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In the dark
August 18, 2017
With solar eclipse looming, shuttered school planetarium represents ‘missed opportunity’ for Memphis students
Craigmont High School's planetarium is a significant teaching tool that’s tailor-made for the rare atmospheric event, but it sits idle and in need of a makeover.
April 20, 2017
The budget outlook just got better for Shelby County Schools
Revenues for Tennessee's largest school district will be higher than expected, leading to an amended proposed budget with more investments for Memphis schools.
April 17, 2017
New coalition asks Memphis mayor to pump $10 million into education
The city needs to get back in the business of funding public education, says a diverse group of stakeholders in an April 13 letter to Mayor Jim Strickland.
April 14, 2017
It’s past the halfway point at the Tennessee legislature. Here are proposals that still could change the state’s schools.
Less than half of the more than 150 separate proposals originally filed with the Tennessee General Assembly are still standing, on issues ranging from school discipline to turnaround.
March 15, 2017
Before Trump speaks in Nashville, here are five things to know about school choice in Tennessee
Tennessee is a battleground state in the debate over school tuition vouchers, and has seen steady growth in its charter school sector since 2003.
Spliting the pie
February 8, 2017
Should Colorado charter schools get a share of local tax increases? Some Colorado lawmakers think so.
The combined total school districts would be required to send to the state’s charter schools according to a legislative report: $94.4 million.
TN in DC
February 2, 2017
Tennessee school board leaders met this week with Sen. Lamar Alexander. Here’s what they talked about.
Three issues shaping Tennessee public education get the ear of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander as representatives of the state's school boards association travel to D.C.
January 27, 2017
Denver Public Schools already provides more money to educate low-income students, but it wants to do more
Next school year, DPS plans to provide schools with an extra $80 per student for some of its highest-needs students.
January 19, 2017
Will Betsy DeVos change education as you know it? Probably not — but your state lawmakers could
The most important upcoming decisions about schools won’t be made by DeVos. They’ll happen in the state legislatures.
January 11, 2017
Five takeaways from the NAACP’s charter school hearing in Memphis
Months after the NAACP called for a pause in charter school growth, an NAACP task force is seeking to learn the nuances of the education reform tool in American cities.
year in review
December 21, 2016
Ten stories defining Tennessee public education in 2016
From testing and standards to school funding and bus safety, Tennessee has navigated a tumultuous and historic year.
try try again
December 20, 2016
Senate education committee chair pledges to bring back charter school equalization bill
House Democrats spiked a version of the bill that would have required districts to split local revenue raised from voter-approved tax increases with charters.
October 20, 2016
Colorado schools saw big budget cuts after the Great Recession. But other states had it worse.
But a fresh batch of cuts are looming for Colorado schools.
September 16, 2016
Does Tennessee have to follow its own school spending plan? Court prepares to weigh in
Attorneys for the state and Nashville face off on the funding question at a court hearing in Nashville.
September 13, 2016
Report: Tennessee’s 3-year-old academic intervention program needs work
The impact on student growth of a program known as Response to Instruction and Intervention varies considerably from school to school, according to a new state report.
April 12, 2016
Poverty funding restored after error, but school leaders say fix is too little, too late
The state recently updated school Title I federal poverty aid amounts, showing big increases for some charters.
March 24, 2016
36 principals join public push for funds, saying gaps hurt special ed, English learners
Principals told Chalkbeat that they would use the funds to solve a tough problems: Not having enough staff members to work with students who are farthest behind.
March 15, 2016
Lawmakers: Increase education spending, but keep courts out of school funding debate
State legislators pass a bill to increase funding for public education next year, while also voting for a constitutional amendment to give judges control over schools.
state of the state
January 13, 2016
Gov. Cuomo unveils plan to expand community schools, urges scrutiny of charter enrollment
In his State of the State speech and his proposed budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also proposed extending mayoral control of New York City schools. Now, the bargaining begins.
journalism in jeopardy
October 8, 2015
Memphis student newspaper’s future uncertain after funder pullout
For almost 18 years, The Teen Appeal has been bringing a form of literacy to students in Shelby County Schools. But its December issue could be its last.
October 2, 2015
Cabinet shuffle includes three new leaders for Shelby County Schools
Following the exit last summer of three top-level officials with Shelby County Schools, Superintendent Dorsey Hopson announces the addition of three new cabinet members.
