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March 8, 2018
Walton gives Indianapolis Public Schools $1.7 million to increase principal power
The foundation is known for offering startup grants for charter.
October 17, 2017
Independent charter schools look to raise their profile, apart from networks and Betsy DeVos
At a symposium last week number of independent charter school leaders agreed to launch a new national organization.
September 17, 2013
Sternberg to exit education department for Walton Foundation
Marc Sternberg, the Department of Education deputy chancellor in charge of school closures, is leaving to join the Walton Family Foundation as its direction of K-12 initiatives. Marc Sternberg, the Department of Education official who has spearheaded controversial school closures and co-locations since 2010, is leaving the city to oversee education philanthropy at the Walton Family Foundation. Starting next month, senior deputy chancellor Sternberg will be Walton's executive director of K-12 strategy. Walton's education agenda focuses on promoting choice and competition, and includes creating charter schools, promoting school choice, and improving teacher quality. The foundation spent more than $158 million on education initiatives last year, and this year has made sizable gifts to Teach for America and Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst nonprofit. Sternberg's departure comes as his division of the Department of Education has set in motion a bevy of plans to take effect after Mayor Bloomberg leaves office.
September 17, 2013
Walcott responds to deputy’s departure for Walton foundation
Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg is leaving the Department of Education for the Walton Family Foundation, the foundation announced today. More soon.
June 13, 2013
City to monitor selective schools' student choices after Liu audit
A chart in the audit released by Comptroller John Liu released today into selective schools' high admissions practices shows that some admit students who do not meet their selection criteria. The Department of Education will increase monitoring of city high schools' admissions practices after an audit by Comptroller John Liu found opportunities for abuse, and possible evidence of it. Every year, eighth-graders in New York City rank up to 12 high schools that they would like to attend. And the city's more than 500 high schools rank the students who apply, in accordance with criteria that the schools themselves set. Then the city runs an algorithm and students are matched with a school. The architect of that algorithm won a Nobel Prize last year for his work. But Liu's office concluded that the department's lack of oversight meant that selective schools are able to accept students who do not meet their admissions criteria while turning away others who do.
May 13, 2013
Kopp vows that TFA's "unstoppable force" will steer next mayor
Department of Education Senior Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg and Shipnia Bytyqi, a graduate of the high school he founded who now teaches at a charter school in the city, took the stage last week at Teach for America New York's annual gala. Teach For America used its annual New York City benefit last week to wade into the city's political debate. Praising the Bloomberg administration's education record, founder and board chair Wendy Kopp vowed that Teach For America and its supporters would fight to preserve the mayor's education legacy after he leaves office at the end of the year. "No matter who takes office," Kopp said, "we are creating an unstoppable force." The remarks reflected Teach For America's transition to playing a stronger role in public dialogue about education. Kopp suggested that the organization would not throw its support behind a single candidate. "Progress isn't a function of one leader," Kopp said. Instead, she said, the educational change Teach For America supports requires "a constellation of committed souls." The strength of that constellation was on display at the nonprofit's gala, held Wednesday at the glittering Waldorf Astoria hotel. In one night, the organization announced it raised $6.7 million, and speakers included Charlie Rose and Richard Parsons, the former CEO of Time Warner and Teach For America board member who also chairs Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Education Reform Commission.
April 12, 2013
Operations chief exits DOE, Sternberg promoted in reshuffling
Veronica Conforme testified at a City Council budget hearing in 2011 alongside Chancellor Dennis Walcott. Conforme announced her departure from the Department of Education today. The Department of Education's chief operating officer is leaving to join the nonprofit organization headed by the architect of the Common Core standards, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced today. Veronica Conforme, who has been the department's top operations officer since October 2011, will become vice president of the "Access to Rigor Campaign" at the College Board, according to a department press release. The College Board, which Common Core architect David Coleman took over last year, is rapidly becoming a top destination for people leaving urban school systems. Jean Claude-Brizard, a former city Department of Education official who resigned as Chicago's top schools official shortly after the teachers union strike there last year, recently became a senior advisor at the organization. Conforme's departure comes during a period of growing uncertainty at the Department of Education.
