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January 23, 2018
Parents rally to demand a voice in the search for New York City schools chief
The education department has made it a mission to boost parent involvement in schools. Now, parents are demanding a bigger role elsewhere: In…
December 7, 2017
‘Be bold’: Advocates, lawmakers call on New York City to go further on school integration
As New York City tries to increase the racial and socioeconomic diversity of its schools, it must do more to make sure every school is…
December 10, 2014
As city creates 128 new community schools, advocates call for official guidelines
Even as they applauded Mayor Bill de Blasio for promising to convert 128 schools into service-rich “community schools,” advocates urged the city on Wednesday to adopt formal guidelines to make sure the schools have similar standards and practices.
Hoping for Hubs
May 19, 2014
No action yet on de Blasio's community schools plan, but advocates stay hopeful
Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised to turn 100 schools into full-service community hubs. But so far the city hasn't set aside funds for the plan or announced a timeline for its roll out.
October 17, 2013
For a deal on teacher conferences, usual adversaries team up
The Coalition for Educational Justice announced the $5 million allocation for additional test score talks in September. Parent advocates stood with a top city education official on the steps of City Hall in late September to make an announcement: The city was setting aside $5 million for extra parent-teacher conferences for students with low state test scores. But advocates weren't sure that was the event they were going to have. Until two days before the press conference, members of the Coalition for Educational Justice thought they might just be calling on the city to set aside the funds. Though the group had met with Department of Education officials twice, they had been told that the costs seemed too high and the funding source unclear. Three days after their last meeting, Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky emailed the group. You made a persuasive argument, he wrote, promising to continue the search for funds. The city did find $5 million to finance the conferences, which the Coalition announced at City Hall. Since then, the teachers union and the principals union have joined the city and Coalition members to hammer out the logistics — a level of collaboration that many of involved said they hadn't seen in years on an optional initiative. "It's been a little surreal," said Natasha Capers, a parent leader with CEJ. "At one point I was sitting at the table, and thought, would it be weird if I just took a picture of everyone doing this?"
June 8, 2012
Four Years To Reverse A Bad Decision?
This piece originally appeared in Spanish in El Diario. Last Friday, the Department of Education quietly disclosed that it will end one of its signature policies: the all-out ban on so-called “social promotion” of students in city schools. Finally, "in response to ... feedback and research showing that being retained multiple times can be detrimental for students," principals will receive an additional $1,500 for every student who has already been retained and will have the flexibility to promote those students if they judge that to be best for the student. Turns out, simply holding students back doesn’t always help them do better. And sometimes, it’s not best for a child to be 16 years old in the eighth grade. I want to say, “I told you so,” but that isn’t very satisfying. It just makes me angry. Back in 2008, parents and community members from the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice protested the strict retention policy, based on years of educational research. One hundred fifty of us showed up to protest the Panel for Educational Policy “vote” to put 18,000 students at risk of repeating a grade because of their state test scores — without any plan at all to help those students do better. Of course we don't want our children passed on if they are not prepared for the next grade, but we did want proof that a ban would work, as well as a plan to give students the academic supports they would need.
April 17, 2012
Candidates' criticism of school closures includes call for a halt
After closing 140 schools since taking over the system in 2003, Mayor Bloomberg shouldn't be allowed to shut down any more, according to Bill Thompson, who would like to succeed the mayor. Thompson today announced that he has been lobbying legislators in Albany to impose a moratorium on school closures in New York City until after Bloomberg leaves office at the end of 2013. Thompson, who narrowly lost to Bloomberg in 2009, said he had heard rumors from sources "inside and outside" the Department of Education, including legislators, that the Bloomberg administration is planning to close 75 schools next year. "Why would we allow that to happen in the last year of a Bloomberg administration?" Thompson said. "We need to be protected against the DOE right now." Bloomberg dismissed Thompson's comment this afternoon, saying, "We can't possibly know what we're going to do next year." But he added that his administration would "keep doing what we do right up until December 31, 2013" when his term ends.
April 5, 2012
CEJ: Hiring costs at turnaround schools could top $60 million
Parents and students rallied at City Hall this afternoon to protest the city's closure plans Replacing teachers at the remaining 26 turnaround schools could cost the city as much as $60 million, according to a new analysis released today by one of the city's most vociferous opponents. The report, released by the Coalition for Educational Justice in advance of an organized student and parent protest at City Hall, also took aim at the process the Department of Education used to assessed many of the schools that remain on the turnaround list. A dozen schools are doing well enough on their annual progress reports that they cleared the city's own closure benchmark. The CEJ cost analysis found that up to 849 teachers in the 26 schools could be replaced in order to qualify for federal school improvement grants, which require that no more than 50 percent of teachers can be retained under the turnaround model. The analysis omitted teachers who were hired in the last two years because they are likely to be exempted from the total pool of teachers that must reapply to their positions. The final figures will almost certainly be less than CEJ's projections because DOE officials have begun telling principals they won't be on the hook any specific number of teachers. The report details the salary and tenure profile at each of the 26 schools. For instance, teachers at John Dewey High School, where college-readiness rates exceed the city average, earned the highest average salary, $82,641, and just 7 percent of its staff was hired in the last two years. At Banana Kelly, where more than half of its teaching staff joined the school in recent years, just one teacher would need to be removed at the school to qualify for the funds.
