P.S. 59 Principal Adele Schroeter and teacher Nekia Wise discuss how the Common Core standards have effected teaching practices at their school.
As an elementary school teacher, Nekia Wise has taken her students to the HomeDepot in Midtown and to a nearby Starbucks to learn about business, communities, and cultures. And when she read the materials the city used to introduce teachers to the Common Core standards last year, those lessons immediately came to mind.
In her view, the new standards represent a teaching point-of-view that she has used with her first, third and fourth grade students for years: a focus on "inquiry-based learning," which privileges learning opportunities ripe for experimentation and analysis over the rote memorization of facts.
"They learned so much about Africa from learning about where the coffee beans come from. And about the lack of water systems," she said. "[The Core] made me think about everything that I've already tried to do in the classroom with kids along the lines of real-world understanding and implementation."
She and two Manhattan principals joined city officials and educator Deborah Meier in District 2 on Monday night for a forum to demystify the new curriculum standards for parents who feel the city's curriculum pilot has left many in the dark about how teaching practices are expected to change. The standards have come under fire since their inception both for being too vague in some areas and too rigid in others.
Meier, a city educator and the influential author of "the Power of Their Ideas," said she is particularly concerned that the Core will stifle students' and teachers' creativity, by prescribing a strict guide to what they need to learn, when they need to learn it, and how they will be judged using standardized tests.
"The word alignment is not something we ever used to use," she said. "You've set up a situation starting in pre-Kindergarten in which we are all involved in a race."
Deputy Chancellors Kathleen Grimm and Marc Sternberg hear feedback from parents on plans to rezone schools in District 2.
The Department of Education's third — and likely final — proposal for rezoning in Manhattan's District 2 received a lukewarm reception from Lower Manhattan parents at a public hearing Monday night.
DOE officials retracted some of the more controversial elements of the department's rezoning proposal but warned that some overcrowded schools would not see relief, prompting grumbling from parents who had come to urge the officials to build more schools in the district.
In the revised plan, unveiled this week, Tribeca's popular P.S. 234 and the Greenwich Village's P.S. 41 and P.S. 3 will not be rezoned. Two of the original proposals, which called for the rezoning of schools in Lower Manhattan, Chelsea, and Greenwich Village, were unanimously rejected by the District 2 CEC earlier this month.
Now, the rezoning's only major effect would be to trim some Lower Manhattan school zones to create a zone for the Peck Slip School, a new elementary school that is set to open in Tweed Courthouse next fall.
City officials, including deputy chancellors Marc Sternberg and Kathleen Grimm, said the change in plans was a response to vocal opposition from parents at P.S. 234, who argued that altering the school's zone would change its character. But Sternberg and Grimm stressed that the tradeoff is that their latest proposal would not meet demand for school seats in the neighborhood. The parents had urged the officials to build more schools rather than shifting students among existing ones.
"You're right to ask for more, but we don't know if we can give you more," Sternberg said. "We are looking for solutions where the money falls short, as it most certainly will."
Tweed Courthouse, the Department of Education's headquarters, regularly houses just-starting-out schools in its basement.
To ease crowding in Lower Manhattan, the Department of Education could move offices out of its headquarters.
That's the suggestion of State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who argues in a letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott that DOE officials would do well to clear out to make space for children.
The letter comes days after the elected parent council for Manhattan's District 2 rejected a DOE plan that would have tweaked zones for some overcrowded schools and created a zone for a new school set to open next year.
That school, Peck Slip School, is set to spend its first year in the basement of Tweed Courthouse, the DOE's headquarters ever since Mayor Bloomberg relocated the education department's offices from Brooklyn when he first gained control of the schools. The ornate building mostly contains administrative offices, but for the last several years, its basement has housed just-starting-out schools. Ross Global Charter School and the Spruce Street School have occupied the space while waiting for permanent sites, and Innovate Manhattan Charter School opened there this year.