March 21, 2013
Students turn backs on PEP members before co-location vote
PHOTO: Monica DisareTilden Campus high school students walk out of a PEP meeting, protesting plans to co-locate an elementary school. Compared to last week's marathon meeting where the Panel on Education Policy voted to close 22 schools, Wednesday night's hearing was significantly shorter (four instead of nearly eight hours). But it still featured a slew of controversial proposals to change schools. It also featured a brief dust-up over the two newest members of the panel who have ties to charter schools. After raising questions about the discipline model at Success Academy Charter Schools, panel member Patrick Sullivan said, "I know we have an attorney for the network joining us." Sullivan, who was appointed by the Manhattan borough president, frequently votes against the mayor's proposals. "I'm not on this panel to represented Success or because I've done pro-bono legal work for Success," said the attorney, David Brown. Brown recused himself from a vote about a proposal to co-locate a Success Academy middle school with four district schools in Harlem. The proposal passed. Two other co-location proposals drew most of the crowd in the ornate auditorium at Brooklyn Technical High School.
February 21, 2013
At three hearings, one idea: City's plans would undo successes
M.S. 45 eighth-graders Ciara Shack (L) and Karla Lorenzo (C) and sixth-grader Eliza Fuentes (R) do an impromptu step cheer at a hearing about the school's proposed closure. They chanted the school's motto: “M.S. 45 going down the line, we gotta get an education to survive.” (Photo: Carey Reed) A citywide sprint through dozens of public hearings about the Department of Education's plans to close, open, and move schools this year continued on Wednesday with spirited meetings at multiple schools. At M.S. 45 in East Harlem, which the city wants to close at the end of the year, supporters said the school was on the verge of turning around after years of poor leadership. Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn, on the chopping block for the second time in a year, got praise for serving its many immigrant students. And at the Tilden Campus, also in Brooklyn, students and teachers argued that three schools' success could be undone if a new charter school moves into the building. The hearings are a required part of the city’s process to close or open schools. The Panel for Educational Policy, which has never rejected a city proposal, is set to vote on the plans March 11. M.S. 45 Frustrations ran high at M.S. 45 S.T.A.R.S. Prep Academy as community members pleaded with city officials to allow the school's current principal more time to continue making improvements.
February 20, 2013
At Bronx closure hearing, an apology and pleas for more space
Students from Bronx Academy of Letters line up to speak at a public hearing last week about changes that are proposed to their school's building. (Photo: Elana Eisen-Markowitz) At a public hearing where accusations flew about who is responsible for a South Bronx school’s challenges, only one person stood up to take blame. “I apologize publicly for not doing what was expected by the community of me,” said William Hewlett, the founding principal of M.S. 203, at a hearing last week about the school’s proposed closure. The Department of Education announced in January that it would seek to shutter M.S. 203, open since 2001, because of low performance. The middle school’s test scores put it among the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state, and it earned a C grade or lower on its last three city progress reports, which focus on student growth. As M.S. 203 phases out, the department announced, a charter elementary school, Bronx Success Academy 1, that had shared its building for a year would be able to expand to serve middle school grades. Two other schools in the building — the Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters and P168, which serves students with severe disabilities — would stay on, but with new neighbors.
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.
February 13, 2013
Let us handle co-locations, city students tell education officials
The Brooklyn Youth Advisory Council, with leaders from the Coro New York Leadership Center, recommended co-location policies to Department of Education officials on Monday. Sharing space doesn't have to hurt schools, high school students told Department of Education officials Monday night. Done right, students said, co-location can give schools strength in numbers. In a hallmark policy, the Bloomberg administration has closed many large high schools and opened multiple smaller schools in the same buildings. Now, hundreds of schools coexist in shared spaces, an arrangement that can be uneasy at times. After carrying out surveys and focus groups with nearly 400 students on four co-located campuses in Brooklyn, members of the youth council this week made recommendations for how to reduce tension and make the most of the space-sharing to top department officials, including Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg. At the top of their list: youth councils on all co-located campuses to plan joint academic and extracurricular activities, and youth courts to deal with infractions of co-location rules.
July 27, 2012
With "turnaround" dead in the water, city releases plan details
Even as city officials swore that they had not set any quota for rehiring at schools it was trying to shake up, they were assuring the state that the schools would replace at least 50 percent of teachers. The assurances were made in nearly 800 pages of documents submitted to the state in March as part of the city's application for federal School Improvement Grants. The city released the original application Thursday, four months after submitting it and two days after a State Supreme Court effectively torpedoed the city's bid for the funds. The documents include a letter addressed to State Education Commissioner John King from the deputy chancellor overseeing turnaround, an outline of the plans, and a 770-page tome on changes the city proposed for each of the 24 schools, along with the city's justification for planning to close each of them. The release did not reflect changes that state and city officials said were made throughout the spring. The city also released a shortlist of programs on Thursday that it says are now at risk after an arbitrator ruled that the city's plans for staffing the schools violated its contracts with the teachers and principals unions. Much of the application's content for each schools mirrors the proposals the city released when it began preparing the schools for closure. But a separate section outlines just how changes at each school would meet federal requirements for "turnaround," the overhaul process that the city was proposing.
