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November 6, 2013
Hurdles still high for students looking to switch high schools
Eighth-grader Jessica Escolah, right, said it's hard to choose a high school knowing her interests might change. On the first day of school this year, a Bronx high school student watched through the fence as students at the Collegiate Institute of Math and Science played games on the football field. He didn’t attend their school, but he wanted to. His own school, Christopher Columbus High School, will close at the end of the year, while CIMS, one of six schools in the same building, enrolls high performers and sends them on college trips. The student didn’t want this name used because he is still petitioning the city for a slot at CIMS, even though his time in high school is winding down. “You know you’re in a bad school and you’re just trying to get out,” he said. “Even in the same building there’s a big gap.” The Bloomberg administration’s approach to closing that gap has been to push struggling schools to improve and close those that do not. But improvement rarely comes quickly enough for students, whose time in high school is short, and those in search of a better school or just a better fit struggle to find a way out.
October 24, 2013
Shrinking enrollment leads to a new focus: play
A Northglenn elementary school was rapidly losing students to nearby magnet and charter schools until the principal took a gamble on a program that provides recess coaches to low-income, urban schools.
October 10, 2013
Report illustrates disparities in over-the-counter enrollment
Percentages of over the counter students at schools that began phasing out in 2011 Students who enter city high schools outside of the regular admissions process are disproportionately sent to struggling schools, according to a new analysis of Department of Education data—something advocates for those schools have long asserted. The statistics also illustrate how differently seats are filled in high schools across the city. At the High School for Telecommunication Arts and Technology in 2011, only 7 percent of students were enrolled "over the counter," meaning they were assigned some time after the traditional high school choice process. At Fordham Leadership Academy for Business and Technology, which the city has tried to close, 26 percent of students were enrolled over the counter that year. Christopher Columbus High School, which is closing at the end of this year, had some of the highest rates in the city. Over-the-counter enrollments made up 39 percent of the school's total in 2008, and the pace continued as the school began phasing out, with 37 percent over-the-counter enrollment in 2011.
September 23, 2013
All Families (Without The Dependent Clause)
To the extent that there is counseling out, are charters making conscious choices to push out or exclude families that require greater resources or refuse to get on board? Or do some parents self-select out simply as a result of the rigor or perceived rigor of school policies? How aware are charter operators of the enrollment and attrition implications of their policies? I believe that by failing to answer these questions explicitly, comprehensively and publicly, charter schools are wasting the opportunity to contribute to long-lasting, meaningful reform.
September 12, 2013
Kindergarten admissions to head online, with link to charter app
Chancellor Dennis Walcott reads to kindergarten students at Peck Slip this morning before making an admissions announcement. Parents applying for spots in kindergarten across the city next year will be able to complete the process online through what Department of Education officials today called a "transformative" change to the enrollment process. The changes also include the beginning of a long-term project to integrate charter school admissions into the city's general enrollment process. The new, online kindergarten admissions system will affect the parents of the more than 70,000 students entering kindergarten this year, reducing the hassle associated with applying to multiple schools. The city called it an effort "to make enrollment more family friendly." "Right now, parents must go from school to school to school, submitting applications at each school in order to apply to multiple schools, and that really is something we don't want to have happen to our parents," Chancellor Dennis Walcott said at a press conference today after an appearance at the Peck Slip School, which like many downtown Manhattan schools had a wait list for kindergarten this year. "So if you're a single parent, and you're balancing a job and a child, this is something we want to definitely avoid," Walcott said. "It's really tough for parents, whether you're single or not."
August 30, 2013
Ten stories from the flood of new faces entering NYC's schools
Iken Ude-Smith and Corbit Smith, outside an enrollment center in Brooklyn, where they hoped to select Iken's school. Every summer, thousands of children scattered across the city don't have a school to attend in the fall. Beginning this week, and continuing through the beginning of the school year, many of these students will start figuring out what their best options are and find themselves flooding to hubs designed to help them. The sorting happens at nine pop-up enrollment centers housed in school basements and auditoriums, where Department of Education officials and volunteers sift through documents, check for seats in the city’s 1,700 schools, and listen to new students’ histories and needs. It's a process designed to deal with the unique transience of New York City's public school population, which annually includes about 50,000 students who enroll in city schools “over the counter” — or after regular enrollment deadlines. We met families at last year's enrollment centers. Now, here are some of the new faces from this year:
June 24, 2013
Students are being zoned for P.S. 64, a school the city is closing
P.S. 64 families protested the school's poor quality before its closure hearing in February. (Photo: Luke Hammill) A quirk in the city's complicated school system means that some families are being told that their children must attend a school that the city deemed so low-performing that it should not be allowed to enroll any new students. In the South Bronx, the Department of Education this year decided to close P.S. 64, a long-struggling elementary school — with some parents' support. In September, the youngest children at P.S. 64 will begin attending two new schools that are opening in the building, in keeping with the city's preferred model for phasing out low-performing schools, while older students will stay on until the last ones move on to middle school. But even though no new kindergarteners will enroll at P.S. 64, some students have been zoned for the school. About two dozen families at P.S. 170, a nearby school that serves children in kindergarten through second grade, have been told that their children are zoned for third grade at P.S. 64. Unlike P.S. 64, which has received D's on its two most recent city progress reports, including an F for student performance, P.S. 170 received a B on its most recent progress report.
February 13, 2013
As schools' closure hearings begin, their students get a way out
Students who attend schools the city is shuttering for poor performance will be allowed to leave, under a new policy that the Department of Education is rolling out at school closure hearings that begin tonight. For the last decade, the Department of Education has closed schools — more than 150 in all — through a phase-out process in which no new students enter but existing students stay on until they graduate, up to three years after the closure decision. By the time the schools finally close their doors, only barebones staff and program offerings remain for the final students. "The past policy was sort of like saying, 'We’re going to get divorced in two years but we have to live together until then.' It was not tenable," said Clara Hemphill, who has reported about the impact of closures on schools and students as the editor of Insideschools. "It seems only fair that children should not be trapped in a school that the DOE has deemed to be failing." Now, the department will give each student in phaseout schools a list of higher-performing schools to which they can apply as part of the regular transfer process. When the department decides which transfer requests to approve, students from phaseout schools will be assigned first, starting with the neediest students who are looking for a new school.
January 14, 2013
State student count grows 1.1 percent
Colorado K-12 student enrollment grew to 863,561 students in the current school year, the Department of Education reported Monday.
November 8, 2012
Students in Rockaway schools go elsewhere, or nowhere at all
Just blocks away from P.S./M.S. 114 in Belle Harbor, a hard-hit neighborhood on the Rockaway peninsula, homes were heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Hundreds of students, mostly middle class, have fled their Far Rockaway schools to enroll somewhere else since Hurricane Sandy knocked the peninsula out of commission. But attendance data suggests that many other Far Rockaway students are simply not attending school in the first days that the city has provided schools for them. Attendance dropped slightly citywide today, from 87 percent on Wednesday to 82.6 percent, a decline that officials attributed to the snowstorm. "Attendance from both teachers and students, given the storm, was actually reasonably good," Mayor Bloomberg said during a news conference. The attendance rate fell more dramatically for students in 56 schools relocated because of damage from Hurricane Sandy. Just 30 percent of students in those schools were in class today, while students in relocated schools had a 43 percent attendance rate on Wednesday, their first day back after the storm. Driving the decline was the addition of 13 new relocations that started today, all for Queens schools without power. Most of the schools without power are on the Rockaway peninsula, which still does not have subway service, and the Department of Education has been unable to muster enough buses to transport all students from the peninsula, instead offering to reimburse families who make their own way to school. Some of the schools where relocations began today posted attendance rates below 1 percent. Overall, in District 27 today, which contains several neighborhoods in addition to those on the Rockaway peninsula, 26 schools posted attendance rates below 20 percent.
October 2, 2012
Charter school principal: Enrollment policies can skew scores
Two schools whose students have identical test scores would seem to perform differently if they have different enrollment practices, according to a chart produced by a city charter school leader. It's not only the teachers union that is arguing that charter schools' enrollment practices can influence their apparent test performance. Unlike district schools, charter schools can choose whether to replace students who leave. Charter schools that do not practice "backfill" can end up posting scores that make it look like their performance is better — or worse — than it really is, argues the founding principal of Harlem Link Charter School, Steven Evangelista. In the Community section, Evangelista explains that when schools opt not to fill empty seats, "survivorship bias" skews test scores toward the results of students who remain enrolled. The bias renders test scores meaningless, even dangerous, if the scores are not presented alongside context about a school's enrollment practices, he writes: Strong schools take the time required to plan, assess, and tweak new initiatives until they become standard operating procedures. The lack of information provided alongside scores obscures this type of growth, creating perverse incentives for schools to “push out” students who are low performers and to “quick fix” by whittling down large original cohorts to smaller groups of survivors, uncompromised by new admittees. Evangelista says Harlem Link replaces students who depart, knowing that test scores could be adversely affected, in order to keep its budget stable and fulfill its mission of serving needy students. Last year, he writes, the school got lucky: The students who left were, on average, lower-performing than the students who left the previous year, so the appearance of large test school gains was easy to come by. It's a phenomenon that the teachers union has been particularly eager to put onto the agenda. After the city released elementary and middle school progress reports for last year on Monday, the union distributed a fact sheet noting high student attrition rates at several top-scoring charter schools. At South Bronx Classical Charter School, for example, between 20 and 40 percent of students that originally enrolled left before they were tested, and no new students replaced them, the union pointed out.