Since the space is certified for public school occupancy — an obstacle the city has run up against when surveying other vacant buildings in Manhattan — Squadron says the DOE should convert more offices into classrooms and send the adults elsewhere.
Rezoning plan for Lower Manhattan
District 2's Community Education Council is facing a catch-22: Approve the three rezoning plans presented by the Department of Education last night, with all of their wrinkles, or risk missing a chance to solve crowding problems this year.
After parents criticized a first draft of the plans last month, department officials brought new rezoning maps – one for the Upper East Side, one for the West Village/Chelsea, and one for Lower Manhattan – to the council's meeting last night. The plans, which council members had not seen before the meeting, address some problems but introduce others, according to Shino Tanikawa, the council's president.
The Upper East Side plan was minimally altered, while the West Village/Chelsea plan had significant changes. P.S. 3 and P.S. 41, which currently share a single choice zone, will be split into two separate zones. Moreover, the P.S. 41 zone would include inside of it the future zone lines for the Foundling School, which is set to open in 2014.
The main point of contention involves the Lower Manhattan plan which would send some addresses currently zoned for Tribeca's P.S. 234 and others currently zoned for P.S. 397, the new Spruce Street School, to P.S. 1 in Chinatown, a far less affluent school with many immigrant students. Last summer, families on P.S. 234's waiting list resisted when they were offered places at another Chinatown school, P.S. 130.
Some parents said the change would damage the neighborhoods' sense of identity. But Tricia Joyce, a P.S. 234 parent and a co-chair of the school's overcrowding committee, said the bigger problem is that P.S. 1 could become overcrowded.
“The proposals are all just overcrowding the schools around us for an insignificant gain,” Joyce said. “Rezoning does not create seats and seats are what we need.”
A map of proposed new school zones for Lower Manhattan
Tribeca’s P.S. 234 is no stranger to overcrowding, but last night the packed auditorium was full of stressed downtown parents instead of their children.
The parents were there to speak out on the Department of Education’s rezoning proposal for downtown Manhattan during the first of multiple public hearings held by the Community Education Council for District 2.
It is the third time District 2 has been rezoned in as many years as new schools have come online to serve the district's growing number of families. In 2009, the department offered up multiple rezoning options, pitting parents against each other based on how their children would be affected. This year, the department released a single proposal for the council to revise and approve.
“We went through some wars together,” Elizabeth Rose, from the DOE’s department of portfolio management, told the parents at last night's meeting. “Tonight, I’m mostly here to listen.”
Rose, CEC members, and other officials heard parents complain that they had moved to Tribeca in order to send their children to the popular P.S. 234, only to find out that they could be rezoned and see the value of their homes fall. They heard concerns about changes to a longstanding policy of treating the West Village as a single zone shared by multiple schools. And they heard worries about the "sketchy" neighborhood that students might have to walk through to get from Tribeca to P.S. 3 in the West Village.
Together, the parents argued that the rezoning proposal did not meet downtown's real needs: for the DOE to bring school zones in line with neighborhood boundaries, ensure students' safety during their commutes, and build more schools in Lower Manhattan.
Anyone who stayed until the bitter end of a three-hour meeting last night about kindergarten waitlists in Manhattan got a surprise: an uncharacteristic apology from a top DOE official.
Hundreds of parents turned out for a meeting of the parent council for District 2 to vent about having been shut out, at least for now, of their neighborhood schools. Last week, Manhattan parents protested at City Hall after 273 children were put on waiting lists at many elementary schools.
Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm arrived late to the meeting after spending her afternoon dealing with the swine flu outbreak in Queens. She sat quietly in the audience and listened to a tense back and forth between school officials and angry parents. The auditorium had mostly emptied and council members were preparing to adjourn when Grimm approached the microphone to make a surprise statement, which I captured on video above. Here's a key part of what she said:
I also want to say something that I thought I heard people from the DOE say tonight, but just in case you didn't, I want to say, I'm sorry. We're sorry. We have stumbled on some of this planning.