July 26, 2012
City-state schism over challenge of needy students grows wider
New York City's process for assigning students to schools still sets some of the schools up to fail, State Education Commission John King charged today. "I continue to have concerns about enrollment," King said. "I worry about the over-concentration of high-needs students in particular buildings without adequate supports to ensure success." King made the comments to reporters during a break in a meeting of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's state education reform commission, which met this morning in the Bronx. City officials have acknowledged King's concerns when petitioning the state for aid, but they have never conceded that high concentrations of needy students could hurt schools. Today, the Department of Education official in charge of enrollment said recent changes to the way some students are assigned to schools, made quietly last summer, were meant to increase choices for families, not respond to King's concerns or help struggling schools. King's concerns reflect longstanding criticism about the Bloomberg administration's school choice policies. For years, critics have charged that the department overloads some schools with needy students, making it hard for them to show progress or even sustain their past performance. An internal department report completed in 2008 and obtained by GothamSchools last year concluded that a high school's size and concentration of low-achieving and overage students strongly predicts its graduation rate.
July 6, 2012
Arbitrator: City used "circular reasoning" to justify turnarounds
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's testimony before an arbitrator drove one nail into the coffin of the city's plans to replace or rehire teachers at 24 "turnaround" schools. Last week an arbitrator determined that the city violated the city's contracts with the teachers and principals unions when it moved to replace staff members at the schools. This afternoon the arbitrator, Scott Buchheit, released a detailed explanation of why he ruled the way he did. The city was trying to use hiring procedures set for closing schools and their replacements. But the unions argued that the turnaround plans were "sham closures" that would not result in new schools. Instead, they argued, the city was unfairly using contractual provisions about "excessing" to remove teachers and administrators it deemed unsatisfactory. In upholding the unions' grievance, Buchheit at times turns Bloomberg's and other city officials' words against them. He quotes a 2011 memorandum written by the Department of Education's chief financial officer, which said, "excessing is not a permissible way to deal with unsatisfactory teachers." Yet city officials said they intended to do just that from the start of the turnaround process, Buchheit determined.
June 22, 2012
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."
June 19, 2012
Road to "turnaround" rehiring has been bumpy, teachers say
The hiring process has hit snags at several "turnaround" schools where teachers have been told to reapply for their jobs this year. Staff from many of the 24 schools that the city will close and reopen this year under a reform model called turnaround are complaining they are facing confusion and misinformation over who qualifies to be rehired and what will happen to teachers who are not rehired. At a handful of the schools, interviews were delayed by days because of last-minute administrative changes and unexpected time pressures. And some of the school-based hiring committees are working long hours but still falling behind. Department of Education officials say the rehiring process is underway at all schools and is moving smoothly considering the sheer number of interviews that must be conducted. Any teacher from the schools who applies to stay on is guaranteed an interview, and about 2,600 of them have. They represent 85 percent of the 2,995 teachers currently working in the schools. "All of the committees are up and running," said Marc Sternberg, the deputy chancellor overseeing the turnaround initiative. "Some are ahead of others, and some are getting momentum now. Offers are starting to be made." But teachers at the schools say the interviews and offers are coming only after logistical hangups that complicated an already stressful process in the waning weeks of the school year.
April 19, 2012
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.
March 29, 2012
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.
March 28, 2012
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.
March 9, 2012
Prep for turnaround process brings principals weekly to Tweed
Principals of many of the schools proposed for radical overhauls this summer have begun trekking each Tuesday to the Department of Education's headquarters at Tweed Courthouse to prepare. There, department officials are briefing them on how to shepherd their schools through the next six months during a weekly "Turnaround Schools Institute." The institute launched several weeks ago, after Mayor Bloomberg announced that 33 schools would be closed and reopened after having their leadership, programs, and teaching staffs shaken up under a federally prescribed process called "turnaround." The institute is an adaptation of the "New Schools Intensive," a six-month training seminar that the department has run for principals of new schools for nearly a decade, according to Marc Sternberg, the department official in charge of school closures and new schools, who himself participated in the new school program when launching the Bronx Lab School in 2004. The main idea, Sternberg said, is that the principals can work both with Department of Education officials and with other school leaders preparing for an unprecedented school overhaul process this fall. Multiple offices are involved in designing the programming, which borrows also from school overhaul trainings conducted in Chicago and North Carolina's Charlotte-Mecklenburg district and from efforts by nonprofit groups such as New Visions for Public Schools, which works with some of the city schools proposed for turnaround.
