted into a disco-themed dance floor. Principal Ava Kaplan greeted a group of P186's eighth graders as parents, teachers, and other administrators hovered over them with cameras. Everyone gathered around to cheer the 29 students who, because of serious cognitive and physical disabilities, are part of the school's alternative assessment program. Kaplan bent down and waved one hand across her face. “Beautiful,” she said in sign language to a girl in a white lace dress. The prom is a welcomed break in Kaplan’s busy schedule – running a special education school requires the Bronx native to take on additional responsibilities than a district school principal would because of the extra support her students require inside and outside of the classroom. Now in her fifth year as principal, Kaplan's no-nonsense attitude helps her oversee the large special education school, which has five campuses, 542 students, and more than 200 staff members. The Bronx school is under the umbrella of the Department of Education's District 75, which encompasses all of the city's special education programs for students who have autism, cognitive and physical disabilities, hearing or speech impediments, and other serious issues that make it difficult for them to regularly attend a district school. As principal, Kaplan's duties often extend beyond the walls of P186. Some days, Kaplan is a social worker; other days, she’s a guardian. And everyday she’s a demanding boss who expects her staff to keep up with the complicated responsibilities that come with caring for some of the city's most challenged students.
March 19, 2012
With stricter credit recovery policy comes a push to do more
An impending crackdown on how students can make up failed classes has some schools scurrying to help students rack up missing credits this spring. Many schools allow students who are missing credits—either because they failed a class, or because circumstances kept them from attending or completing required work—to receiving course credit for completing extra assignments through a practice known as "credit recovery." The practice, which accounted for about 1.7 percent of credits earned last year, offers students the chance to pick up narrowly missed credits without having to repeat classes, but it has also been criticized for devaluing academic credits because the make-up assignments are often less in-depth than those required in the regular classes. Last month, following an audit that found errors and possible evidence of cheating at 60 high schools, the city announced that it would begin restricting credit recovery access to students, in part by capping the number of credits students may receive through credit recovery, limiting enrollment to students who attended at least two thirds of class they're making up, and allowing students to make up credits only in the months immediately after they fail a course. The new policies take effect July 1 — giving schools a four-month window to help students rack up credits before the restrictions kick in. Teachers and students at many schools said last week that they hadn't heard about the looming policy changes. But some of those who did said the news had motivated a credit recovery spree among students missing credits—a response Department of Education officials say is inappropriate. Students at a small school at the Lower East Side's Seward Park Campus, said administrators had individually told students who are missing credits that now is the time to finish credit recovery.
February 6, 2012
School leaders share Danielson concerns at union-led trainings
Teachers brainstorm where features of the ideal classroom fit into the Danielson Framework's four domains. Training sessions about a classroom observation model opened up dialogue between teachers and principals this month, even after becoming a flashpoint in the city and teachers union's ongoing conflict over a new evaluation system. The city and union planned to host trainings on the teaching model the city hopes to adopt for its new evaluation system together. But after Mayor Bloomberg ratcheted up rhetoric against the union in the State of the City address, the union cut city officials out of the planning. The sessions began two weeks ago, drawing hundreds of attendees even after the Department of Education emailed principals informing them that the sessions were off. I spent an afternoon last week at a training session at the United Federation of Teachers' Bronx headquarters, where well over 100 union chapter leaders and their principals were receiving a crash-course on the Danielson Framework, a classroom observation model that serves as one component of the city's proposed evaluation system. The city has encouraged principals to practice using the Danielson Framework when conducting informal classroom observations this school year, and 140 schools have been piloting the observation model more formally. As an impasse over new teacher evaluations has deepened between the city and the UFT, a tension has emerged about whether the model is meant first to help teachers improve — the union’s position — or whether it is a tool to help principals usher weak teachers out of the system, as the city’s rhetoric has sometimes suggested. Catalina Fortino, the UFT’s vice president of education, said the purpose of the training sessions is to foster "a shared understanding" of the model for teachers and principals — an understanding that the city’s pilot of the Danielson framework had failed to develop, she said.
December 22, 2011
At Columbus, students and staff grapple with looming closure
Lisa Fuentes, principal of Christopher Columbus High School in the East Bronx, at work in her first floor office. "How many of you plan to go to tutoring?" Lisa Fuentes asked the crowd of Christopher Columbus High School seniors trickling into the first floor auditorium on a recent morning. As she surveyed the thin show of hands, her voice shook. "Maybe 10? So I put thousands of dollars aside so you can have tutoring, and a handful of you are attending?" "If you don't start taking this seriously, this is going to be the worst graduating class of the entire history of Columbus," she said. In her nine years as Columbus’s principal, Fuentes has had countless, similarly tough conversations with her senior classes to remind them about uncompleted college applications, looming Regents exams, and missing course credits. But she said she feels even more urgency this year, because she knows she is running out of time to reach the many students who are failing courses, missing credits, and chronically late to school.