September 1, 2015
Nashville mayoral hopefuls offer their visions for the city’s schools
Facing a runoff election on Sept. 10, candidates Megan Barry and David Fox Runoff sound off on charters, school desegregation, state funding and more.
August 4, 2015
Hopson to get $15,000 bonus for boosting Shelby County test scores
The superintendent's bonus comes at a time when the test scores are on the rise in Shelby County Schools but its enrollment and funding are shrinking.
August 3, 2015
Strong iZone scores viewed as chance to grow Shelby County’s turnaround initiative
Most schools in the district's Innovation Zone saw their student test scores rise, but additional funding to expand the program is anything but certain.
July 17, 2015
Test yourself: Do you know the basics of Indiana education?
It's a good time to brush up on your Indiana education knowledge. Try your hand at our quiz that includes questions on our four newest "basics" posts out this week.
July 16, 2015
The basics of English language learning: Schools struggle to adapt
Indianapolis is at the center of the state's demographic shift, seeing more than 200 percent growth in English learners since 2001.
July 15, 2015
Is Tennessee’s school funding system broken? Local officials increasingly say ‘yes’
Local government leaders say they're picking up too much slack for the state when it comes to funding the true cost of education in Tennessee.
June 29, 2015
SUNY charter chair: We won’t authorize more schools without more funding
The SUNY Charter School Institute is facing a choice between maintaining strict standards and stretching its staff thin, according to the chair of its charter committee.
June 25, 2015
Uncertainty about debate’s future as Shelby Debate Society abruptly ends operations
The board of the seven-year-old Shelby Debate Society voted to suddenly cease operations last week, leaving hundreds of Shelby County debate students in the lurch.
June 9, 2015
State Board of Education approves minimum teacher salary increase, but not all pay will be raised
The State Board of Education approves a new salary schedule that raises the minimum annual pay for Tennessee teachers by just under $1,000.
March 10, 2015
Shelby County Schools begin budget process anticipating more cuts
Shelby County Schools is starting the arduous process of cutting another $25 million from its $1.5 billion budget.
February 19, 2015
New database estimates how much schools are missing from equity settlement
Advocates for school funding equity have launched a new website to show families and the public exactly how much money their school or district is due but not receiving each year under a years-old legal settlement whose terms have yet to be fulfilled.
January 9, 2015
Teacher quality changes among low profile education ideas advocates are pushing
A flood of proposals from powerful sources have focused on proposals on issues everyone expects to be the central battleground on education during the legislation session that runs from January to April. But Democrats and lobbying groups of all stripes have their own agendas, some of them offering up what they think are creative solutions to other widely-recognized education problems.
December 8, 2014
Race to the Top money dwindling, but Huffman says not to worry
An especially lean education budget will have minimal impact on Tennessee schools next year, said outgoing education commissioner Kevin Huffman after a budget hearing Friday.
July 28, 2014
Teachers to see 40 percent boost in classroom supplies fund
The City Council is adding $2 million to its popular Teacher’s Choice program, which provides teachers with money to stock their classrooms with supplies not typically provided by schools.
February 8, 2013
After weathering Sandy, Grady HS loses funding in the shuffle
Grady High School students gathered in the classroom that has been used by Good Shepherd Services, a nonprofit group that has provided support to the school. The end of a grant program means the services and partnership will end. A month ago, administrators at William E. Grady Career and Technical High School had no reason to think the school's after-school and enrichment offerings were at risk. A year after getting the surprising news that the city would try to close the school, nine months after learning that the closure plan was off, and five months after reopening with a dramatically reduced student body and budget, the school was finally back on firm footing. Administrators expected a new round of funding for extra services to kick in this fall. Since 2008, the school has offered after-school programs with the support of a state 21st Century Community Learning Center grant secured through a partnership with Good Shepherd Services, a youth and family development agency. But last week, the school learned that in the next round of the grant, Good Shepherd wouldn't be working with Grady, and the funding — at least $150,000 a year according to Good Shepherd — would no longer flow. The news came too late for the school to sign on to a different organization's grant application.