February 28, 2012
For opponents of mayoral control, fight starts with co-locations
District 3 CEC member Noah Gotbaum and Sonya Hampton, a parent from P.S./M.S. 149 and vocal charter school critic, lead chants against co-locations at rally. When the Bloomberg Administration threatened to shut down a school in Assemblyman Keith Wright’s district this year, Wright vowed to create legislation to repeal mayoral control of the schools. The city didn't go through with the closure, but Wright is making good on his word — at least to a degree — by introducing a bill that would chip away at one of the mayor's most controversial powers: the ability to install schools inside other schools' buildings. The bill would require elected parent councils known as Community Education Councils to approve any co-location proposal before it may go into effect. Co-location proposals often generate heated debate within districts, particularly when the city is proposing to move a charter school into a district building. The CECs regularly play a vocal role in opposing charter school co-locations within their district schools, but they have no power to stop them or any other co-location. Instead, the Panel for Educational Policy, which has never rejected a city proposal, must approve co-locations. Parents, politicians, advocacy groups and representatives of at least three CECs rallied infront of Department of Education headquarters this morning to show their support for Wright's bill, saying they hope it will pass because the CECs already must vote on zone lines within their districts. Co-locations were the only subject of today's rally; but according to Noah Gotbaum, a member of CEC for District 3, the CECs are hoping the co-location bill will be the first step toward legislation restricting the city's ability to close schools, and eventually leading to the outright end of mayoral control.
February 24, 2012
Students say new high school policies will require extra support
Student activists call for a greater focus on college readiness in city schools during a rally today. For some city teachers and students, the big news this week wasn't the release of teachers' ratings but a slew of new policies meant to crack down on graduation rate inflation. The new policies, which follow an audit that found errors and evidence of possible cheating at dozens of schools, change the way high school exams will be graded and limit the number of failed courses students can make up without repeating the class. Today, high school students said tougher expectations are a good thing — as long as they are coupled with more support for schools. The students were holding a rally and panel discussion at New York University Friday afternoon to draw attention to a campaign, spearheaded by City Councilmen Ydanis Rodriguez and Robert Jackson, and several advocacy groups including the Urban Youth Collaborative and the Coalition for Educational Justice. For years, students affiliated with those groups have been urging the city to fund "success centers" inside schools where teens could get help preparing for college. And in 2009, CEJ began calling attention to a potential "looming crisis" posed by the state's increasingly tough graduation standards — something a top Department of Education official told GothamSchools this week threatens to roll back graduation rates far more than the policy changes. The students I spoke to had not heard yet about new policies, which the department announced Thursday, and did not know how their schools might be affected. But one said some of the city's new policies could hurt school graduation rates in the short run by making it more difficult for students to make up credits for courses they failed.
February 9, 2012
City says three separate closure protests won't derail PEP's vote
A snapshot from one of two Panel for Educational Policy meetings about school closures in 2011. Boisterous protests against school closures have long been accused of lending a circus-like atmosphere to the annual meetings where the Panel for Educational Policy votes on closures. This year, though, the opposition will actually have three rings. Three separate groups are planning protest actions during tonight's PEP meeting, where the citywide school board is set to vote on — and presumably approve — 23 school closures and truncations. (Changes to two schools were taken off the table yesterday.) City officials have vowed not to let the protests disrupt the panel's proceedings, suggesting that panel members and protesters alike could be in for a long and potentially combative night. Last year, the panel approved 22 closures in two separate meetings that each lasted well past 1 a.m. In 2010, the panel's vote on 20 school closures took place just before 4 a.m., after more than 10 hours of protests and public comment. Tonight, the United Federation of Teachers, which has orchestrated the most substantial protests in the past, is planning to start its protest outside Brooklyn Technical High School but then constitute an alternate event, a "People's PEP," at P.S. 20, an elementary school with a 600-seat auditorium six blocks away that the union has rented for the evening. Union officials said teachers from the schools up for closure would be invited to give presentations about their schools at the P.S. 20 meeting. Another group that has been active in opposing the closure proposals, the Coalition for Educational Justice, is taking a different approach: Instead of walking out from the meeting, CEJ members and those active in affiliated groups, including the Alliance for Quality Education and the Urban Youth Collaborative, are marching in protest to it. After a 5 p.m. rally, they'll walk five blocks east on Dekalb Street to Brooklyn Tech, where they will continue to protest against the city's proposed closures. A press advisory for the CEJ event warns that protesters will use the "people's mic" to amplify their voices during the panel meeting. And they won't be alone using that strategy. A third protest set for tonight is by "Occupy the DOE," which grew out of the Occupy Wall Street movement that popularized the human microphone tactic.
January 30, 2012
Union Square rally set to protest week's school closure hearings
Students and teachers from two high schools on the city's chopping block are planning to join in protest on Wednesday — and they're asking their allies from across the city to join in. The Union Square rally comes during the final week of hearings before the Panel for Educational Policy, which has never rejected a city proposal, votes on 25 school closure proposals Feb. 9. Students at Manhattan's Legacy School for Integrated Studies are planning to walk out of their classes and head for Union Square just four hours before their school's closure hearing. The walkout is the latest in a series of high-profile protest actions that have included a phone-banking session and a guerrilla appearance on "The Today Show" — activities chronicled in a video posted to YouTube over the weekend by the Save Legacy Coalition.
January 27, 2012
Brief: MDRC study left out a key slice of the student population
A group of elected officials are touting a policy brief that they say throws cold water on Mayor Bloomberg's small schools movement just a day after a comprehensive study gave it a ringing endorsement. The six-page brief, compiled by the Coalition for Educational Justice, focuses on how the new small schools serve students with special needs and concludes that they tend to under-enroll students whose disabilities are severe. It cited eight closed large high schools where the small schools opened up in their buildings that served significantly fewer self-contained students. A complete copy of the brief is below. The six-page paper comes a day after MDRC published a study that found that all kinds of students at more than 100 small high schools graduated at higher rates statistically identical students who attended larger schools. The brief's focus didn't necessarily debunk the MDRC findings, but attempted to raise additional issues about school closures. "While it is commendable that the new small schools are producing higher graduations rates, it is not clear that these schools serve the same population," the paper says. "The MDRC study does not include students in self-contained special education or collaborative team teaching; the omission of those high-needs students increases graduation rates in the new small schools."
January 12, 2012
Mayor's address comes against evaluations impasse backdrop
When Mayor Bloomberg takes the podium to deliver his annual State of the City address this afternoon, education insiders will be on the edge of their seats to hear his latest take on the fight over new teacher evaluations. Insiders say the mayor is likely to address the impasse between the city and teachers union on evaluations. That impasse has dominated the news in recent weeks, especially after state officials said cut off some federal funding to schools that were supposed to use the new evaluations this year. In the last week, blame for the standstill has flown from Gov. Cuomo and the state teachers union, but Bloomberg has been relatively quiet. The speech in which he outlines his annual policy agenda would be an opportune time to assert his position and try to move the situation forward. Whether Bloomberg will tackle the sticky topic during his address today is not assured, and what exactly he could propose to resolve the tension is unclear. Department of Education and City Hall insiders haven't tipped their hands about the content of today's speech, and the only news that has leaked out has been about other topics. In some ways, it's hard to imagine Bloomberg making a major education policy announcement right now. Several substantial Department of Education initiatives, including ones to reform middle schools and revamp instruction and assessments, are already underway, and the mayor has scant time or money to execute much more. But an immediate solution to the teacher evaluations impasse is seen as crucial. That Bloomberg is delivering the speech from inside the city's oldest coeducational high school, Morris in the South Bronx, has heightened speculation about the speech's education content.
January 10, 2012
To protest school closure, students fill officials' voicemail boxes
April Pichardo, Justin Watson, and Harry Rivas (center), students from Manhattan's Legacy School for Integrated Studies, organized a phone bank to lobby officials to keep the school open. Students at the Legacy School for Integrated Studies took to the phones this afternoon in the latest phase of a desperate effort to save their school. About two dozen students, parents and administrators spread out across the cafeteria of the Union Square high school to barrage officials with phone calls protesting the city's plan to close the school. A list of of 75 targets ranged from Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch to midlevel officials at the city Department of Education. Some people received as many as 20 calls, according to students who organized the event, which they called "Occupy Their Ears." The Panel for Educational Policy, which has never rejected a city proposal, is set to vote on closure plans for Legacy and 18 other schools next month. Until then, Legacy students and Coalition for Educational Justice activists say they will lobby the city to give the low-performing school more time to improve. Some students said they also plan to go to Rockefeller Center early each morning next week with the hope that their "Save Legacy" signs will be featured on air during "The Today Show."
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