December 13, 2011
Bronx slot on school board filled day before monthly meeting
Wilfredo Pagan has been appointed to represent the Bronx on the Panel for Educational Policy Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.'s office announced today that it has appointed Wilfredo Pagan to the Panel for Education Policy, just in time to represent the borough at tomorrow's meeting. Pagan, a lifelong Bronx resident, went to city schools himself and has sent six children to them. The parent association president at P.S. 50, he has belonged to the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council and the Citywide Council on High Schools. He said he has also attended past PEP meetings in his capacity as an involved public school parent. “It’s a new experience as far as the role, but as far as how the Department of Education operates in certain areas, I have good experience with it,” Pagan said. He is replacing Monica Major, who has served on the panel since October 2010 and has recently been tapped as Diaz's director of education and youth services.
April 5, 2011
Bronx custodians defrauded city with "ghost employee" hires
Custodians defrauded the city out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by listing "no-show" custodial employees on their payrolls at two Bronx high schools. A report released today by Special Commissioner of Investigation Robert Condon details how custodians at Harry Truman High School and the Theodore Roosevelt Educational Campus kept employees on the school's custodial payrolls during hours when they were not working. Some of these same employees were put to work doing construction and maintenance work on another custodian's private properties and paid with school funds. The report finds that custodians Trifon Radef and Nicanor Fernandez put at least four people on the payrolls of Truman and Roosevelt who were paid for hours they never worked. The report calls them "ghost employees" and recommends that the six men no longer be allowed to work for the city's Department of Education. It also calls on the DOE to examine its policy of allowing custodians to hold multiple jobs at different schools. "The current system allowed multiple individuals to be paid over many years although they never appeared for work," the report states. "It is unacceptable that one or more supervisors did not question their whereabouts and uncover this scheme."
October 21, 2010
Bronx borough prez sends familiar face to citywide school board
The Panel for Educational Policy has a new Bronx borough representative, and she'll be a familiar face for many city officials. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. has appointed Monica Major to the board, Diaz's office announced today. Major is the current vice president — and former president — of Community Education Council 11, one of the Bronx's parent committees. She was also a member of the Parent Commission on Mayoral Control, a group that advocated last year for reducing the mayor's power over the PEP, which acts as the citywide school board. Major replaces Anna Santos, who has served as the Bronx representative since February 2009. Last year, Santos emerged as one of the city's most outspoken critics on the board, alongside Manhattan representative Patrick Sullivan. It's not clear why Santos is leaving. Major is likely to continue the trend of opposition to many city policies that come up for approval. As part of the Parent Commission on Mayoral Control, Major proposed to reduce the number of mayoral appointees on the panel to three, and add six parent representatives to the board. Instead, the school governance legislation that Albany passed provided for eight mayoral appointees and one from each borough president, effectively guaranteeing that the board will approve city initiatives.
June 16, 2010
Report: Empowerment helped; grading system "deeply flawed"
Chancellor Joel Klein's strategy of empowering principals while holding them more accountable for results helped struggling schools get better. But his A to F grading system is "deeply flawed" and needs improvement. That's the message of a new, incredibly detailed report from the New School's Center for New York City Affairs. The report is the result of a study of hundreds of schools, including in-depth interviews with principals and school visits. The authors focused especially on the Bronx's District 7. The report is being released this morning at a panel discussion featuring Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch; the Department of Education's accountability chief Shael Polakow-Suransky; John Garvey, until recently the City University of New York's liaison to the public schools; and MS 223 principal Ramon Gonzalez. We'll have more details after the panel. For now, here's the report:
May 24, 2010
Getting their hands dirty at P.S. 78 in the Bronx
Volunteers from the insurance company New York Life visited the Bronx earlier this month to help fifth-graders at P.S. 78…
August 19, 2009
Over objections, Klein boosts progress reports on Australian TV
An Australian teacher who recently worked in the Bronx said yesterday that she saw nothing in the New York City schools she wanted to bring back to the land down under. Her comments came on the Australian television show "Insight," which yesterday focused on the Australian government's plan to adopt Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's controversial school progress reports. The episode featured Klein, who swapped visits last year with Australia's education minister, Julia Gillard, via live video feed. (Watch the episode, or read the transcript.) "There is nothing about classrooms in New York that I would like to replicate in Australian schools," teacher Mary-Ellen Betts said on the show. Betts worked as a literacy consultant (presumably an AUSSIE) at a Bronx elementary school several years ago. She continued: The impact of high stakes testing which is what it becomes when you are threatening to close schools, means that the curriculum narrows. Children are forced into more and more repeats of the same thing. So that if your school is failing and if you've got a group of failing students, you bring them in for breakfast programs. You keep them after school for after school programs. So that children as young as 6 are at school from 7.30 till 4.30 — they are still failing. A mockup of Australia's school progress report is below. Compare it to city progress reports here.