January 14, 2013
After backlash, city tweaks new special education funding rules
The Department of Education is rolling back some special education policies that drew sharp criticism last week from many principals. The principals were alarmed by a deadline, originally set for today, to "clean up" data about students with disabilities. The deadline raised concerns that the department would take back funds from schools whose students fell into lower-than-anticipated funding tiers. "The last-minute data capture has left us scrambling to account for potentially massive cuts to our budgets halfway through the school year,” 20 principals wrote Thursday in a letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott. In an email sent late Friday, the department's chief financial officer, Michael Tragale, told principals that the department would push back the deadline and relax a particularly anxiety-inducing rule so schools could retain their special education funds.
October 16, 2012
New Fort Hamilton HS principal nixes unorthodox $1 student fee
A Fort Hamilton High School student held up the back of a program card she was required to bring to school earlier this year. Until recently, Fort Hamilton students who forgot or lost their program paid $1 to have a new one printed out. The price of admission for forgetful students at Fort Hamilton High School is finally falling. Under new leadership, the school has put an end to an unusual and unpopular policy that for years required students who did not bring a paper copy of their schedule to school to pay a fine. Like all large high schools, Fort Hamilton faces a daunting task of keeping track of thousands of students' whereabouts each day. At some schools with advanced technology, administrators can scan students' plastic identification cards to check their schedules. Most schools instead require students to carry a program card, a sheet with their official schedule printed on it, to prove that they are where they are supposed to be. But unlike many other schools, Fort Hamilton had for years enforced the rule by charging $1 to students who came to school without their program cards. Students and teachers at Fort Hamilton, which enrolls 4,000 students, said the policy was strictly enforced. "I've wasted a good $30 during my entire four years here," senior Matthew Cora said. One teacher estimated that as many as 50 students per day had to wait in a separate line before they could go to their first-period classes, suggesting that the school likely took in thousands of dollars a year through the fine.
June 4, 2012
Saved from "turnaround," Grady faces new threats to existence
Grady Principal Geraldine Maione stands in front of a mural painted by students in a "transformation"-funded arts program. In a normal year, William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School would be preparing to enroll a ninth-grade class of about 350 students. But this hasn't been a normal year. The high school directory distributed to eighth-graders in September listed the school as having a "D" on its city progress report, even though Grady's 2010 grade would be updated to a B in October. In December, the school's federal funding was cut off after the city and teachers union failed to agree on new teacher evaluations. The next month, Mayor Bloomberg surprised school staff by announcing that Grady would be one of 33 schools to close and reopen under an overhaul program known as "turnaround." Then, in April, after months of raucous protests and appeals to the state's top education leaders, Grady was yanked from the turnaround list, along with six other schools that had top grades on their city progress reports. The school would open this fall as usual. Except that it won't. Grady has just 150 students on its ninth-grade roster for the fall, and fewer students means fewer dollars to spend — in Grady's case, about $3.5 million. Officials at Grady are planning to cut teachers loose, cancel after-school programs, and dismantle some of the supports that Principal Geraldine Maione said helped the school improve enough to stay open. No longer will there be after-school clubs in robotics and chess, and teachers won't be able to be paid to work an extended-day program for students who want to take additional courses in music and dance. With a career and technical education focus, Grady has never been able to offer a full complement of arts courses, so the clubs offered students a rare chance for a rounded education, Maione said.
May 24, 2012
PEP okays special ed funding plan, despite requests for caution
As predicted, the Panel for Education Policy approved a budget formula Wednesday night meant to hasten the integration of special education students into general education classrooms. But before the vote, Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Laura Rodriguez defended the spending plan — and the broader special education reforms that it is meant to facilitate — against charges that the city is asking schools to move too quickly on increasing inclusion of students with special needs. Critics say that Rodriguez's departure from the Department of Education next month should cause the city to pause the reforms, which are set to go citywide this fall after being delayed once before. Under the new formula, students who receive special education services for only a portion of the day would bring more city funds than students in self-contained settings for the entire day. No one at the meeting opposed the objectives behind the Department of Education special education reforms. But some worried that lack of understanding about special education students could cause confusion for parents, students, and teachers alike. "Everybody’s on the same page," said Wilfredo Pagan, the board member appointed by the Bronx borough president. "Most of us agree with the opportunity this reform brings to the table." "But let's slow it down here and see how we're going to re-approach this situation," he said.
