marc sternberg

Charter schism

New York

Kopp vows that TFA's "unstoppable force" will steer next mayor

New York

With "turnaround" dead in the water, city releases plan details

New York

City-state schism over challenge of needy students grows wider

New York

State attaches several strings to city's bid for "turnaround" aid

Three months after the city asked the state for federal funds to fuel school 'turnaround' efforts, the state has responded — with a resounding "maybe." In a letter released late Friday, State Education Commissioner John King said the way the city plans to overhaul 24 struggling schools meets the state's requirements. But he said he would only hand over the federal funds, known as School Improvement Grants, if the city meets steep conditions. To meet some of those conditions, the city would need to come out ahead in arbitration with the teachers union over collective bargaining rules at the 24 schools. It must also prove that community members were looped in on the city's planning process. The arbitration, which covers a dispute over whether the city may use a process outlined in the teachers union contract for schools that close and reopen (called 18-D), is set to end next week. If the union comes out ahead, hiring and firing decisions at the schools would be reversed and, according to King's letter, the city would not be able to collect the SIG grants, which total nearly $60 million. Earlier this year, King said he saw the city's proposal as "approvable." But he stayed quiet as the city signaled it would not force schools to adhere to a central requirement of turnaround set by the U.S. Department of Education: that they replace at least 50 percent of their teachers. King's letter today says the city must meet the federal government's staffing requirements. State turnaround advisors say "the percentage matters," SED spokesman Dennis Tompkins said over email. "18-D is the mechanism to achieve the required percentage."
New York

City Council's hearing on co-locations airs persistent concerns

Department of Education officials Marc Sternberg and Paymon Rouhanifard address questions at a City Council hearing on school colocations. Persistent concerns about school space-sharing got a fresh airing today at a City Council hearing about the Department of Education's approach to co-locations. The process by which multiple schools are placed in a shared building is at times controversial, most frequently when the department has proposed moving a privately managed charter school into an existing school's building. It is also a cornerstone of the city's efforts to expand school choice by opening hundreds of small schools. Who decides where and when schools should share space could prove to be a litmus test for Democratic mayoral candidates, but so far, likely candidates have been hesitant to say where they stand. At a policy breakfast earlier this week, three of the candidates said they would consider giving district parent councils more of a decision-making role in school closures, openings, and colocations, but none said specifically that he would want the councils to be able to veto city plans. Several State Assemblymen recently proposed a bill that would endow the councils with veto power. Separately, City Councilman Al Vann is drafting a city resolution that would call on the state legislators to amend the city's school governance law to give the parent councils the ability to vote on both co-locations and school closure decisions. At today's City Council hearing, Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson argued that co-locations disrupt learning and exacerbate unequal distributions of resources.
New York

Scenes from three schools as turnaround hearings get started

A panel of speakers, with student Ajee Joyner seated third from left, was situated in front of a display of student work at Harlem Renaissance High School. Three schools facing the same fate — a federally prescribed school reform strategy known as "turnaround" — registered their opposition in very different ways at public hearings Wednesday evening. The hearings are a required part of the city's school closure process. In order to execute turnaround at 33 schools, qualifying them for a total of about $60 million in funding, the city must close and reopen the schools after changing their names and many of their teachers. Tuesday's hearings were the first in a series that extends to April 19, a week before the Panel for Educational Policy is set to vote on the turnaround plans. At Sheepshead Bay High School, students and staff argued that the school is doing well despite a challenging student population. At Automotive High School, teachers acknowledged that the school desperately needs help — but they said past failures gave them little confidence the city could deliver it. And the community struck an entirely different tone at Harlem Renaissance High School, which would only be lightly touched by turnaround's most stringent requirements. Harlem Renaissance High School Opposition to turnaround was all in a name for students, parents, and teachers at Harlem Renaissance, a transfer high school that accepts students who have been unsuccessful at other schools. A large portion of the school's 200 students turned out for the hearing, and many of the people who testified said their top priority was maintaining the school's name. A representative of the local community district testified that "Harlem" is an essential part of the name to preserve as the neighborhood continues to gentrify and change in character. Ajee Joyner, a senior, focused on the word "renaissance" and explained that she had learned it meant "rebirth" — a poignant definition for students who failed at or even dropped out of other schools. "From the moment I walked through the doors, the theme of experiencing your own personal renaissance was constantly reinforced," said Joyner. "Every staff member reminds us on a regular basis that we can become whatever we want if we allow ourselves to be reborn in our learning and our educational paths." Few schools' turnaround protests appear to focus on the renaming requirement. But at Harlem Renaissance, that could be the biggest disruption because it won't have to replace any teachers: 10 of the 18 teachers joined the staff in the last two years, so they would be counted as new under the federal rules about teacher replacement.
New York