September 4, 2012
Families seeking last-minute school spots flood pop-up offices
A family approaches the entrance to a student registration center at Brooklyn Technical High School. Each summer, the education department opens 10 registration sites around the city for students who are new to the school system. Patrick Chiriboga sought a public school spot after withdrawing from Catholic school after ninth grade. Brownsville's Rose Sistrunk wanted to enroll her daughters into new schools as the family prepared to move from a homeless shelter into permanent housing. And Canarsie's Kathleen Ettienne hoped her daughter would land in a school that was better than the charter school she had left. Chiraboga, Sistrunk, and Ettienne are among the thousands of parents and students who will pass through New York City's 10 temporary student registration centers this year. The registration centers opened at the end of August and will stay open well into this month to serve families who are still looking for schools as the new year gets underway. On the first day that the centers opened this year, Aug. 28, staffers stationed at Prospect Heights' Clara Barton High School estimated they saw 300 students. At Theodore Roosevelt Educational Campus in the Bronx, that number was closer to 450, workers there estimated. Days later, there were again dozens of families lined up along East Fordham Road when the enrollment center opened its doors for the day. Department officials did not provide total numbers of how many students citywide passed through the doors at the registration centers last week, but site supervisors said they expected an even larger influx this week. Each year, about 50,000 students enroll in city schools "over the counter," or after the regular enrollment cycle, many of them in the first weeks of the school year. Many of the families are new to the city’s school system after moving from elsewhere or withdrawing from private schools. They are the intended targets for the registration centers, which also help families who are seeking to transfer schools within the system. The Department of Education's welcome mat “For a lot of these families, it’s their first experience with this bureaucracy and we want to be here and let them know that they’re not alone,” said Henry Eiser, who is working at Brooklyn Technical High School, one of three registration centers in Brooklyn.
June 13, 2012
Moskowitz to authorizers: Reject high-need enrollment targets
The head of one of the city's largest charter school networks is calling on state charter authorizers to reject a law that requires schools to serve a larger share of high-needs students. The law, Success Academy Charter Schools CEO Eva Moskowitz wrote in a letter to authorizers this month, creates "perverse incentives" for charter schools to "over-identify" students in high-needs categories, an effect that she said would do more harm than good for children. "We urge you not to impose any enrollment and retention targets," Moskowitz wrote to the New York State Education Department and SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which are charged with enforcing the law. "Instead, we request that you partner with us in going to Albany to change this poorly-thought-out legislation." The mandate for charter schools to enroll more high-needs students was established in 2010 when lawmakers passed the Race to the Top bill. A charter sector self-assessment earlier this year found that a large majority of charter schools still served lower proportions of poor, special-needs and English language learning students than their districts. It's taken some time to iron out the details, but last month authorizers proposed a method of calculating the targets that they intend to use. The proposal is a complex methodology that would assign enrollment targets to each charter school based on the overall ratio of high-needs students in school districts where they operate. Schools that repeatedly fail to comply could be closed.
May 16, 2012
High-needs enrollment targets could challenge some charters
A screenshot from the state's proposed enrollment targets calculator. It shows the range of target enrollments for a school enrolling 150 students in Brooklyn's District 15. The state is preparing to take a step forward in implementing a two-year-old clause in its charter school law that requires the schools to serve their fair share of high-needs students. When legislators revised the charter school law in 2010, their main objective was to increase the number of charters allowed. But they also added a requirement that charter schools enroll “comparable” numbers of students with disabilities and English language learners, populations that the schools typically under-enroll. What comparability would mean has never been clear — until now. Last week, the state unveiled a proposed methodology for calculating enrollment targets, and it intends to finalize the algorithm at next month’s meeting of SUNY’s Board of Trustees, which oversees charter schools. The targets would vary from school to school and be determined based on the overall ratio of high-needs students in each district. The proposal includes a calculator that determines enrollment targets for any school based on its location, the grades it serves, and the size of its student body. Under the proposed methodology, a charter school with 400 students in grades five through eight in Upper Manhattan’s District 6, for example, would have to enroll 98 percent students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, 15 percent students with disabilities, and 44 percent ELLs. In District 2, which has more affluent families and fewer immigrants, a similar school would be expected to enroll 64 percent poor students and 13.4 percent ELLs. But it would still need to have 15 percent of students with special needs.
April 6, 2012
City urges calm as 2,500 children put on kindergarten wait lists
Nearly 2,500 children are on wait lists for their zoned kindergarten programs this year, according to data released by the Department of Education today. Their parents will have to wait until the end of June to find out where they will be offered a kindergarten seat instead. Last year, families received alternate spots in mid-April, but the wait lists tend fluctuate so much that the department decided to delay making assignments that would likely have to change families will away, enroll their children in private or parochial schools, or win lotteries for charter school admission. About 600 more students than last year have applied for kindergarten. But there are about 600 fewer children on waiting lists than last year at this time. The wait list numbers reflect an annual rite of spring as parents register at their nearby elementary schools but land on wait lists because there are more zoned applicants than there are kindergarten spots. The phenomenon is highly stressful for families who are told they cannot be accommodated. But it is not widespread: Of the total number of families that have applied for kindergarten so far this year, just 4 percent were placed on wait lists.
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