April 11, 2012
Walcott: Turnaround will happen even without federal funding
When members of the Panel for Educational Policy vote on more than two dozen school closure proposals later this month, they won't know whether the city will get federal dollars to fund the schools that replace them. Speaking to state lawmakers today, Education Commissioner John King said he does not plan to respond to the city's applications for federal School Improvement Grants until "early June" — well over a month after the PEP is scheduled to vote on closure plans for 26 schools. The panel has never rejected a city proposal. The closures are part of an overhaul process known as "turnaround" that the city devised in large part to win the funds. When Mayor Bloomberg announced the turnaround plans in his State of the City speech in January, he cited the availability of the federal funds — about $2 million per school each year — as a key motivator. But lately, the city's rhetoric has changed. When the Department of Education published details about its school closure plans last month, it explained that the turnarounds would happen with or without the federal dollars. Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg also told GothamSchools that new principals wouldn't have to replace half of their staffs when the schools reopened, a provision that could disqualify the schools from receiving SIG grants. Walcott told reporters at the hearing today that closure was the best move forward for the 26 low-rated schools with or without the supplemental grants. The schools are eligible for more than $150 million over a three-year period, but Walcott said the city's plans could be implemented without the extra funding. "If we have the money, that's great," he said. "But money should not drive policy. The policy should be, how do we benefit the students in the long run, and that's my overall goal."
April 6, 2012
Funding for no-longer-turnaround schools still an open question
Rejoice is turning to concern about funding at schools newly spared from an aggressive overhaul process. The seven schools — all with top grades on the city’s performance metrics — pulled from the Department of Education’s “turnaround” roster on Monday were positioned to receive about $15 million in federal School Improvement Grants next year. Being taken off the turnaround list means the schools won't have to replace half of their teachers, lose their names, or get new principals. But it also means that they might not receive the funds: A letter distributed by the Department of Education to students at the schools on Tuesday states, "We regret that this [change] may result in the loss of federal resources for your school." The funds could make the difference between continued improvement and backsliding for the schools. Five of the seven schools had received SIG funds in 2010 and 2011, enabling them to pay for enhancements that their principals said led to quick improvements. At Brooklyn's School of Global Studies, nearly $1 million received under "transformation" allowed the school to buy new technology and hire expert teachers. William E. Grady Career and Technical High School paid for tutoring, college trips, an extended program, and Saturday school for students who had fallen behind. Both schools scored B's on their most recent city progress reports after years of low grades. "If we don’t get the money we wont be able to finish what we started," Geraldine Maione, Grady's principal, said this week. "We started out on the premise that we were getting this money for three years because that is what we were told."
January 18, 2011
As state testing nears, city directs $10 million to tutoring
Nearly six months after the city saw students' failure rates spike thanks to new, tougher state tests, Mayor Bloomberg is directing extra funding to ready those students for another round of exams. The mayor announced today that the Department of Education will distribute $10 million to 532 schools where more than two-thirds of students failed the state's math and English tests last year. The funding will target nearly half of the more than 100,000 students who did not meet the state's newly heightened proficiency bar. Bloomberg said he expected 48,000 students to receive extra tutoring and in-school help as a result of the new funding. DOE officials said schools should receive the money by February 8. Principals will be able to spend it on weekend classes, lessons after school, tutoring during the school day, and online programs that will help students cram for the upcoming exams. They will have to race to spend it in time for it to have an effect, as the English and math exams will be administered in early May.
April 29, 2009
In KIPP annual report, school performance data is laid bare
Test results from Harlem's KIPP STAR College Prep Charter School, where students on average outperformed their district but not always the state. Graph from 2008…
April 7, 2009
A unionized charter school says it was betrayed by the unions
Renaissance students organized a protest against the freeze in their budget. Staff at a Queens charter school that is represented by several city labor unions are growing frustrated with the unions, which they worry sat quietly by while state lawmakers slashed charter school budgets two weeks ago. The school, Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights, is expecting a cut of between $500,000 and $600,000 from what was projected for next year after state lawmakers froze planned funding increases to charter schools two weeks ago. Charter school activists have said that they're hopeful that Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, who founded another unionized charter school in Queens, will yet restore the extra funds to charter schools, but no deal has been struck yet. That leaves teachers at Renaissance planning for possible teacher layoffs and big program cuts. (The $500,000 cut from the increase the school was expecting is especially hard to shoulder given that pension costs are skyrocketing by $300,000 next year and teacher salaries are slated to go up.) A main frustration, a Renaissance administrator said, is that the unions to which Renaissance's staff belong did not give them a heads up about the cuts — even though staff repeatedly asked union leaders if they should expect a cut. "Our members here feel shafted," Nicholas Tishuk, Renaissance's director of programs and accountability, said. "We were told that this charter school cut was mentioned two months ago, and it hasn’t been on anyone’s lips. And then we find out the Sunday night before the vote on Tuesday that not only was it on everyone’s lips; it’s actually happening." Most charter schools in New York City are not represented by teachers unions, since the schools operate outside of the Department of Education and therefore do not see their staffs unionize automatically. But the union has fought to bring charter schools teachers into its fold. Their slow but steady inclusion has put the union in the tricky position of on the one hand lobbying for limits on charter schools, while, on the other hand, representing some charter school staff.
January 28, 2009
Halfway through the year, state approves DOE's spending plan
Testifying in front of the State Senate today, Chancellor Joel Klein mentioned that the Department of Education and the state had reached an agreement, finally, on how the city will spend $387.5 million in restricted funds. The money is part of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement, which promised annual funding increases to needy school districts. To get the funds, districts must develop a plan, called a Contract for Excellence, that shows that they will spend the money on certain kinds of programs and to help the neediest students. The state and the city have wrangled in the past over how much flexibility the city should have over allocating the funds. The agreement, quietly released yesterday, signals that the state has approved the city's Contract for Excellence for this year and will disburse the funds. The breakdown of spending in the DOE's final plan (shown by program type above) is similar to what the department originally proposed back in July.
December 2, 2008
All the state funds that the New York City schools don't get
We're late to consider Tom Suozzi's property tax commission report, released yesterday. Why would this blog care about a property tax commission report? Because it's actually all about the education, stupid. Property taxes are raised essentially for one reason: to close the gap between what schools need and what the state gives them. If you want to lower property taxes, you also have to lower the cost of school. Suozzi's report offers a list of recommendations for how to do that. In the process, the report also discloses a lot of interesting facts. For instance, check out the chart above.
November 13, 2008
$3.6 billion to fully fund English Language Learners, study finds
Students who are still learning English need twice as much funding as other students, says a policy brief released yesterday by the New York Immigration Coalition. The brief was based on a new, as-yet-unreleased study the Coalition commissioned from research and advocacy organization Multicultural Education, Training, and Advocacy, Inc. (META). At present, funding for English Language Learners (ELLs) is approximately 1.5 times that of regular education students. While the brief does not say how much additional funding the state should provide per pupil, EdWeek blogger Mary Ann Zehr estimated it at about $6,500 more for each ELL student than what is spent today. Adding that much per student would be expensive. The study calculates that New York State would have to spend a total of $3.64 billion on ELLs, about 17% of total state aid to schools. This sounds like a lot given looming state budget cuts, but the brief's authors say it's reasonable.
September 29, 2008
DOE fundraisers "hope for the best" in an uncertain economy
Last year, the nonprofit Fund for Public Schools, housed at the DOE and key to the department’s recent embrace of public-private partnerships,…
September 19, 2008
Weakening economy kills plans for middle school at 75 Morton St.
Last month, after an extended campaign to relieve overcrowding in Greenwich Village schools elicited a commitment from the DOE to try to use a state-owned building on Morton Street as a new middle school, families and elected officials held a festive rally. But as the economy falters, it appears now that the celebration was premature. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at the August rally The Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency that owns the building, has withdrawn plans to sell the building, at least for now, citing the too-low bids it received from private developers while the building was on the market, the Villager reports today. The state agency currently occupying the building will stay there for the time being, making it impossible to renovate the building for use as a middle school in the fall of 2010, when neighborhood activists had hoped a new school could open. In early August, the city said it would formally ask the state to use the Morton Street building as a public school rather than auctioning it off to private developers. But the Villager reports that ESDC officials say the city did not submit any request in writing by the time the bidding process closed on Aug. 13. Asked by District 2 activists at the Panel for Educational Policy meeting on Monday about the city's apparent failure to lobby for the building's use as a public school, Chancellor Klein said the situation was fraught with behind-the-scenes complications. “If there is a way for us to successfully navigate those waters, we will be interested in doing that,” he said. And according to DOE press officer Marge Feinberg, the DOE hasn't given up on building new schools in overcrowded areas.
RISE & SHINE
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