January 20, 2012
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.
December 7, 2011
School closures will be announced tomorrow and Friday
Final decisions about the futures of 47 schools under consideration for closure will be announced over the next two days. Over the past three months, the Department of Education compiled the list of schools based on their poor performances on the city's annual progress reports. Of the 47 schools, 20 are elementary and middle schools, 21 are high schools — including middle school grades of four secondary schools — and six are charter schools. Last year during a similar two-day period, the city announced it would shutter 26 schools, a total that was whittled down from 55 schools. The city's Panel for Educational Policy eventually approved all but one closure.
November 30, 2011
Brooklyn parents bring concerns to heated co-location hearing
Judy O'Brien, the librarian at two schools in the building the city has proposed for a new charter school, speaks against the co-location plan. (Video below.) Tensions ran high at the city's first charter school co-location hearing of the year Tuesday night as advocates and opponents of the city's plan to open a new Success Academy school in Brownstone Brooklyn packed the proposed site. Officials from the Department of Education and SUNY's Charter School Institute defended plans to add Brooklyn's third Success Charter Network school to a four-story Cobble Hill building that already houses three other schools, saying that the building has space for all four schools. The charter school would admit 80 to 90 kindergarten and first-grade students in 2012 and grow by one grade per year until becoming a kindergarten through 5th-grade school. According to the DOE official in charge of new schools, Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg, enrollment at the charter school would ultimately increase to somewhere between 500 and 640 students, and the total number of students in the building would climb to 1,400 or more. "That would bring the school to 108 percent occupancy," he said. In response, a member of the sometimes-rowdy audience who said he was a teacher and was later ejected by police after he shouted inappropriate words called out, "Where do you want the kids to learn, the bathrooms? Where do the other 8 percent go to class?"
November 29, 2011
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."
September 28, 2011
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.
September 27, 2011
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.
September 23, 2011
City Council eyes new school creation process, as DOE refines it
The City Council's education committee has given a great deal of scrutiny to schools the Department of Education wants to close. Now it's turning its attention to the new schools the department wants to open. Today, the committee held an oversight hearing about the DOE's new school creation process, which has resulted in more than 400 new schools in the last nine years. The process to open a charter school is set in law, but how new district schools come to exist is more obscure, Robert Jackson, the committee's chair, said during the hearing. "Some charge that there's been two many new schools opened in too short a time, with too little planning and preparation and too much emphasis on quantity over quality," he said. Of the 500 district and charter schools that have opened since 2002, just six have closed because of poor performance, said Marc Sternberg, the DOE deputy chancellor in charge of new schools. He said the schools' success stems in large part from the department's selection process for school models and principals. That process has gotten more stringent this year. Prospective school leaders will have to complete a rigid, three-month-long series of assignments, and at three points, some will be culled from the pool.
September 23, 2011
Event aims to teach city to help schools instead of closing them
The city official in charge of closing schools and the union chief who has sued to keep schools open are both set to speak at a conference tomorrow about what can be done to help schools without shuttering them. The conference, "Effective Alternatives to School Closings: Transforming Struggling Schools in NYC," was organized by the Coalition for Educational Justice, the Alliance for Quality Education, and the Urban Youth Collaborative, all advocacy organizations. The event is meant to send a message to city policymakers that there are ways to reform failing schools without shutting them down, according to Ronnette Summers, a parent and CEJ member who helped organize it. The city Department of Education has closed 117 schools since 2002 and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said this week that he plans to close additional schools, particularly middle schools, that do not meet the department's standards. “Every year there’s more and more schools on the closing list and that seems to be the only reform strategy that the Department of Education uses to improve schools,” Summers said. “People in places where they know [closure] is not working felt that it was important to bring it to New York City to let them see that there’s other ways to improve schools.”