July 16, 2009
Fernandez: More city grads lacked basic skills under Bloomberg
Dolores Fernandez, the Bronx's appointee to the re-formed Board of Education, appearing on BronxTalk. Graduates of the city's public high schools are falling so behind in reading and math that a community college remediation program doubled in size between 1998 and 2008, the college's former president said this week. Dolores Fernandez, who resigned from Hostos Community College last year is now serving as the Bronx borough president's appointee to the re-formed Board of Education, made the remarks in an interview on a Bronx television news program, BronxTalk. "I would have loved for the New York City public schools to put my remediation programs out of business, because that would mean that every kid graduating out of the schools could read, write, and do math," Fernandez said. Fernandez said that a hiking up of standards at CUNY's four-year colleges played some part in the growth of Hostos's remediation program. "But then you still have the regular group of kids who just are coming to us in need of a GED diploma, because they haven't graduated from the public schools, and when we get them, we're basically teaching them reading, writing, and math — I mean, basic levels," she said. The gloomy picture challenges Bloomberg's own claims about the public schools, which state figures show now graduate far more students since 2002. But Fernandez said she does not trust these figures as a fair picture of what is really happening, especially for the poor Latino community she served at Hostos Community College. You can watch the interview in the full two parts below. UPDATE: Department of Education spokesman Andrew Jacob points out in the comments section that a growing remediation program does not mean that more city students are struggling. His argument: the size of the program doesn’t tell you anything about the percentage of graduates who required remediation, because the number of public school graduates enrolling at CUNY community colleges has risen dramatically in recent years–70% between 2002 and 2008. Among Hispanic public school graduates, enrollment doubled over that same time period. With this many more students enrolling, of course the remediation program would expand, even if the percentage of graduates needing remediation fell. And, in fact, that percentage has fallen across all CUNY community colleges, from 82 percent in 2002 to 74 percent in 2008. Among all CUNY colleges, the remediation rate for public school graduates has fallen from 58% to 51%.
May 26, 2009
In the outer boroughs, many schools send kindergartners away
Overcrowding in Manhattan schools seems to be more acute than usual this year. But in the rest of the city, Manhattan’s overcrowding story isn’t…
March 13, 2009
Parent commission: Reduce mayor’s board appointees to three
After a long wait, a commission of parents led by outspoken critics of the Department of Education is unveiling its own proposal for how to change mayoral control. In testimony delivered to the Bronx Assembly hearing on mayoral control this morning, parents painted an ideal picture in which parent voices would gain power while the mayor would lose it. Their proposal is topped off by a radical answer to the question of how to change the Panel for Educational Policy — the effective citywide school board — that would both strengthen the powers of the board and reshape who sits on it. The board would include just three mayoral appointees compared to six parent representatives, plus a City Council appointee, an appointee of the public advocate,and four expert members selected jointly by the board. The commission is also proposing a stronger role for the CEC elected parent councils in each district. A key complaint about Mayor Bloomberg's leadership has been that parents are not included in decision-making about the schools. Some have criticized the DOE for not consulting those councils when choosing to open and close schools, as is required by law. Lisa Donlan, a commission member from Manhattan and the president of a CEC, testified that the state should create an "ombudsperson" role who would have the legal authority to advocate for parents when they aren't comfortable advocating for themselves. This role addresses the DOE's Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy, which Freeman called "a way of distracting [parents], but not a way of helping them."
January 22, 2009
Anonymous, scathing NYC teacher-blogger outs his school
The rising tide of transparency seems to have infected a South Bronx schoolteacher. Since last August, the teacher has been skewering Department of…
November 18, 2008
Meet Franklin, the city's other aspiring preteen food critic
Last week’s “Big City” column in the New York Times tells the story of a 12-year-old aspiring food critic who adorably took himself…
October 21, 2008
Students take a stance on school safety, discipline
The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and local youth organizations regularly condemn metal detectors and policing of schools, saying they make students feel like criminals. So I was surprised when I was in the Bronx last week and heard students saying something different. I was at a workshop at a conference on youth violence prevention, and participants were asked to cross the room if they agreed with statements by the facilitator, move to the middle if they weren't sure or partly agreed, and stay on the other side if they disagreed. Nearly all the students crossed the room, indicating they agreed, in response to two questions related to NYCLU's campaign: Should the city have a curfew for teenagers, and should the city schools have metal detectors? Although students in the workshop crossed the room in favor of them, other students I spoke to later expressed concerns about whether metal detectors really keep schools safe. Their views are after the jump.
July 23, 2008
Random Family reflections
I'm a few years behind in reading Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's book chronicling a decade that she spent following a family from the Tremont neighborhood in the South Bronx. Timely or not, I can't help but post about it. The first thing that broke my heart was the pervasiveness of sexual abuse. By about 15 pages in, every single woman and girl in the book up to that point had been sexually abused by a family member, family friend, or acquaintance. One girl was only two years old when she was molested. The psychological toll of abuse is enormous, and when a problem is as widespread as this book suggests that it is, where do you even begin in helping people heal? The legacy of abuse runs through families, as daughters blame their mothers for not protecting them, even as they are often unable to protect their own daughters.
July 8, 2008
Recess in a huge public school is so loud you can hear it six stories up. Children play basketball, kickball, double-dutch, and games…
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