City: "Turnaround" schools won't have to replace half their staff

Department of Education officials are telling principals of schools slated for "turnaround" not to worry about quotas when they decide which teachers to hire for next year. This guidance conflicts with the federal guidelines for the reform model, which require a school to replace at least half its teachers. It also contradicts the words of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city officials, who have done little to dispute this figure before alarmed teachers, students and parents at meetings held throughout the city. The 50 percent figure has been repeated again and again in months since Bloomberg's announcement, at forums, protests, union press conferences, and city presentations. Superintendent Aimee Horowitz told families and staff at Brooklyn's William E. Grady High School and Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School that "up to 50 percent of the remaining faculty can be re-hired," while at least 50 percent will have to leave. At a meeting of the Citywide Council on High Schools, Deputy Chancellor Elaine Gorman distributed a presentation that said part of the plan was to "re-hire no more than 50 percent." But behind the scenes, department officials have been telling principals to ignore this requirement. They said they have told principals at the 33 schools to hire the best teachers available without fretting over whether they are new or would be returning. "Our goal is for schools to hire and recruit the most qualified teachers who meet the high standards set by their principals — not to remove a certain percentage of staff," said Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg. "As that happens, we will work with the state to secure millions of dollars in funding that these new schools need and deserve." Principals who have been working on developing plans for the replacement schools say they plan to follow the department’s instructions and are anticipating replacing far fewer teachers than 50 percent. Multiple principals said they were expecting to replace about a quarter of their teachers over the summer.
New York

Prep for turnaround process brings principals weekly to Tweed

New York

At P.S. 161, a renewed call for more time to show improvement

Parents and children hold a brief press conference to oppose the closure of P.S. 161's middle school. At the same time that supporters of Satellite III were laying blame for their school's decline Thursday night, backers of Crown Heights' P.S. 161 said they were confident their new principal could reverse that school's slide. Three years ago, P.S. 161 was an in-demand primary school, with more than three quarters of its students performing at or above grade-level. This year, the school is under-enrolled, D-rated, and set to lose its middle school grades, according to a Department of Education proposal. Citing the school's low test scores, which show less than half of students passing state tests, and a steep drop in enrollment between fifth and sixth grades, city officials said truncating the middle school grades will benefit the school in the long-run. Without a middle school, they said, the school could focus efforts to boost achievement in the elementary grades. "Let me be clear that the school is not closing," Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg told the crowd of 70-some parents, students, and education activists peppered through the school auditorium. "We see the truncation of the middle school as an opportunity to focus on the existing strengths of the school and reinvest in what is working here." Parents and community leaders said the middle school remains a high point in a district with dwindling middle school options. "The CEC is very concerned about what is going on in general in District 17 this January," said Claudette Agard, a member of the elected Community Education Council for the district. "We have four schools on this [closure] list. We are not defending failure, but the failure that you are citing and you are speaking of is not under this leadership." PTA President Demetrius Lawrence, the father of two current students and one graduate, said the school's new principal, Michael Johnson, has the skills to turn the middle school around but needs more time.
New York