July 22, 2011
Top DOE official proposes happy hour to celebrate lawsuit news
The Department of Education official in charge of opening and closing schools has proposed drinking to the news that some of his plans can go forward. In an email to at nearly 80 top-ranking DOE employees — but not to Chancellor Dennis Walcott — Deputy Chancellor of Portfolio Planning Marc Sternberg announced a happy hour to celebrate last night's State Supreme Court ruling in the lawsuit filed by the UFT and NAACP. He wrote: Last night: New York Supreme Court Justice Paul Feinman denied the UFT and NAACP's request for a preliminary injunction preventing the Department of Education from moving forward to close 22 failing schools and co-locate 15 public charter schools in DOE buildings. The judge's ruling allows the DOE to move forward with the closings and co-locations. Tonight: Come join us for a drink to honor this important moment for New York City's public school families! Please forward —all are welcome! The email was sent just before 1 p.m. today and was later posted to the NYC Education News listserv run by parent activist Leonie Haimson. Natalie Ravitz, the DOE's chief spokeswoman, confirmed the message's authenticity. "We have no problem with our employees getting together with friends after work for a happy hour, as people do in companies and organizations across America," Ravitz said. The full email, including its addressees, is below.
July 8, 2011
State pressuring city for improvement plans, to partial response
State officials have grown anxious that the city won't make a deadline to apply for $400 million in federal grants to improve failing schools. Education Commissioner John King registered his anxiety in a letter last week to Marc Sternberg, head of the city Department of Education's portfolio planning office. In an email, King wrote that the city has had months to finalize its plans for the grants, known as School Improvement Grants, and he wanted enough time to review the proposals before he approves them. That must happen before the end of the month. King said he wanted to see the city's plans by yesterday. The city responded by submitting a key section of the application: an explanation of how it plans to phase out 12 schools deemed “persistently lowest achieving” by the state. According to details of the plan, released today, the city requested a total of $5.1 million to replace the schools with 17 smaller ones – or $300,000 per school. Five of the new schools opened this year and the rest are scheduled to open over the next two school years. (A list of the planned schools and their locations is below.)
May 17, 2011
A Prospect Heights space fight will be on display tomorrow
The city is hoping that the second time is the charm for its plan to move a charter school into the P.S. 9 building in Brooklyn. A revised version of a plan outlining how the two schools would share space is one of the items expected to be passed at tomorrow night's Panel for Educational Policy meeting. (A majority of panel members are appointed by the mayor, and so city proposals always pass easily.) State education officials overturned a first draft of the plan last month. The state's move followed an appeal by parents at P.S. 9 parents who claimed that the city's proposal did not include required information. Parents at the school also challenge the city's plan because it conflicts with their own hopes for the school, which they would like to expand through the eighth grade. Parents have even nominated one of their own, a P.S. 9 parent who is currently a dean at a Manhattan middle school, to oversee the expansion, which would require P.S. 9 to take up more space inside the building. The Department of Education is standing by its plan. "We are pleased with P.S. 9’s progress and understand the desire of the school to expand, but in this case, the need of an entire school district strongly outweighs the need of one school," said Marc Sternberg, deputy chancellor for portfolio planning. Faye Rimalovski, a P.S. 9 parent, said parents are prepared to protest the plan at tomorrow's PEP meeting. "Armed and ready," she said.
April 29, 2011
City panel votes to close three more schools, bringing total to 27
Three more schools will begin closing next year, following a vote by the citywide school board last night that brought the total of schools closed this year to 27. Members of the Panel for Educational Policy voted to close two transfer schools — Pacific High School and the Bronx Academy High School — as well as P.S. 30, an elementary school in Queens. A spokeswoman for the city's Department of education said that, including the decision to shutter Ross Global Charter School, 27 schools will begin closing next year. It was Chancellor Dennis Walcott's first panel meeting since Mayor Bloomberg named him to the post. Walcott said he hoped to change the tenor of the meetings by answering parents' questions and publicly debating policy issues at a deeper level than his predecessors did. Walcott began the meeting by walking down from the stage and into the crowd, where he promised parents, teachers, and students that he and his staff would respect them. "You will never hear me be disagreeable with you," he said. "The one thing we understand is these are emotional issues for you...the approach we’re going to take moving forward is be responsive to those issues even when we don’t agree." If audience members heard Walcott's plea for civility, they betrayed no signs. The boos and catcalls that have peppered panel meetings for months reappeared last night, as did animosity between charter school supporters and the district schools they will have to share space with next year.
April 26, 2010
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.
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