The two officials leading the meeting told parents during the meeting that most schools should be able to eliminate their wait lists by the middle of June, after families find out where they've been offered seats in gifted and talented programs. John White, who heads the Department of Education's efforts to manage school space, said that more children in each area qualified for gifted admissions than there are children on the waiting list.
Parents and elected officials gathered at City Hall today to protest crowding in Manhattan that has led to long waiting lists for public school kindergartens. (GothamSchools ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/28995913@N07/3508423223/##Flickr##)
A crowd of shell-shocked parents gathered outside City Hall this afternoon, angry that the Department of Education hasn’t found seats for the hundreds of rising kindergarten students who have been placed on waiting lists for next year at their local public schools.
The waiting lists, which include 273 names in just two Manhattan districts, mean that families in baby- and building-boom areas like the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, and Greenwich Village could find themselves unable to secure a spot at their neighborhood school's kindergarten.
The lists attracted extra attention yesterday after news leaked that the city was considering closing or relocating prekindergarten classes at two Greenwich Village elementary schools, PS 3 and PS 41, in order to make room for kindergartners.
Parents at the rally said they felt confused and powerless. "As far as I can tell, I don't have a Plan B — other than home school or moving to Jersey," said Jay Douglas, whose 4-year-old son is number 42 on a waiting list for PS 187 in Washington Heights.
Elected officials joined the parents at City Hall today to criticize city officials for not planning ahead to meet the demand for spots in public schools. Scott Stringer, Manhattan's borough president, said the DOE is "closing its eyes" to a widespread capacity problem, warning that taxpaying parents will pack up and move, taking their kids and tax dollars somewhere else if they can't enroll in their local public school.
75 Morton Street, the subject of a rally last summer, could still become a school. <em>(GothamSchools)</em>
A meeting about overcrowding in Manhattan schools last night ended in surprising fashion: with the Department of Education being lauded for listening to parents.
Parents from one local school, the Clinton School for Writers and Artists, showed up to the meeting of the Community Education Council for District 2 in red, as planned, to protest the idea of their school moving. Hundreds of other parents arrived armed with protest signs and talking points about the need for more school seats in the district, which covers most of Manhattan below 59th Street and the Upper East Side. Advocates have criticized the DOE for understating the extent of crowding in the area.
But the mood relaxed after John White, the DOE official on hand, dispatched with the idea that Clinton would be asked to move. White said the DOE instead would try to ease crowding by finding a new space for Greenwich Village Middle School. That school is eager to move out of its current location on the top floor of the already overcrowded PS 3 building.
One potential site for the school, according to White: part of the state-owned office building at 75 Morton Street that parents and elected officials lobbied mightily last summer for the DOE to obtain.
The East Side of Manhattan is getting two new school buildings — and the city won't have to spend a cent on them.
As part of a complicated deal with a private developer, the World-Wide Group, the Department of Education will open a massive, multi-use private development at 57th Street and 2nd Avenue that will include two schools, a Whole Foods, shops, and 320 residential units. Two schools will occupy the space, PS 59 and the High School for Art and Design, which is 1 million square feet and will open in 2012.
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein unveiled the designs for the development this morning at PS 59's temporary home, a gleaming East Side building that was also renovated by the World-Wide Group last year.
The arrangement will certainly be cheered in the community, since it means 830 new elementary school seats in the overcrowded District 2 region.
It could also become a model for how to build school buildings at little cost to the city. The Department of Education negotiated the deal through the Educational Construction Fund, a finance mechanism that gives private developers access to tax-exempt bonds and city air rights if they commit to including schools in their developments. A Greenwich Village school planned for 2012 will follow a similar model. And also in District 2, another public-private partnership is paying for a new space for East Side Middle School in a 118-unit residential tower on East 91st Street. A crane at that site collapsed this spring, killing a construction worker.
A sketch of the new development and a rendering of its facade, all designed by architecture firm Skidmore Owings and Merrill LLP, are below the jump.