Brooklyn parents bring concerns to heated co-location hearing

New York

Lukewarm reception for revised Lower Manhattan rezoning plan

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." 
New York

City says it has started letting schools know they risk closure

Some schools who pulled low grades on the progress reports handed out last week are already getting notice that the city is seriously worried about their performance. Department of Education officials have identified 20 schools — 11 with middle school grades and 12 in Brooklyn alone — for "early engagement conversations" that could lead either to closure or another lease on life. This is the second year that the city, eager to stem some of the public outcry over school closures, has held conversations with low-performing schools before announcing which schools it plans to close. This year's notice comes even earlier than last year, by a few weeks. Department officials compiled the shortlist by looking at schools' progress report grades, their Quality Reviews, the results of state evaluations, and the efforts they've already undertaken to improve. But in starting the early conversations, the department hopes to learn why the schools are struggling and whether other efforts could help them, according to Marc Sternberg, the DOE deputy chancellor in charge of school closures. So far, the DOE has sent letters to elected officials in the schools' districts, the districts' elected parent councils, and their superintendents. Next, principals and DOE officials will jointly begin holding a series of meetings with families and teachers to discuss each individual schools' options. "We'll take the feedback into consideration as we explore options to improve performance and support student success, and continue to work with all of our schools to ensure that students have access to high quality options," Sternberg said in a statement. One principal, whose school received an F on its progress report, said she was "shocked and humiliated" when she found out her school would be listed publicly. "Even though the F grade implies that we’re failing, we’re certainly not a failing school and we're not failing our children," the principal said.
New York

Principals outline the strategies they used to save their schools

Long before there were federally funded "turnaround" schools, Nyree Dixon was turning around Brooklyn's P.S. 12. When she became the Brownsville school's principal in 2006, barely a fifth of the elementary school’s students were passing state exams and the school was being considered for closure. Since then, P.S. 12 has seen a jump in test scores and has stayed off the city's list of schools on the chopping block. Dixon attributes the improvement to changes in the school’s culture and instructional practices. She joined Deidre DeAngelis, principal of New Dorp High School on Staten Island, on a panel during the conference on alternatives to school closures that several advocacy groups organized Saturday. The pair discussed the strategies they used to help their once-failing schools stay open and, in New Dorp's case, turn into a model of successful school improvement for the city and federal education departments. Those strategies — adding tutoring, offering more teacher training, connecting students and teachers, and engaging families — predate the structural and human capital changes the Obama administration has mandated for failing schools. They suggest that strong leadership is enough to change a school's course — a view that a top Department of Education deputy shared at Saturday's conference. “Nothing that happens in Tweed is going to move student achievement as much as 95 percent of things that happen in a school building,” said Marc Sternberg, the deputy chancellor in charge of closing and opening schools.
New York

A Prospect Heights space fight will be on display tomorrow

New York

City panel votes to close three more schools, bringing total to 27

New York

Teaching division to disappear in latest DOE reshuffling

The Division of Teaching and Learning is set to disappear under the latest reorganization at the city's education department. The move is part of a slate of changes intended to streamline the department's organization, according to spokesman David Cantor. He called the changes, which include the creation of a deputy chancellor for community engagement position, "an organic next step" in the series of administrative shifts that have taken place under Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. The teaching and learning office, which is on its fourth leader since 2007, is getting folded into the Division of School Support, which contains the network structure that currently manages how schools receive administrative assistance. The new office will be called the Division of School Support and Instruction and will be headed by Chief Schools Officer Eric Nadelstern, giving him authority over the central piece of schools' business for the first time. "Obviously the aim is to make instruction as effective as can be, but I don't think anyone's going to see any kind of sudden shift in the way we go about teaching kids, and nor do we want that," Cantor said. "The point is just to help do what we're good at better." Under the changes, which will finish taking effect by July 1, the current head of teaching and learning, Santiago Taveras, will become the first-ever community engagement czar. Leaving behind his instructional past, Taveras will manage how the department presents to the public proposals that are set to come before the city school board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy.