Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/charter-schools 2017-10-16T23:41:25+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Support, Not Trouble, for a School Successfully Teaching Students with Disabilities 2017-09-14T04:00:00+00:00 2017-09-14T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7193:support-not-trouble-for-a-school-successfully-teaching-students-with-disabilities Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/lenny-cci-opening.jpg" alt="lenny cci opening" /></p> <p>Opportunity Charter School leader Leonard Goldberg, middle, the author</p> <hr /> <p>A new report from the city's Comptroller showed once again that the City is unable to fulfill its responsibility to provide the necessary services to students with disabilities, failing to track $84 million allocated for disabled student services. Worse still, these findings come on the heels of the Public Advocate's report that revealed a troubling trend whereby the city offers parents vouchers instead of the necessary, required services for children with special needs. Troubling, but not surprising.</p> <p>It’s no secret that the city’s public schools are not designed or equipped to properly serve the individual needs of students with disabilities, particularly those in low-income communities. In fact, while roughly half of all vouchers issued citywide go unused, this rate climbs dramatically in lower-income communities. District 8 in the Bronx, for example, has the highest rate of vouchers going unused at 91 percent.</p> <p>This is why so many Bronx parents turn to Opportunity Charter School (OCS), a Harlem-based charter school that disproportionately serves children with special needs from communities of color. At OCS, we have been providing wraparound services since our founding in 2004, and focus on providing comprehensive clinical services to students and their families.</p> <p>The majority of our students live in the Bronx, making the commute every morning because they can’t find the support they need in traditional public schools. And in spite of this, the city’s Department of Education has tried relentlessly to close our middle school, even after a Manhattan Supreme Court judge cautioned that the DOE would be wise to take a closer look at how to better evaluate a school as unique as OCS.</p> <p>The trouble is there’s a gap between these schools in theory and in practice.</p> <p>The students, who enter our middle school after years in the public system, are among the lowest performing in all of New York City, and well over 60 percent have a moderate to severe learning disability. These are the students who benefit most from the extra support OCS provides, and the same students that the city has previously failed to help.</p> <p>At OCS, we work hard to help these students catch up, develop critical life skills and prepare for post-secondary success. Our individualized approach to learning pays off. In fact, this year, 86 percent of OCS students graduated on time, including 82 percent of students with disabilities. But the city, which is responsible for holding the 51 charter schools it authorizes accountable and renewing their charters, relies on a flawed system to make these judgements. The city bases decisions largely on the percentage of students in each grade that achieve “proficiency” on state tests, without acknowledging the makeup of the student body or how much progress individual students are making over time.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the tests themselves are not designed to measure achievement among students with disabilities. Even DOE Chancellor Carmen Fariña acknowledged as much, going as far as to say that students with disabilities are ‘never [going to] get to a certain level on this kind of test’ and would consider opting out her own child if she were the mother of a student with a disability. This accountability system advantages students and schools with a history of academic success; bolstering charters that curate their student bodies and punishing those that take in struggling students. In other words, the current system is designed to enforce the status quo.</p> <p>Each student with an IEP is different. Some have relatively minor disabilities, such as a speech impediment, but others face more significant obstacles, such as a severe learning disability. At our school, we don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching, and neither should the city.</p> <p>Better alternatives are available. For example, the State Education Department, as well as other state authorizers have created systems tailored to evaluate schools that focus solely on serving at-risk student populations. Authorizers can allow charter schools this flexibility in measurement and it is important that they use this function properly. The DOE, despite its rhetoric, chooses not to apply this sensible approach.</p> <p>If the city really wants to help students with disabilities, its leaders are going to have to rethink their entire approach, from the supports they provide to measuring growth. It’s past time for the New York City DOE to concentrate its efforts on supporting the city’s most vulnerable children and getting them the help they need, rather than unfairly targeting the institutions that make these kids a priority.</p> <p>***<br />Leonard Goldberg is the Founder and Head of School at Opportunity Charter School.</p> <p>

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</p> <p>Note: this column has been updated with more recent data than originally published.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/lenny-cci-opening.jpg" alt="lenny cci opening" /></p> <p>Opportunity Charter School leader Leonard Goldberg, middle, the author</p> <hr /> <p>A new report from the city's Comptroller showed once again that the City is unable to fulfill its responsibility to provide the necessary services to students with disabilities, failing to track $84 million allocated for disabled student services. Worse still, these findings come on the heels of the Public Advocate's report that revealed a troubling trend whereby the city offers parents vouchers instead of the necessary, required services for children with special needs. Troubling, but not surprising.</p> <p>It’s no secret that the city’s public schools are not designed or equipped to properly serve the individual needs of students with disabilities, particularly those in low-income communities. In fact, while roughly half of all vouchers issued citywide go unused, this rate climbs dramatically in lower-income communities. District 8 in the Bronx, for example, has the highest rate of vouchers going unused at 91 percent.</p> <p>This is why so many Bronx parents turn to Opportunity Charter School (OCS), a Harlem-based charter school that disproportionately serves children with special needs from communities of color. At OCS, we have been providing wraparound services since our founding in 2004, and focus on providing comprehensive clinical services to students and their families.</p> <p>The majority of our students live in the Bronx, making the commute every morning because they can’t find the support they need in traditional public schools. And in spite of this, the city’s Department of Education has tried relentlessly to close our middle school, even after a Manhattan Supreme Court judge cautioned that the DOE would be wise to take a closer look at how to better evaluate a school as unique as OCS.</p> <p>The trouble is there’s a gap between these schools in theory and in practice.</p> <p>The students, who enter our middle school after years in the public system, are among the lowest performing in all of New York City, and well over 60 percent have a moderate to severe learning disability. These are the students who benefit most from the extra support OCS provides, and the same students that the city has previously failed to help.</p> <p>At OCS, we work hard to help these students catch up, develop critical life skills and prepare for post-secondary success. Our individualized approach to learning pays off. In fact, this year, 86 percent of OCS students graduated on time, including 82 percent of students with disabilities. But the city, which is responsible for holding the 51 charter schools it authorizes accountable and renewing their charters, relies on a flawed system to make these judgements. The city bases decisions largely on the percentage of students in each grade that achieve “proficiency” on state tests, without acknowledging the makeup of the student body or how much progress individual students are making over time.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the tests themselves are not designed to measure achievement among students with disabilities. Even DOE Chancellor Carmen Fariña acknowledged as much, going as far as to say that students with disabilities are ‘never [going to] get to a certain level on this kind of test’ and would consider opting out her own child if she were the mother of a student with a disability. This accountability system advantages students and schools with a history of academic success; bolstering charters that curate their student bodies and punishing those that take in struggling students. In other words, the current system is designed to enforce the status quo.</p> <p>Each student with an IEP is different. Some have relatively minor disabilities, such as a speech impediment, but others face more significant obstacles, such as a severe learning disability. At our school, we don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching, and neither should the city.</p> <p>Better alternatives are available. For example, the State Education Department, as well as other state authorizers have created systems tailored to evaluate schools that focus solely on serving at-risk student populations. Authorizers can allow charter schools this flexibility in measurement and it is important that they use this function properly. The DOE, despite its rhetoric, chooses not to apply this sensible approach.</p> <p>If the city really wants to help students with disabilities, its leaders are going to have to rethink their entire approach, from the supports they provide to measuring growth. It’s past time for the New York City DOE to concentrate its efforts on supporting the city’s most vulnerable children and getting them the help they need, rather than unfairly targeting the institutions that make these kids a priority.</p> <p>***<br />Leonard Goldberg is the Founder and Head of School at Opportunity Charter School.</p> <p>

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</p> <p>Note: this column has been updated with more recent data than originally published.</p>
Children Lose in Faulty Charter School Accounting 2017-09-11T04:00:00+00:00 2017-09-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7183:children-lose-in-faulty-charter-school-accounting Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/success_academy_rally_crop.jpg" alt="success academy rally crop" width="600" /></p> <p>A charter school rally (photo: @SuccessAcademy)</p> <hr /> <p>Questions: How do you turn a 25 percent graduation rate into a misleading claim of 100 percent success? When does a school’s 30 percent proficiency rate on an 8th grade reading test translate into the assertion that nearly half of the students passed?</p> <p>Answer: when charter schools do their own accounting, and authorizers allow them to paper over the fact that huge percentages of the children who start in charter schools get driven or eased out.</p> <p>Charters claim that they serve the same children as city public schools, but the truth is that they enroll and keep half the percentage of English Language Learners, dramatically fewer special education students, including those needing the highest level of intervention, and far fewer children who are homeless or in temporary housing.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/image001_2.png" alt="district versus charter schools" width="500" height="324" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Not content with starting out with more favorable demographics, many charters then rely on student attrition, boosted by draconian discipline strategies, to keep their academic numbers up. In New York City, charters enroll 8% of the students but account for 45% of the suspensions. &nbsp;</p> <p>Suspensions and pressure on students who struggle academically help charter schools force or ease out students with learning difficulties. And unlike regular public schools, charters often leave empty seats vacant.</p> <p>As one charter organization -- Democracy Builders -- noted, when schools refuse to "backfill" or replace students who leave, the result is charters hyping their results (“artificially inflating perceived performance” in Democracy Builder’s <a href="https://democracybuilders.org/no-seat-left-behind-report-view-now/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">words</a>).</p> <p>Here’s how it works.</p> <p>At Success Academy Harlem 1, 73 students began first grade in 2007. By now this class has dwindled to 18 students as they reached the 11th grade. Assuming all 18 stay this year and graduate, Success Academy will no doubt claim a graduation rate of 100 percent. But in fact there are only 18 “survivors” of the original 73; even if all 18 graduate, the school should only take credit for a grad rate of 25 percent of the original cohort.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/image002_2.png" alt="Success enrollment" width="500" height="276" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>The same logic can be applied to test score claims. Teaching Firms of America Professional Prep Charter School in Brooklyn claims that nearly half -- 47 percent -- of its sixth graders were proficient on the most recent state reading test. But that sixth grade class had only 36 students, far short of the 57 students who were in that class in third grade.</p> <p>So counting the vanished children, only 30 percent of the original cohort actually scored proficient on the 2017 reading test, a rate well below the 40 percent passing rate average for all public schools.</p> <p>None of these facts will stop charter propagandists from repeating misleading claims about their schools’ “success.” But charter authorizers, especially the SUNY Charter Schools Committee, need to be considering these issues as charters come up for re-authorization.</p> <p>The committee has recently taken a tougher line against some charters, criticizing the chair of the board of Success Academy, Dan Loeb, for his indefensible statements comparing the actions of State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and teachers unions with the KKK.</p> <p>But the committee's recent proposal -- to permit some charter schools to drastically reduce the amount of preparation teachers must undergo in order to be certified – is an ill-considered favor for a sector that has proven itself not only incapable of honest accounting, but also unable to retain a qualified workforce.</p> <p>If charter schools are to perform their original mission -- to act as laboratories of innovation -- it is up to authorizers to ensure that charter schools take seriously their obligation to educate all kinds of children, and to give New York parents a realistic view of both their successes and their failures.</p> <p>*** <br />Michael Mulgrew is the President of the United Federation of Teachers. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/UFT" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@UFT</a>.</p> <p>

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</p> <p>Note: this opinion column has been corrected to reflect that one organization cited is Democracy Builders, not Democracy Prep as originally stated.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/success_academy_rally_crop.jpg" alt="success academy rally crop" width="600" /></p> <p>A charter school rally (photo: @SuccessAcademy)</p> <hr /> <p>Questions: How do you turn a 25 percent graduation rate into a misleading claim of 100 percent success? When does a school’s 30 percent proficiency rate on an 8th grade reading test translate into the assertion that nearly half of the students passed?</p> <p>Answer: when charter schools do their own accounting, and authorizers allow them to paper over the fact that huge percentages of the children who start in charter schools get driven or eased out.</p> <p>Charters claim that they serve the same children as city public schools, but the truth is that they enroll and keep half the percentage of English Language Learners, dramatically fewer special education students, including those needing the highest level of intervention, and far fewer children who are homeless or in temporary housing.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/image001_2.png" alt="district versus charter schools" width="500" height="324" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>Not content with starting out with more favorable demographics, many charters then rely on student attrition, boosted by draconian discipline strategies, to keep their academic numbers up. In New York City, charters enroll 8% of the students but account for 45% of the suspensions. &nbsp;</p> <p>Suspensions and pressure on students who struggle academically help charter schools force or ease out students with learning difficulties. And unlike regular public schools, charters often leave empty seats vacant.</p> <p>As one charter organization -- Democracy Builders -- noted, when schools refuse to "backfill" or replace students who leave, the result is charters hyping their results (“artificially inflating perceived performance” in Democracy Builder’s <a href="https://democracybuilders.org/no-seat-left-behind-report-view-now/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">words</a>).</p> <p>Here’s how it works.</p> <p>At Success Academy Harlem 1, 73 students began first grade in 2007. By now this class has dwindled to 18 students as they reached the 11th grade. Assuming all 18 stay this year and graduate, Success Academy will no doubt claim a graduation rate of 100 percent. But in fact there are only 18 “survivors” of the original 73; even if all 18 graduate, the school should only take credit for a grad rate of 25 percent of the original cohort.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/image002_2.png" alt="Success enrollment" width="500" height="276" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p>The same logic can be applied to test score claims. Teaching Firms of America Professional Prep Charter School in Brooklyn claims that nearly half -- 47 percent -- of its sixth graders were proficient on the most recent state reading test. But that sixth grade class had only 36 students, far short of the 57 students who were in that class in third grade.</p> <p>So counting the vanished children, only 30 percent of the original cohort actually scored proficient on the 2017 reading test, a rate well below the 40 percent passing rate average for all public schools.</p> <p>None of these facts will stop charter propagandists from repeating misleading claims about their schools’ “success.” But charter authorizers, especially the SUNY Charter Schools Committee, need to be considering these issues as charters come up for re-authorization.</p> <p>The committee has recently taken a tougher line against some charters, criticizing the chair of the board of Success Academy, Dan Loeb, for his indefensible statements comparing the actions of State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and teachers unions with the KKK.</p> <p>But the committee's recent proposal -- to permit some charter schools to drastically reduce the amount of preparation teachers must undergo in order to be certified – is an ill-considered favor for a sector that has proven itself not only incapable of honest accounting, but also unable to retain a qualified workforce.</p> <p>If charter schools are to perform their original mission -- to act as laboratories of innovation -- it is up to authorizers to ensure that charter schools take seriously their obligation to educate all kinds of children, and to give New York parents a realistic view of both their successes and their failures.</p> <p>*** <br />Michael Mulgrew is the President of the United Federation of Teachers. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/UFT" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@UFT</a>.</p> <p>

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</p> <p>Note: this opinion column has been corrected to reflect that one organization cited is Democracy Builders, not Democracy Prep as originally stated.</p>
Eva Moskowitz’s Privileged ‘Bipartisanship’ 2017-07-31T04:00:00+00:00 2017-07-31T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7093:eva-moskowitz-s-privileged-bipartisanship Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/eva-moskowitz.jpg" alt="Gotham Gazette: Eva Moskowitz" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/MoskowitzEva" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" data-user-id="574747315"><span data-aria-label-part="">@<strong>MoskowitzEva</strong></span></a>)</p> <hr /> <p>There's a reason why New Yorkers reject Eva Moskowitz's "bipartisan" <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/opinion/bipartisan-on-education.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">defense</a> for her photo ops and meetings with the governing Republican Party in Washington, D.C.. While Ms. Moskowitz touts her registration as a Democrat, her actions are inconsistent with the Democratic Party's position on civil rights and political reform. And, as Democrats across the country resist the Trump administration's disconcerting policies damaging to working and middle class families, Ms. Moskowitz participates in friendly meetings with her allies across the aisle.</p> <p>It takes a lot of privilege for Ms. Moskowitz to somehow believe that the policies that Democrats and the Resistance across the country represent somehow do not apply to her students. Individuals across the country, including some of the families of Success Academy students, are at marches, town halls, and community rallies challenging Republicans' refusal to support transgender children in court, a deadly American Health Care Act, reduced funding for the U.S. Education Department, including cuts to student loan programs that are undoubtedly resources used by the families of children at Ms. Moskowitz's charter schools.</p> <p>Ms. Moskowitz fails to disclose that the reason families chide her outreach with Republicans across the aisle is because she and other charter school leaders have a record of working behind the scenes with wealthy donors to directly and continually mislead the public. It was only a couple of years ago that billionaire donor Eli Broad, who <a href="http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2017/06/12/success-academy-ceo-eva-moskowitz-is-having-a-very-good-week/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">just awarded</a> Ms. Moskowitz’s network a $250,000 prize, was exposed as the money behind <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-broad-draft-charter-expansion-plan-20150921-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a secret campaign</a> to charterize half of Los Angeles Unified School District's schools. Meanwhile charter leaders, like Ms. Moskowitz's colleagues in Los Angeles, repeatedly publicly denied those accusations. Similarly, a short distance away from New York City, in Newark, N.J., the public's pessimistic relationship with charter school leaders was justified after they had witnessed state officials and charter school operators move forward with plans to expand the presence of charter schools, despite public opposition.</p> <p>Ms. Moskowitz has a habit of attacking New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in her demand for more funding and autonomy for her charter schools. However, it seems strange that Ms. Moskowitz repeatedly attacks the mayor, a fellow Democrat, for budgetary reasons yet she doesn't criticize the federal secretary of education, a Republican, who is proposing cuts worth more than $9 billion to national education programs and resources.</p> <p>While congressional Republicans consider slashing funds to community meal programs and even debate changing how kids get free or reduced lunch, Ms. Moskowitz remains silent. Yet, the charter school CEO has no problem inviting them to her schools for photo ops while bashing Mayor de Blasio, who has challenged charter schools in court for greater transparency and public accountability.</p> <p>Black organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (the N.A.A.C.P.), afters years of internal debate, in October <a href="http://www.naacp.org/latest/statement-regarding-naacps-resolution-moratorium-charter-schools/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a moratorium</a> on charter schools, like the charter network Ms. Moskowitz runs in New York City. In response to the N.A.A.C.P. moratorium and report, Ms. Moskowitz <a href="https://twitter.com/MoskowitzEva/status/787733397548466176" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacked the N.A.A.C.P.’s credibility</a> and authority to speak on education for black children. Despite the fact that Ms. Moskowitz's schools have come under scrutiny for controversial admissions policies and disciplinary practices, which Ms. Moskowitz usually leaves to be resolved by her private consultants and lobbyists.</p> <p>While Ms. Moskowitz hides behind the cloak of "bipartisanship" to advance her own personal agenda, millions of Democrats across across the country are fighting for our middle class and our children's welfare. And, while Ms. Moskowitz's Success Academy schools serve less than 2% of New York City's 1.1 million students, New York's families would expect her to stand up and speak out for the students she represents. Her students and their families depend on it.</p> <p>We need bipartisanship in our city halls, state capitals, and in Washington, D.C. now more than ever. Bipartisanship doesn't mean sitting silently and idly as our national leaders fuel bigotry in classrooms, take children’s access to free or reduced school lunch, and strip health care benefits away from kids and their families. It means speaking out and participating in a respectful civil debate that empowers us to resolve the issues. It also means listening when some of our nation’s oldest civil rights organizations call for a public dialogue and a national pause on schools that present a threat to communities’ civil rights.</p> <p>Ms. Moskowitz can’t hide behind a self-serving and privileged version of bipartisanship.</p> <p>***<br />Kenneth Campbell is a public affairs consultant and a former Hope Fellow at the Democratic National Committee. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/KennCampbell" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@KennCampbell</a>.</p> <p>

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</p> <p>Note: this article has been corrected after misidentifying Eli Broad as a Republican. Mr. Broad is a Democrat, according to his office.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/eva-moskowitz.jpg" alt="Gotham Gazette: Eva Moskowitz" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/MoskowitzEva" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" data-user-id="574747315"><span data-aria-label-part="">@<strong>MoskowitzEva</strong></span></a>)</p> <hr /> <p>There's a reason why New Yorkers reject Eva Moskowitz's "bipartisan" <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/opinion/bipartisan-on-education.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">defense</a> for her photo ops and meetings with the governing Republican Party in Washington, D.C.. While Ms. Moskowitz touts her registration as a Democrat, her actions are inconsistent with the Democratic Party's position on civil rights and political reform. And, as Democrats across the country resist the Trump administration's disconcerting policies damaging to working and middle class families, Ms. Moskowitz participates in friendly meetings with her allies across the aisle.</p> <p>It takes a lot of privilege for Ms. Moskowitz to somehow believe that the policies that Democrats and the Resistance across the country represent somehow do not apply to her students. Individuals across the country, including some of the families of Success Academy students, are at marches, town halls, and community rallies challenging Republicans' refusal to support transgender children in court, a deadly American Health Care Act, reduced funding for the U.S. Education Department, including cuts to student loan programs that are undoubtedly resources used by the families of children at Ms. Moskowitz's charter schools.</p> <p>Ms. Moskowitz fails to disclose that the reason families chide her outreach with Republicans across the aisle is because she and other charter school leaders have a record of working behind the scenes with wealthy donors to directly and continually mislead the public. It was only a couple of years ago that billionaire donor Eli Broad, who <a href="http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2017/06/12/success-academy-ceo-eva-moskowitz-is-having-a-very-good-week/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">just awarded</a> Ms. Moskowitz’s network a $250,000 prize, was exposed as the money behind <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-broad-draft-charter-expansion-plan-20150921-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a secret campaign</a> to charterize half of Los Angeles Unified School District's schools. Meanwhile charter leaders, like Ms. Moskowitz's colleagues in Los Angeles, repeatedly publicly denied those accusations. Similarly, a short distance away from New York City, in Newark, N.J., the public's pessimistic relationship with charter school leaders was justified after they had witnessed state officials and charter school operators move forward with plans to expand the presence of charter schools, despite public opposition.</p> <p>Ms. Moskowitz has a habit of attacking New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in her demand for more funding and autonomy for her charter schools. However, it seems strange that Ms. Moskowitz repeatedly attacks the mayor, a fellow Democrat, for budgetary reasons yet she doesn't criticize the federal secretary of education, a Republican, who is proposing cuts worth more than $9 billion to national education programs and resources.</p> <p>While congressional Republicans consider slashing funds to community meal programs and even debate changing how kids get free or reduced lunch, Ms. Moskowitz remains silent. Yet, the charter school CEO has no problem inviting them to her schools for photo ops while bashing Mayor de Blasio, who has challenged charter schools in court for greater transparency and public accountability.</p> <p>Black organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (the N.A.A.C.P.), afters years of internal debate, in October <a href="http://www.naacp.org/latest/statement-regarding-naacps-resolution-moratorium-charter-schools/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a moratorium</a> on charter schools, like the charter network Ms. Moskowitz runs in New York City. In response to the N.A.A.C.P. moratorium and report, Ms. Moskowitz <a href="https://twitter.com/MoskowitzEva/status/787733397548466176" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacked the N.A.A.C.P.’s credibility</a> and authority to speak on education for black children. Despite the fact that Ms. Moskowitz's schools have come under scrutiny for controversial admissions policies and disciplinary practices, which Ms. Moskowitz usually leaves to be resolved by her private consultants and lobbyists.</p> <p>While Ms. Moskowitz hides behind the cloak of "bipartisanship" to advance her own personal agenda, millions of Democrats across across the country are fighting for our middle class and our children's welfare. And, while Ms. Moskowitz's Success Academy schools serve less than 2% of New York City's 1.1 million students, New York's families would expect her to stand up and speak out for the students she represents. Her students and their families depend on it.</p> <p>We need bipartisanship in our city halls, state capitals, and in Washington, D.C. now more than ever. Bipartisanship doesn't mean sitting silently and idly as our national leaders fuel bigotry in classrooms, take children’s access to free or reduced school lunch, and strip health care benefits away from kids and their families. It means speaking out and participating in a respectful civil debate that empowers us to resolve the issues. It also means listening when some of our nation’s oldest civil rights organizations call for a public dialogue and a national pause on schools that present a threat to communities’ civil rights.</p> <p>Ms. Moskowitz can’t hide behind a self-serving and privileged version of bipartisanship.</p> <p>***<br />Kenneth Campbell is a public affairs consultant and a former Hope Fellow at the Democratic National Committee. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/KennCampbell" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@KennCampbell</a>.</p> <p>

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p> <p>Note: this article has been corrected after misidentifying Eli Broad as a Republican. Mr. Broad is a Democrat, according to his office.</p>
‘Zombie’ Charter School Agreement Rests on Interpretation of Ambiguous Law 2017-07-11T04:00:00+00:00 2017-07-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7056:zombie-charter-agreement-rests-on-interpretation-of-ambiguous-law Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/15788513155_926c5aac1c_z.jpg" alt="de blasio law interpretation" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A much talked-about provision of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 13th-hour <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7042-mayoral-control-extended-in-special-session-with-usual-albany-process" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">deal</a> to have his control over city schools extended was the agreement that 22 revoked or surrendered charter school charters could be reissued without counting towards the predetermined state cap on the number of charter schools.</p> <p>In exchange for a two-year extension of mayoral control of city schools, de Blasio agreed to a series of charter school-friendly administrative maneuvers, including the “zombie” charter provision, as well as others around rental reimbursements and school space allocations. The mayor made the deal with state Senate Republicans, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and their charter sector allies.</p> <p>What has not been widely noted is that language added to the state Education Law at the end of the 2015 Albany legislative session already allowed exactly 22 charters that had been “surrendered, revoked or terminated” on or before July 1, 2015, to be reissued, raising the question of why it was necessary to clarify that point at all.</p> <p>The answer might lie around the ambiguity of the language. The law states that “such reissuance shall not be counted toward the statewide numerical limit” – the cap of 460 charters – but makes no mention of the separate limit of 50 charters issued after July 1, 2015, for cities of one million or more people, a criteria only New York City fits.</p> <p>The mention of the state cap and omission of the city cap could be understood as affirming that charters which were revoked and then reissued in the city would continue to count towards that predetermined ceiling of 50, of which there are now 23 remaining aside from the defunct “zombie” charters. It seems that the mayoral administration’s concession was not to read the law that way.</p> <p>In a brief phone conversation, Department of Education (DOE) spokesperson Toya Holness said Monday that the administration “agreed not to challenge the way [the law] was being interpreted,” but declined to offer examples of potential alternative interpretations.</p> <p>Scott Reif, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, said that it was the Senate Republican majority’s “position that those 22 ‘zombie’ charters shouldn’t be counted towards any kind of cap.”</p> <p>In essence, state authorizers issues the charters that allow applying entities to open charter schools, but for one reason or another some are revoked or the schools close down, leaving the question of whether those charter slots under either of the two caps are newly available.</p> <p>Wrangling over the status of revoked charters has been going on for years; in 2010, before the law was changed to include specific directives on reissuing charters, an Assembly <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A10928&amp;term=2009&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Floor&amp;nbspVotes=Y&amp;Memo=Y&amp;Text=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bill</a> introduced by charter-friendly Democrats tried to establish that “that revoked charters will no longer count against the cap,” according to its summary. It didn’t pass at the time.</p> <p>The reissuable charters won’t be separately marked, but simply added the available pool of charters under the cap, which now appears to stand at 45 for New York City, where 216 charter schools currently operate. Potential schools hoping to secure a charter must follow the normal application procedures through state authorizers -- New York City’s Mayor and Department of Education actually have very little control related to charter schools, less so given changes to the laws ushered in by Senate Republicans and Cuomo after de Blasio, a longtime charter foe, took office in 2014. Senate Republicans and Cuomo are supportive of charters and well-funded by charter allies, while de Blasio and state Assembly Democrats are close with and funded by teachers unions, who see largely non-unionized charters as anathema to their survival.</p> <p>It is not clear why the law was amended to permit specifically 22 reissuances, nor who exactly included the language. It was part of the 72-page end-of-session <a href="http://origin-states.politico.com.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/files/150625_Big_Ugly.pdf">bill</a> passed on June 25, 2015 that includes a wide variety of measures.</p> <p>Even if the de Blasio administration stands down from challenging the charter stipulation, the lack of legal clarity means that another entity could. Public school advocates and teachers unions in particular have been consistent opponents of charter school expansion, and have been willing to use legal tools to stop it.</p> <p>In 2013, the United Federation of Teachers filed a <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/teachers-union-lawsuit-charter-schools-nixed-article-1.1760531" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">lawsuit</a> against the DOE to try to stop it from offering space to charter schools in existing city public schools; the suit was eventually dismissed by a judge. The UFT, which is largely allied with de Blasio, did not return a request for comment about whether it would challenge the agreed upon interpretation of the charter school law.</p> <p>

***
by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/15788513155_926c5aac1c_z.jpg" alt="de blasio law interpretation" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>A much talked-about provision of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 13th-hour <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7042-mayoral-control-extended-in-special-session-with-usual-albany-process" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">deal</a> to have his control over city schools extended was the agreement that 22 revoked or surrendered charter school charters could be reissued without counting towards the predetermined state cap on the number of charter schools.</p> <p>In exchange for a two-year extension of mayoral control of city schools, de Blasio agreed to a series of charter school-friendly administrative maneuvers, including the “zombie” charter provision, as well as others around rental reimbursements and school space allocations. The mayor made the deal with state Senate Republicans, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and their charter sector allies.</p> <p>What has not been widely noted is that language added to the state Education Law at the end of the 2015 Albany legislative session already allowed exactly 22 charters that had been “surrendered, revoked or terminated” on or before July 1, 2015, to be reissued, raising the question of why it was necessary to clarify that point at all.</p> <p>The answer might lie around the ambiguity of the language. The law states that “such reissuance shall not be counted toward the statewide numerical limit” – the cap of 460 charters – but makes no mention of the separate limit of 50 charters issued after July 1, 2015, for cities of one million or more people, a criteria only New York City fits.</p> <p>The mention of the state cap and omission of the city cap could be understood as affirming that charters which were revoked and then reissued in the city would continue to count towards that predetermined ceiling of 50, of which there are now 23 remaining aside from the defunct “zombie” charters. It seems that the mayoral administration’s concession was not to read the law that way.</p> <p>In a brief phone conversation, Department of Education (DOE) spokesperson Toya Holness said Monday that the administration “agreed not to challenge the way [the law] was being interpreted,” but declined to offer examples of potential alternative interpretations.</p> <p>Scott Reif, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, said that it was the Senate Republican majority’s “position that those 22 ‘zombie’ charters shouldn’t be counted towards any kind of cap.”</p> <p>In essence, state authorizers issues the charters that allow applying entities to open charter schools, but for one reason or another some are revoked or the schools close down, leaving the question of whether those charter slots under either of the two caps are newly available.</p> <p>Wrangling over the status of revoked charters has been going on for years; in 2010, before the law was changed to include specific directives on reissuing charters, an Assembly <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A10928&amp;term=2009&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Floor&amp;nbspVotes=Y&amp;Memo=Y&amp;Text=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bill</a> introduced by charter-friendly Democrats tried to establish that “that revoked charters will no longer count against the cap,” according to its summary. It didn’t pass at the time.</p> <p>The reissuable charters won’t be separately marked, but simply added the available pool of charters under the cap, which now appears to stand at 45 for New York City, where 216 charter schools currently operate. Potential schools hoping to secure a charter must follow the normal application procedures through state authorizers -- New York City’s Mayor and Department of Education actually have very little control related to charter schools, less so given changes to the laws ushered in by Senate Republicans and Cuomo after de Blasio, a longtime charter foe, took office in 2014. Senate Republicans and Cuomo are supportive of charters and well-funded by charter allies, while de Blasio and state Assembly Democrats are close with and funded by teachers unions, who see largely non-unionized charters as anathema to their survival.</p> <p>It is not clear why the law was amended to permit specifically 22 reissuances, nor who exactly included the language. It was part of the 72-page end-of-session <a href="http://origin-states.politico.com.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/files/150625_Big_Ugly.pdf">bill</a> passed on June 25, 2015 that includes a wide variety of measures.</p> <p>Even if the de Blasio administration stands down from challenging the charter stipulation, the lack of legal clarity means that another entity could. Public school advocates and teachers unions in particular have been consistent opponents of charter school expansion, and have been willing to use legal tools to stop it.</p> <p>In 2013, the United Federation of Teachers filed a <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/teachers-union-lawsuit-charter-schools-nixed-article-1.1760531" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">lawsuit</a> against the DOE to try to stop it from offering space to charter schools in existing city public schools; the suit was eventually dismissed by a judge. The UFT, which is largely allied with de Blasio, did not return a request for comment about whether it would challenge the agreed upon interpretation of the charter school law.</p> <p>

***
by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
De Blasio Made a Charter School Deal, But Isn’t Interested in Talking About It 2017-07-09T04:00:00+00:00 2017-07-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7054:de-blasio-made-a-charter-school-deal-but-isn-t-interested-in-talking-about-it Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/35616994065_a58e625813_z.jpg" alt="de blasio mayoral control event" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio at City Hall, June 29 (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio negotiated a deal to extend mayoral control of city schools in exchange for a set of administrative actions benefitting charter schools. When the mayor celebrated the extension of mayoral control -- which was due to expire at the end of June, but was extended June 29 -- he did not release the details of the charter-friendly promises he was making to Republican state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, and their charter sector allies.</p> <p>The Democratic mayor said at press conferences on both June 29 and June 30 that the details, all non-legislative, were still being finalized and that when they were ready they would be shared. When Gotham Gazette asked the mayor if he wasn’t participating in the type of secretive backroom dealing he’s criticized Albany lawmakers for, he said it was different because the details still weren’t final.</p> <p>The Wall Street Journal <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/mayoral-control-deal-will-allow-more-charter-schools-in-new-york-city-1499303669?utm_source=Master+Mailing+List&amp;utm_campaign=e3652fb6c2-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_07_06&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_23e3b96952-e3652fb6c2-75489945" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reported</a> one key detail late Wednesday night and the mayor’s press office only released the six-point agenda upon subequent requests from news outlets, many of which, including Gotham Gazette, made that inquiry on Thursday. In other words, there was no formal announcement, no press release emailed widely to reporters and editors and posted to the city’s website.</p> <p>De Blasio also said at the end of June that once the details were public he’d take questions about them, but he left town for Germany Thursday night without doing so. When the mayor called in for his weekly Friday appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/askthemayor-g20-summit" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the segment</a> was dominated by the surprise Germany trip, which the mayor took in order to speak at a rally outside the G20 summit of world leaders, the recent killing of an NYPD officer, and homelessness.</p> <p>In one sense, de Blasio successfully avoided talking about a charter school-friendly agreement that, while expedient to win two more years of mayoral control, he is not excited about. De Blasio is a long-time charter school foe, though tensions have cooled over the past two years, and is closely aligned with teachers unions, which see the largely non-unionized charter sector as an existential threat. The mayor’s antipathy toward charter schools has been at the forefront of his challenges to win a long-term extension of mayoral control given the strong support for charters from Cuomo and the Republican-controlled state Senate. The third major entity involved in the Albany decision-making, Assembly Democrats, are even more anti-charter than de Blasio.</p> <p>The charter school package de Blasio agreed to includes changes around rent reimbursements from the city to charter schools and school space utilization for charters, as well as MetroCard subsidies to some charter students and, most notably, an agreement that about 22 charter schools no longer operating can be replaced without an increase in the current cap on charters in the city. That cap was the key point of contention in negotiations among stakeholders in Albany, with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie refusing to accept any increase in the cap. Instead, de Blasio agreed to a de facto increase.</p> <p>According to City Hall, the changes will cost about $10 million per year, including about $7 million to increase charter school space reimbursement from 20% to 30%, which is already included in the budget, and $3 million for MetroCards for charter students who need transportation before busing begins each school year. It’s too early to tell if there will be any additional costs to the city related to the 20-plus “zombie” charters that are non-operational and now available to replacement through the charter authorization process, a City Hall spokesperson said.</p> <p>It’s no surprise that City Hall did not send out a press release announcing the details of the deal or that the mayor didn’t make himself available to discuss them. At the same time, given de Blasio’s challenges in Albany, especially with regard to Senate Republicans and Cuomo, who both receive significant funding from wealthy charter school supporters, the mayor has sought to avoid charter-related conflict over the last two years. In 2014, de Blasio received a major setback through state legislation guaranteeing charter schools either space in public school buildings or rent reimbursements, some of which the city would have to pay.</p> <p>In a statement, de Blasio spokesperson Freddi Goldstein said, “The charter sector is an important partner in our mission to deliver an excellent education to every child in New York City. Through the debate over mayoral control, we identified a few common-sense areas where we could better work together to ensure all 1.1 million school children have a chance to succeed.”</p> <p>There are currently 216 charter schools operating in New York City, with 23 slots left under the existing cap, according to the New York City Charter School Center, and 22 defunct charters would be open to replacement under the new agreement. Meaning, without a change to the law in Albany, there is room for 45 new charter schools in New York City.</p> <p>When a deal extending mayoral control of city schools was voted through a special session of the state Legislature on June 29, de Blasio called a City Hall press conference to celebrate. “Well, we have very good news for the children of New York City and for the parents of New York City,” de Blasio said. “Mayoral control of education has been extended for the next two years. This is a hugely important moment.”</p> <p>In the question-and-answer session that followed the mayor’s brief remarks, Gotham Gazette asked how raising the charter school cap had been dropped from the negotiations. Senate Republicans had tied extending mayoral control to an increase in the cap. De Blasio credited Heastie, who had been steadfast about not agreeing to raise the cap, and said “eventually I think that logic pervaded in many ways.” He did not mention his side deal.</p> <p>Asked then by Gotham Gazette if it was simply that Senate Republicans backed down, de Blasio said, “I won't speak for any of the parties.” He said that he had had a lot of productive conversation with Sen. Flanagan and, among other points, added, “I think we found some real common ground in terms of the ability to work together on specific ideas.”</p> <p>When a reporter from The New York Times later followed up, asking if there were any side agreements related to charter schools, de Blasio finally admitted there was. “There were a lot of conversations about a set of issues related to charters, that we believe could be handled administratively,” he said. “Those ideas are being crystallized into a final form. There's still some finishing touches to put on. There will be an upcoming announcement on that.”</p> <p>Asked to elaborate, de Blasio said he wasn’t ready “to go into the specifics, because I want to respect that all the parties have to finish the final touches, as I said, but again, very productive conversations about things where we could work together.”</p> <p>He added: “I thought a number of the issues that were raised were perfectly fair, you know, were respectful of what the city was trying to do overall, in terms of education, were not onerous. There were ways we could work together, and that was part of what I think energized this process, was the more we talked about actual substance. When I said, ‘Well, wait a minute. We could work together on that. Let's see if we can solve that.’ The speaker was very clear about not wanting to address those issues legislatively, which I, again, think was a fair approach, given the sanctity of mayoral control of education. That didn't mean we couldn't look at other ways to address the issue, so again, I believe you'll see, very soon, some final outcomes on that.”</p> <p>The next day, during another press conference exchange, de Blasio told Gotham Gazette, “Of course I’ll explain them when everything is finished, which I think will be quite soon. Again, there’s a lot of parties to this process, and I’m being very transparent about the fact that we talked about some real important issues related to charters. We came to some specific understandings, details still being worked out. Of course it’ll be published. And then, you’ll have at it. You’ll have every opportunity to make questions. But I have to emphasize, and this was important to what Speaker Heastie said in the beginning: It is not a legislative action, it was not something that had to be approved by the Senate and the Assembly formally. This is me deciding, as Mayor of New York City, with my administrative capacity, that there were some things we could do that would address some outstanding concerns of charters and I thought they were fair. But as soon as it’s cooked, as soon as it’s finalized, yes, everything will be public and then we’ll happily take questions on it.”</p> <p>It is apparent that Heastie’s ability to say he did not give in legislatively on any benefits for charter schools is important to the speaker and many of his members, who are closely aligned with and funded by the teachers unions.</p> <p>In statements following the release of the charter-related promises from the city, Flanagan celebrated and Heastie distanced.</p> <p>According to Flanagan, whose office emailed his statement to its entire press list, the “announcement by Mayor de Blasio is an important step forward for charter school students and for their families, as well as for the 50,000 children now on waiting lists for a seat inside a charter school. They are clamoring for a chance at success, and together we have provided them with a better opportunity to achieve their goals, to succeed and to get ahead. I thank the Mayor for his openness in addressing this important issue and for demonstrating his support for both children who are currently in a charter school and those who would like to be.”</p> <p>The statement from Heastie’s office, on the other hand, emphasized that the Assembly had not given an inch on charter schools. “As for charter schools, the Speaker was not an active participant in any discussions or negotiations,” said a Heastie spokesperson. “He said from the beginning the Assembly Majority would not trade anything regarding charter schools for mayoral control. Mayor de Blasio and the city's Department of Education have the right to make decisions of their choosing in regards to the administration of charter schools that do not require any legislative action.”</p> <p>When Gotham Gazette asked de Blasio’s office when the mayor had meant when on June 29 he said "as soon as it’s finalized, yes, everything will be public and then we’ll happily take questions on it," his spokesperson emailed back to say, “At his next public event, same as always.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/35616994065_a58e625813_z.jpg" alt="de blasio mayoral control event" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio at City Hall, June 29 (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio negotiated a deal to extend mayoral control of city schools in exchange for a set of administrative actions benefitting charter schools. When the mayor celebrated the extension of mayoral control -- which was due to expire at the end of June, but was extended June 29 -- he did not release the details of the charter-friendly promises he was making to Republican state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, and their charter sector allies.</p> <p>The Democratic mayor said at press conferences on both June 29 and June 30 that the details, all non-legislative, were still being finalized and that when they were ready they would be shared. When Gotham Gazette asked the mayor if he wasn’t participating in the type of secretive backroom dealing he’s criticized Albany lawmakers for, he said it was different because the details still weren’t final.</p> <p>The Wall Street Journal <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/mayoral-control-deal-will-allow-more-charter-schools-in-new-york-city-1499303669?utm_source=Master+Mailing+List&amp;utm_campaign=e3652fb6c2-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_07_06&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_23e3b96952-e3652fb6c2-75489945" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reported</a> one key detail late Wednesday night and the mayor’s press office only released the six-point agenda upon subequent requests from news outlets, many of which, including Gotham Gazette, made that inquiry on Thursday. In other words, there was no formal announcement, no press release emailed widely to reporters and editors and posted to the city’s website.</p> <p>De Blasio also said at the end of June that once the details were public he’d take questions about them, but he left town for Germany Thursday night without doing so. When the mayor called in for his weekly Friday appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/askthemayor-g20-summit" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the segment</a> was dominated by the surprise Germany trip, which the mayor took in order to speak at a rally outside the G20 summit of world leaders, the recent killing of an NYPD officer, and homelessness.</p> <p>In one sense, de Blasio successfully avoided talking about a charter school-friendly agreement that, while expedient to win two more years of mayoral control, he is not excited about. De Blasio is a long-time charter school foe, though tensions have cooled over the past two years, and is closely aligned with teachers unions, which see the largely non-unionized charter sector as an existential threat. The mayor’s antipathy toward charter schools has been at the forefront of his challenges to win a long-term extension of mayoral control given the strong support for charters from Cuomo and the Republican-controlled state Senate. The third major entity involved in the Albany decision-making, Assembly Democrats, are even more anti-charter than de Blasio.</p> <p>The charter school package de Blasio agreed to includes changes around rent reimbursements from the city to charter schools and school space utilization for charters, as well as MetroCard subsidies to some charter students and, most notably, an agreement that about 22 charter schools no longer operating can be replaced without an increase in the current cap on charters in the city. That cap was the key point of contention in negotiations among stakeholders in Albany, with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie refusing to accept any increase in the cap. Instead, de Blasio agreed to a de facto increase.</p> <p>According to City Hall, the changes will cost about $10 million per year, including about $7 million to increase charter school space reimbursement from 20% to 30%, which is already included in the budget, and $3 million for MetroCards for charter students who need transportation before busing begins each school year. It’s too early to tell if there will be any additional costs to the city related to the 20-plus “zombie” charters that are non-operational and now available to replacement through the charter authorization process, a City Hall spokesperson said.</p> <p>It’s no surprise that City Hall did not send out a press release announcing the details of the deal or that the mayor didn’t make himself available to discuss them. At the same time, given de Blasio’s challenges in Albany, especially with regard to Senate Republicans and Cuomo, who both receive significant funding from wealthy charter school supporters, the mayor has sought to avoid charter-related conflict over the last two years. In 2014, de Blasio received a major setback through state legislation guaranteeing charter schools either space in public school buildings or rent reimbursements, some of which the city would have to pay.</p> <p>In a statement, de Blasio spokesperson Freddi Goldstein said, “The charter sector is an important partner in our mission to deliver an excellent education to every child in New York City. Through the debate over mayoral control, we identified a few common-sense areas where we could better work together to ensure all 1.1 million school children have a chance to succeed.”</p> <p>There are currently 216 charter schools operating in New York City, with 23 slots left under the existing cap, according to the New York City Charter School Center, and 22 defunct charters would be open to replacement under the new agreement. Meaning, without a change to the law in Albany, there is room for 45 new charter schools in New York City.</p> <p>When a deal extending mayoral control of city schools was voted through a special session of the state Legislature on June 29, de Blasio called a City Hall press conference to celebrate. “Well, we have very good news for the children of New York City and for the parents of New York City,” de Blasio said. “Mayoral control of education has been extended for the next two years. This is a hugely important moment.”</p> <p>In the question-and-answer session that followed the mayor’s brief remarks, Gotham Gazette asked how raising the charter school cap had been dropped from the negotiations. Senate Republicans had tied extending mayoral control to an increase in the cap. De Blasio credited Heastie, who had been steadfast about not agreeing to raise the cap, and said “eventually I think that logic pervaded in many ways.” He did not mention his side deal.</p> <p>Asked then by Gotham Gazette if it was simply that Senate Republicans backed down, de Blasio said, “I won't speak for any of the parties.” He said that he had had a lot of productive conversation with Sen. Flanagan and, among other points, added, “I think we found some real common ground in terms of the ability to work together on specific ideas.”</p> <p>When a reporter from The New York Times later followed up, asking if there were any side agreements related to charter schools, de Blasio finally admitted there was. “There were a lot of conversations about a set of issues related to charters, that we believe could be handled administratively,” he said. “Those ideas are being crystallized into a final form. There's still some finishing touches to put on. There will be an upcoming announcement on that.”</p> <p>Asked to elaborate, de Blasio said he wasn’t ready “to go into the specifics, because I want to respect that all the parties have to finish the final touches, as I said, but again, very productive conversations about things where we could work together.”</p> <p>He added: “I thought a number of the issues that were raised were perfectly fair, you know, were respectful of what the city was trying to do overall, in terms of education, were not onerous. There were ways we could work together, and that was part of what I think energized this process, was the more we talked about actual substance. When I said, ‘Well, wait a minute. We could work together on that. Let's see if we can solve that.’ The speaker was very clear about not wanting to address those issues legislatively, which I, again, think was a fair approach, given the sanctity of mayoral control of education. That didn't mean we couldn't look at other ways to address the issue, so again, I believe you'll see, very soon, some final outcomes on that.”</p> <p>The next day, during another press conference exchange, de Blasio told Gotham Gazette, “Of course I’ll explain them when everything is finished, which I think will be quite soon. Again, there’s a lot of parties to this process, and I’m being very transparent about the fact that we talked about some real important issues related to charters. We came to some specific understandings, details still being worked out. Of course it’ll be published. And then, you’ll have at it. You’ll have every opportunity to make questions. But I have to emphasize, and this was important to what Speaker Heastie said in the beginning: It is not a legislative action, it was not something that had to be approved by the Senate and the Assembly formally. This is me deciding, as Mayor of New York City, with my administrative capacity, that there were some things we could do that would address some outstanding concerns of charters and I thought they were fair. But as soon as it’s cooked, as soon as it’s finalized, yes, everything will be public and then we’ll happily take questions on it.”</p> <p>It is apparent that Heastie’s ability to say he did not give in legislatively on any benefits for charter schools is important to the speaker and many of his members, who are closely aligned with and funded by the teachers unions.</p> <p>In statements following the release of the charter-related promises from the city, Flanagan celebrated and Heastie distanced.</p> <p>According to Flanagan, whose office emailed his statement to its entire press list, the “announcement by Mayor de Blasio is an important step forward for charter school students and for their families, as well as for the 50,000 children now on waiting lists for a seat inside a charter school. They are clamoring for a chance at success, and together we have provided them with a better opportunity to achieve their goals, to succeed and to get ahead. I thank the Mayor for his openness in addressing this important issue and for demonstrating his support for both children who are currently in a charter school and those who would like to be.”</p> <p>The statement from Heastie’s office, on the other hand, emphasized that the Assembly had not given an inch on charter schools. “As for charter schools, the Speaker was not an active participant in any discussions or negotiations,” said a Heastie spokesperson. “He said from the beginning the Assembly Majority would not trade anything regarding charter schools for mayoral control. Mayor de Blasio and the city's Department of Education have the right to make decisions of their choosing in regards to the administration of charter schools that do not require any legislative action.”</p> <p>When Gotham Gazette asked de Blasio’s office when the mayor had meant when on June 29 he said "as soon as it’s finalized, yes, everything will be public and then we’ll happily take questions on it," his spokesperson emailed back to say, “At his next public event, same as always.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Charter Schools Can't Suspend Their Way to Success 2017-04-25T04:00:00+00:00 2017-04-25T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6891:charter-schools-can-t-suspend-their-way-to-success Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/mulgrew-classroom.jpg" alt="mulgrew classroom" width="600" height="416" /></p> <p>Michael Mulgrew, the author (photo: UFT)</p> <hr /> <p>Children who miss 20 or more days of school in New York City have lost so much instruction time that they are classified as chronically absent, which studies have linked to lower test scores and higher dropout rates.</p> <p>So it is hard to see the educational purpose behind Success Academy's suspending a special-needs 7-year-old for 45 days, even if some form of alternative instruction was provided. This one recent example is part of a much larger pattern, both for Success Academy and the larger charter school sector it is the leader of.</p> <p>Sadly, Success Academy is far from the outlier in the charter sector in the use of suspensions as a punitive tool.</p> <p><a href="https://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/resources/projects/center-for-civil-rights-remedies/school-to-prison-folder/federal-reports/charter-schools-civil-rights-and-school-discipline-a-comprehensive-review" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2016 study</a> by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles, found charters nationwide suspended African-American and special-needs students at a disproportionately higher rate than their white or non-disabled classmates. The report was the first national review of charter school discipline.</p> <p>In New York City, although the charter school student population was less than 7 percent of the system's total enrollment, charter schools accounted for nearly 42 percent of all suspensions, according to a review <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/09/the-racism-of-charter-school-discipline/500240/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">by The Atlantic</a> of 2014 state suspension data.</p> <p>Charter schools accounted for 48 of the top 50 New York City schools with the highest suspension rates for the same year. The Icahn Charter #7 in the Bronx reported giving out 142 suspensions to its 99 students that year, the highest suspension rate in the city. Achievement First Crown Heights Charter reported issuing 200 suspensions to its roughly 940 students that same year.</p> <p>Teachers know that there is a place for suspension of children who are dangerous to themselves or others, or who constantly make learning impossible for their classmates. The UFT fought to ensure that the system's new discipline policy included the ability for a principal to suspend even the youngest children, though the potential loss of learning time means that suspension should always be a last resort.</p> <p>But we also know that it takes time, energy, and public scrutiny to move from punitive, after-the-fact discipline codes to pro-active, restorative practices that can change school climate. At the UFT, we have joined with the city Department of Education to create a package of training and techniques to help staff identify and deal with issues proactively, known as the Positive Learning Collaborative.</p> <p>At schools enrolled for three years in this joint venture, suspensions are down, as are the kinds of incidents that used to trigger them. And perhaps more important, the satisfaction of children, staff, and parents in the schools is up.</p> <p>Charters need to do similar work, and do it publicly to regain the trust of the public, particularly parents and students.</p> <p>***<br />Michael Mulgrew is president of the United Federation of Teachers. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/UFT" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@UFT</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/mulgrew-classroom.jpg" alt="mulgrew classroom" width="600" height="416" /></p> <p>Michael Mulgrew, the author (photo: UFT)</p> <hr /> <p>Children who miss 20 or more days of school in New York City have lost so much instruction time that they are classified as chronically absent, which studies have linked to lower test scores and higher dropout rates.</p> <p>So it is hard to see the educational purpose behind Success Academy's suspending a special-needs 7-year-old for 45 days, even if some form of alternative instruction was provided. This one recent example is part of a much larger pattern, both for Success Academy and the larger charter school sector it is the leader of.</p> <p>Sadly, Success Academy is far from the outlier in the charter sector in the use of suspensions as a punitive tool.</p> <p><a href="https://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/resources/projects/center-for-civil-rights-remedies/school-to-prison-folder/federal-reports/charter-schools-civil-rights-and-school-discipline-a-comprehensive-review" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2016 study</a> by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles, found charters nationwide suspended African-American and special-needs students at a disproportionately higher rate than their white or non-disabled classmates. The report was the first national review of charter school discipline.</p> <p>In New York City, although the charter school student population was less than 7 percent of the system's total enrollment, charter schools accounted for nearly 42 percent of all suspensions, according to a review <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/09/the-racism-of-charter-school-discipline/500240/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">by The Atlantic</a> of 2014 state suspension data.</p> <p>Charter schools accounted for 48 of the top 50 New York City schools with the highest suspension rates for the same year. The Icahn Charter #7 in the Bronx reported giving out 142 suspensions to its 99 students that year, the highest suspension rate in the city. Achievement First Crown Heights Charter reported issuing 200 suspensions to its roughly 940 students that same year.</p> <p>Teachers know that there is a place for suspension of children who are dangerous to themselves or others, or who constantly make learning impossible for their classmates. The UFT fought to ensure that the system's new discipline policy included the ability for a principal to suspend even the youngest children, though the potential loss of learning time means that suspension should always be a last resort.</p> <p>But we also know that it takes time, energy, and public scrutiny to move from punitive, after-the-fact discipline codes to pro-active, restorative practices that can change school climate. At the UFT, we have joined with the city Department of Education to create a package of training and techniques to help staff identify and deal with issues proactively, known as the Positive Learning Collaborative.</p> <p>At schools enrolled for three years in this joint venture, suspensions are down, as are the kinds of incidents that used to trigger them. And perhaps more important, the satisfaction of children, staff, and parents in the schools is up.</p> <p>Charters need to do similar work, and do it publicly to regain the trust of the public, particularly parents and students.</p> <p>***<br />Michael Mulgrew is president of the United Federation of Teachers. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/UFT" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@UFT</a>.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
Facts About Fair Student Funding in New York City 2017-03-23T04:00:00+00:00 2017-03-23T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6828:facts-about-fair-student-funding-in-new-york-city Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/james-merriman-nyccsc.jpg" alt="james merriman nyccsc" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>James Merriman, the author</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Independent Budget Office, the nonpartisan government watchdog, recently issued a report with some startling findings: Students in public charter schools will receive a lot less public funding and support this year than students in district schools. How much less? The IBO found that the gap started at $1,100 per student if the charter school is co-located in a public school building and shot up to nearly $5,000 if it isn’t.</p> <p>And, the IBO found that the future is even grimmer—that gap will grow in 2017-18 and beyond as district expenditures rise by billions more a year.</p> <p>None of this is a surprise to those in charter schools. For the past several years, they have watched as Mayor de Blasio poured millions into failing Renewal Schools, and increased the district’s budget to pay for raises for teachers. As a result, DOE’s budget has grown by 16% over the last three years while the amount that charter schools receive grew by only 3.7%.</p> <p>That’s why this year the city’s public charter schools and the families they serve are united around getting more equitable funding. Proposals put forth by Governor Cuomo and the state Senate are a step in the right direction.</p> <p>Apparently, though, simple fairness in funding between a child in a district school and a child in a charter school is an idea that UFT President Michael Mulgrew cannot stomach. That’s why the UFT is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/6824-charters-flush-with-cash-yet-still-trying-to-pull-funds-from-neighborhood-public-schools" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">throwing everything it can</a> at the wall to deny charter students more funding, hoping that people will ignore the IBO’s findings.</p> <p>The UFT’s latest hail Mary is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/6824-charters-flush-with-cash-yet-still-trying-to-pull-funds-from-neighborhood-public-schools" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a “report”</a> that shows that the 216 public charter schools in New York City last year had substantial cash assets, some $325 million. Thus, says Mulgrew, charter schools don’t need additional funding.</p> <p>Unfortunately for the union, the report doesn’t stand up to basic scrutiny.</p> <p>If you average $325 million across the city’s 216 charter schools, that means each school has roughly $1.5 million in the bank. It’s a pittance when you take into account that charter schools are organized as not-for-profits and best financial practice requires that they maintain three to six months of operating revenue as cash on hand. After all, a public charter school doesn’t have a dedicated tax base, can’t go to the bank (or state) and quickly access credit if they get hit with unexpected expenses like needing to fix a roof or put in a new boiler. That’s why so many schools prudently hold funds to plan for emergencies.</p> <p>The UFT also ignores the fact that, unlike their district counterparts, charter schools have to find their own buildings where they can create new schools or expand. They don’t have multi-billion dollar capital budgets as does the city for its own schools. At the same time, the UFT has been pressuring Mayor de Blasio to squeeze public charter schools by refusing them space in district-owned buildings.</p> <p>In other words, the UFT has done its darndest to create conditions that have caused charter schools to plan for a rainy day and then damned them for buying an umbrella.</p> <p>These inconsistencies don’t surprise us, but they do become a distraction from the real story about New York City’s charter schools – that they are consistently among the best and most popular public schools in the state, particularly for disadvantaged African-American and Hispanic students. Not focusing on that is undoubtedly the UFT’s intention. But in the end we are confident lawmakers will make their budget decision on the merits, and here the facts are clear: charter schools aren’t receiving their fair share of funding. They, and the children they educate, deserve to. It’s that simple.</p> <p>***<br />James Merriman is CEO of the New York City Charter School Center. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Charter411" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@Charter411</a>.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/james-merriman-nyccsc.jpg" alt="james merriman nyccsc" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>James Merriman, the author</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Independent Budget Office, the nonpartisan government watchdog, recently issued a report with some startling findings: Students in public charter schools will receive a lot less public funding and support this year than students in district schools. How much less? The IBO found that the gap started at $1,100 per student if the charter school is co-located in a public school building and shot up to nearly $5,000 if it isn’t.</p> <p>And, the IBO found that the future is even grimmer—that gap will grow in 2017-18 and beyond as district expenditures rise by billions more a year.</p> <p>None of this is a surprise to those in charter schools. For the past several years, they have watched as Mayor de Blasio poured millions into failing Renewal Schools, and increased the district’s budget to pay for raises for teachers. As a result, DOE’s budget has grown by 16% over the last three years while the amount that charter schools receive grew by only 3.7%.</p> <p>That’s why this year the city’s public charter schools and the families they serve are united around getting more equitable funding. Proposals put forth by Governor Cuomo and the state Senate are a step in the right direction.</p> <p>Apparently, though, simple fairness in funding between a child in a district school and a child in a charter school is an idea that UFT President Michael Mulgrew cannot stomach. That’s why the UFT is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/6824-charters-flush-with-cash-yet-still-trying-to-pull-funds-from-neighborhood-public-schools" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">throwing everything it can</a> at the wall to deny charter students more funding, hoping that people will ignore the IBO’s findings.</p> <p>The UFT’s latest hail Mary is <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/6824-charters-flush-with-cash-yet-still-trying-to-pull-funds-from-neighborhood-public-schools" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a “report”</a> that shows that the 216 public charter schools in New York City last year had substantial cash assets, some $325 million. Thus, says Mulgrew, charter schools don’t need additional funding.</p> <p>Unfortunately for the union, the report doesn’t stand up to basic scrutiny.</p> <p>If you average $325 million across the city’s 216 charter schools, that means each school has roughly $1.5 million in the bank. It’s a pittance when you take into account that charter schools are organized as not-for-profits and best financial practice requires that they maintain three to six months of operating revenue as cash on hand. After all, a public charter school doesn’t have a dedicated tax base, can’t go to the bank (or state) and quickly access credit if they get hit with unexpected expenses like needing to fix a roof or put in a new boiler. That’s why so many schools prudently hold funds to plan for emergencies.</p> <p>The UFT also ignores the fact that, unlike their district counterparts, charter schools have to find their own buildings where they can create new schools or expand. They don’t have multi-billion dollar capital budgets as does the city for its own schools. At the same time, the UFT has been pressuring Mayor de Blasio to squeeze public charter schools by refusing them space in district-owned buildings.</p> <p>In other words, the UFT has done its darndest to create conditions that have caused charter schools to plan for a rainy day and then damned them for buying an umbrella.</p> <p>These inconsistencies don’t surprise us, but they do become a distraction from the real story about New York City’s charter schools – that they are consistently among the best and most popular public schools in the state, particularly for disadvantaged African-American and Hispanic students. Not focusing on that is undoubtedly the UFT’s intention. But in the end we are confident lawmakers will make their budget decision on the merits, and here the facts are clear: charter schools aren’t receiving their fair share of funding. They, and the children they educate, deserve to. It’s that simple.</p> <p>***<br />James Merriman is CEO of the New York City Charter School Center. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Charter411" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@Charter411</a>.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
Charters: Flush With Cash, Yet Still Trying to Pull Funds from Neighborhood Public Schools 2017-03-22T04:00:00+00:00 2017-03-22T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6824:charters-flush-with-cash-yet-still-trying-to-pull-funds-from-neighborhood-public-schools Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/uft_teacher_floor.jpg" alt="uft teacher floor" width="600" height="348" /></p> <p>(photo: UFT)</p> <hr /> <p>Even as they are pleading poverty to the Legislature in Albany, charter schools across New York State are sitting on nearly half a billion dollars in cash and unrestricted assets.</p> <p>An investigation by the state teachers union has shown that New York City charter schools alone have at least $323 million in unrestricted net assets, most of it in cash. When you add in charters in the rest of New York State, the sector as a whole has unrestricted assets of more than $450 million.</p> <p>Those are resources that can be used to pay for academic programs, support staff, and rent of school facilities.</p> <p>But despite these available funds, New York's charter chains are lobbying for more public support in the form of increased tuition reimbursements, additional rent subsidies, and the elimination of the cap on the number of charters – all of which would siphon off public funds that could go to the state’s traditional public schools.</p> <p>Charters are famously resistant to transparency, and anyone wanting to find out how much cash charters have on hand, or how much they pay their top managers, has to track down audits and non-profit tax returns on the internet.</p> <p>A review of these documents shows that in New York City alone the Uncommon Schools chain has cash and unrestricted assets totaling more than $28 million; Success Academy has more than $22 million; and Democracy Prep have more than $14 million.</p> <p>Ignoring these facts, Republicans in the state Senate have proposed to eliminate the charter cap and drain an additional $334 million statewide that could go to traditional public schools, sending that money instead to charters.</p> <p>Charter cheerleaders constantly complain that the UFT is an enemy of charters. But the fact is that we represent teachers at a number of New York City charter schools and support their original purpose: to be incubators of innovation that can then be spread across the public school system.</p> <p>But to achieve that goal, charters have to be a vibrant part of the system and also be accountable to parents and taxpayers. Right now, New York charters are not.</p> <p>Despite a 2010 change in charter law, too many charter chains still fail to accept and keep all students, and they have significantly lower numbers of English language learners, special education students, and homeless children than neighborhood public schools.</p> <p>And too many charter chains have fought even the most basic accountability measures, such as audits of their finances or reviews of their school discipline policies.</p> <p>As budget negotiations continue in Albany, the state Assembly right now is seeking to hold charters more accountable.</p> <p>Charters would have to be transparent in how they raise and spend their funds to make sure tax dollars are spent in the classroom. They would need to report how much they pay their top managers and management companies.</p> <p>They would need to abide by guidelines that they accept and keep all children and make sure the number of high-needs children they educate is comparable to the number educated in neighboring public schools.</p> <p>As a measure of good faith, one of the first things charters could do is to acknowledge that many of their schools do not need the tuition and rent hikes they seek, particularly when their increases would come at the expense of New York City’s neighborhood public schools.</p> <p>***<br />Michael Mulgrew is President of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/UFT" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@UFT</a>.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/uft_teacher_floor.jpg" alt="uft teacher floor" width="600" height="348" /></p> <p>(photo: UFT)</p> <hr /> <p>Even as they are pleading poverty to the Legislature in Albany, charter schools across New York State are sitting on nearly half a billion dollars in cash and unrestricted assets.</p> <p>An investigation by the state teachers union has shown that New York City charter schools alone have at least $323 million in unrestricted net assets, most of it in cash. When you add in charters in the rest of New York State, the sector as a whole has unrestricted assets of more than $450 million.</p> <p>Those are resources that can be used to pay for academic programs, support staff, and rent of school facilities.</p> <p>But despite these available funds, New York's charter chains are lobbying for more public support in the form of increased tuition reimbursements, additional rent subsidies, and the elimination of the cap on the number of charters – all of which would siphon off public funds that could go to the state’s traditional public schools.</p> <p>Charters are famously resistant to transparency, and anyone wanting to find out how much cash charters have on hand, or how much they pay their top managers, has to track down audits and non-profit tax returns on the internet.</p> <p>A review of these documents shows that in New York City alone the Uncommon Schools chain has cash and unrestricted assets totaling more than $28 million; Success Academy has more than $22 million; and Democracy Prep have more than $14 million.</p> <p>Ignoring these facts, Republicans in the state Senate have proposed to eliminate the charter cap and drain an additional $334 million statewide that could go to traditional public schools, sending that money instead to charters.</p> <p>Charter cheerleaders constantly complain that the UFT is an enemy of charters. But the fact is that we represent teachers at a number of New York City charter schools and support their original purpose: to be incubators of innovation that can then be spread across the public school system.</p> <p>But to achieve that goal, charters have to be a vibrant part of the system and also be accountable to parents and taxpayers. Right now, New York charters are not.</p> <p>Despite a 2010 change in charter law, too many charter chains still fail to accept and keep all students, and they have significantly lower numbers of English language learners, special education students, and homeless children than neighborhood public schools.</p> <p>And too many charter chains have fought even the most basic accountability measures, such as audits of their finances or reviews of their school discipline policies.</p> <p>As budget negotiations continue in Albany, the state Assembly right now is seeking to hold charters more accountable.</p> <p>Charters would have to be transparent in how they raise and spend their funds to make sure tax dollars are spent in the classroom. They would need to report how much they pay their top managers and management companies.</p> <p>They would need to abide by guidelines that they accept and keep all children and make sure the number of high-needs children they educate is comparable to the number educated in neighboring public schools.</p> <p>As a measure of good faith, one of the first things charters could do is to acknowledge that many of their schools do not need the tuition and rent hikes they seek, particularly when their increases would come at the expense of New York City’s neighborhood public schools.</p> <p>***<br />Michael Mulgrew is President of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/UFT" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@UFT</a>.</p> Success Academy Schools Largely Responsible for Charter Gains on State Tests 2016-08-11T04:00:00+00:00 2016-08-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6477:success-academy-schools-largely-responsible-for-charter-gains-on-state-tests Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Success_Academy_Binghamton.jpg" alt="Success Academy Binghamton" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>photo: @SuccessCharters</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Release of the most recent student test scores on state English and math exams for third- through eighth-graders set off widespread celebration in public education circles. Supporters and leaders of charter schools and traditional public schools alike have been promoting the <a href="http://www.nysed.gov/common/nysed/files/2016-3-8-test-results.pdf" target="_blank">results</a>, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has cited test score jumps as proof that his education agenda is working.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Common Core-aligned proficiency tests, administered in April and released by State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia on July 29, show significant increases for students in the city&rsquo;s traditional public schools and even bigger jumps for charter schools students.</p> <p dir="ltr">In an annual tradition, the release of the scores led different interest groups and interested individuals to see the results through the lens of their politics and another round of the district versus charter school debate commenced. On Wednesday, de Blasio attributed the larger growth in scores by charter school students to the sector&rsquo;s emphasis on test preparation, setting off a new round of criticism of the mayor by charter school supporters, who he has mostly been at odds with for years.</p> <p dir="ltr">The most acrimony for de Blasio and the charter school sector has come with Success Academy and its lightning rod founder and CEO, Eva Moskowitz. Success is the city&rsquo;s largest charter school network, its students routinely outperform most others across the city on standardized tests. It has been the focus of much criticism over its discipline practices, emphasis on test prep, and stringent expectations of both students and teachers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Charter school supporters, including Moskowitz, who published a related <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/eva-moskowitz-inconvenient-truth-test-scores-article-1.2737537" target="_blank">op-ed in the New York Daily News</a> on August 4, were quick to tout the fact that the charter sector outpaced district schools on the state tests. But the sector&rsquo;s increase was driven disproportionately by Moskowitz&rsquo;s own Success Academy students.</p> <p dir="ltr">For context, 445,482 New York City students took the English Language Arts test this past Spring; 400,820 from district schools and 44,632 from charter schools, including 4,337 from Success Academy schools specifically. A total of 440,542 students took the math test; 396,849 from district schools and 43,693 from charter schools, including 4,339 from Success Academy schools. Success Academy accounted for about 10 percent of charter school test-takers and 1 percent of total city test-takers.</p> <p dir="ltr">The percent of district school students with scores of &ldquo;proficient&rdquo; or higher rose 1.2 points from last year to 36.4 percent in math and rose 7.6 points to 38 percent in English. This places New York City district schools 3 points behind the overall state average for math proficiency and, for the first time in history, in line with the statewide average for English.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The steps we took, the investments we made are paying off, and we have objective evidence of that in these test scores,&rdquo; de Blasio said at an August 1 press conference called to celebrate the scores. &ldquo;That is true in both English and math. And I&rsquo;m very proud to say in English, every single one of our 32 local districts improved. And that is extraordinary consistency.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">For students at charter schools, math proficiency rose 4.5 points to 48.7 percent, while English proficiency jumped 13.7 points to 43 percent&mdash;surpassing district school English proficiency for the first time. Charter school proponents said the data evidenced charter schools&rsquo; success, especially for low-income students and students of color, with both groups <a href="http://www.nyccharterschools.org/content/new-york-city-charter-school-center-test-score-analysis-2015-16" target="_blank">scoring higher</a> on average in charter schools than in district schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;From the perspective of the [New York City charter school] sector, the sector scores are strong overall. There's a lot of strong performers,&rdquo; NYC Charter School Center CEO James Merriman told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;The bottom line is it's part of a longer trend where you have a sector that's working and that parents, particularly parents of students who are black and Hispanic, want more of.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Charter school proponents regularly cite the long wait lists for their schools and criticize de Blasio and others for standing in the way of the creation of more charter schools, which are publicly-funded, privately-run schools authorized by state entities. There is a cap on the number of charter schools that is set by state lawmakers, who have generally been supportive of raising it. A recent <a href="https://www.qu.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2370">Quinnipiac public opinion poll</a> showed that among New York City voters, 51 percent said they would prefer for their child to attend a charter school while 37 percent said they would prefer a traditional public school.</p> <p dir="ltr">While de Blasio and his allies have celebrated district school students&rsquo; gains on the tests, some have sought to discredit those jumps. Statewide, proficiency on English exams increased by seven points since last year, critics point out, and for the first time, students were given unlimited time on state exams this year.</p> <p dir="ltr">Moskowitz of Success Academy, a former City Council member, concluded in her recent <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/eva-moskowitz-inconvenient-truth-test-scores-article-1.2737537" target="_blank">Daily News op-ed</a> that unlike district schools, city charters, which exceeded the seven-point statewide jump, are a &ldquo;set of schools that meets the criteria&rdquo; to truly be considered improving.</p> <p dir="ltr">This trend was not uniform, however, across charter schools - something that many in the charter sector are not necessarily eager to point out, even including Moskowitz. Success earned far higher scores than schools across the charter sector, which includes 25 other networks and 216 total schools, pulling the sector average upwards by a significant margin.</p> <p dir="ltr">Over 4,300 Success Academy students took the state tests in 2016, about 10 percent of charter school students tested in the city. Success students showed proficiency at nearly double the rate of all charter schools -- 94 percent were proficient in math and 82 percent were proficient in English this year. Success also outperformed traditional public school students by 58 points in math and 44 points in English.</p> <p dir="ltr">With Success scores factored out, the city&rsquo;s charter school students averaged 43.8 percent proficiency in math and 38.9 percent in English, outperforming district school students by 7.4 points and less than one point, respectively.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The scores from Success are startling. They're incredibly high,&rdquo; Merriman said. &ldquo;Another thing I would say stands out is the relative uniformity across [Moskowitz&rsquo;s] schools. There's a consistency there that I think most people would agree is very difficult to achieve.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">But because of Success&rsquo; approach, and uniquely high scores, David Bloomfield, an education professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, said that categorizing in the same set alongside all other charters in the city is unproductive. Because charter schools are privately operated, Bloomfield said, their methods differ from one school to the next as greatly as private schools, which makes grouping them difficult.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The Success scores give a halo effect to charters in general, and that's based on a fundamental misunderstanding of variation between charters,&rdquo; Bloomfield told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;What we're supposed to be finding out from these scores is&hellip;how much students are learning, but the variation in the preparation practices makes that impossible.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Representatives of Success Academy say that it makes sense to group all charter schools together since all district schools are discussed in sum although they vary widely as well.</p> <p dir="ltr">Success Academy is driven by an emphasis on standardized testing, preparing students rigorously and from a young age, as explored in depth by <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/07/nyregion/at-success-academy-charter-schools-polarizing-methods-and-superior-results.html?_r=0" target="_blank">The New York Times</a> and <a href="http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2015/04/06/success-academy-a-guide-to-the-citys-largest-most-controversial-charter-school-network/" target="_blank">Chalkbeat</a>, and frequently discussed by Moskowitz and others at the network. Students&rsquo; grades are posted in the hallways at Success schools; students who do well on tests are rewarded with toys and candy, while those who do poorly face punishments like detention or calls home. Extracurriculars can relate to testing&mdash;in April, Moskowitz <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/success-academy-students-prepare-slam-exam-rally-article-1.2586290" target="_blank">organized the network&rsquo;s annual &ldquo;slam the exam&rdquo; rally</a> for third through eighth graders the week before the state tests.</p> <p dir="ltr">The network has come under significant criticism for its approach to testing and has been the target of various accusations around pushing low-performing students out of its schools. In October, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/30/nyregion/at-a-success-academy-charter-school-singling-out-pupils-who-have-got-to-go.html" target="_blank">The Times revealed</a> that one Success principal kept a &ldquo;got to go&rdquo; list of low-performing students he wanted to see leave his school. Moskowitz called it an anomaly, as she did when <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/13/nyregion/success-academy-teacher-rips-up-student-paper.html" target="_blank">The Times published</a> a secretly recorded video of a Success teacher at a different school berating a young student for answering questions incorrectly. The network does not shy away from its especially high rate of student suspensions. In May, <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2016/05/success-academy-documents-point-to-possible-cheating-among-challenges-101595" target="_blank">Politico New York reported</a> that internal Success documents pointed to possible cheating by teachers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, most charter school backers have held Success Academy as a model and praised Moskowitz for her work. There are some in the sector, especially at smaller, non-network schools that are critical of Success and do not align with political work the chain is heavily involved with. Success now includes 41 schools and has the stated goal of expanding to 100 by 2025.</p> <p dir="ltr">Moskowitz&rsquo;s schools continue to be the pace-setters for the charter sector on the state exams.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked by Gotham Gazette about the disparity between charter school and district school performance at a press conference on Wednesday, de Blasio criticized schools that prioritize test prep and implied that those schools distort the sector&rsquo;s overall numbers. He said that his administration believes that tests are important, but not in too much of a focus on them.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Some substantial piece of that [average] is based on charters that focus on test prep. And that&rsquo;s where they put a lot of their time and energy,&rdquo; de Blasio said. &ldquo;Of course it could yield better test scores, but we don&rsquo;t think that&rsquo;s good educational policy so we&rsquo;re going to do it the way we believe is right for our children.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">In response, a Success Academy spokesperson sent a statement to Gotham Gazette extolling the network&rsquo;s well-rounded approach.</p> <p>"At Success Academy we have tried to reimagine public education, putting children at the heart of everything we do -- from our field studies, chess clubs, and recess to hands-on science, literacy, and math,&rdquo; the statement reads. &ldquo;In many district schools, children are bored out of their minds. We banish boredom by filling every day with child-centered learning."</p> <p>

***
by Aaron Holmes, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Success_Academy_Binghamton.jpg" alt="Success Academy Binghamton" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>photo: @SuccessCharters</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Release of the most recent student test scores on state English and math exams for third- through eighth-graders set off widespread celebration in public education circles. Supporters and leaders of charter schools and traditional public schools alike have been promoting the <a href="http://www.nysed.gov/common/nysed/files/2016-3-8-test-results.pdf" target="_blank">results</a>, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has cited test score jumps as proof that his education agenda is working.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Common Core-aligned proficiency tests, administered in April and released by State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia on July 29, show significant increases for students in the city&rsquo;s traditional public schools and even bigger jumps for charter schools students.</p> <p dir="ltr">In an annual tradition, the release of the scores led different interest groups and interested individuals to see the results through the lens of their politics and another round of the district versus charter school debate commenced. On Wednesday, de Blasio attributed the larger growth in scores by charter school students to the sector&rsquo;s emphasis on test preparation, setting off a new round of criticism of the mayor by charter school supporters, who he has mostly been at odds with for years.</p> <p dir="ltr">The most acrimony for de Blasio and the charter school sector has come with Success Academy and its lightning rod founder and CEO, Eva Moskowitz. Success is the city&rsquo;s largest charter school network, its students routinely outperform most others across the city on standardized tests. It has been the focus of much criticism over its discipline practices, emphasis on test prep, and stringent expectations of both students and teachers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Charter school supporters, including Moskowitz, who published a related <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/eva-moskowitz-inconvenient-truth-test-scores-article-1.2737537" target="_blank">op-ed in the New York Daily News</a> on August 4, were quick to tout the fact that the charter sector outpaced district schools on the state tests. But the sector&rsquo;s increase was driven disproportionately by Moskowitz&rsquo;s own Success Academy students.</p> <p dir="ltr">For context, 445,482 New York City students took the English Language Arts test this past Spring; 400,820 from district schools and 44,632 from charter schools, including 4,337 from Success Academy schools specifically. A total of 440,542 students took the math test; 396,849 from district schools and 43,693 from charter schools, including 4,339 from Success Academy schools. Success Academy accounted for about 10 percent of charter school test-takers and 1 percent of total city test-takers.</p> <p dir="ltr">The percent of district school students with scores of &ldquo;proficient&rdquo; or higher rose 1.2 points from last year to 36.4 percent in math and rose 7.6 points to 38 percent in English. This places New York City district schools 3 points behind the overall state average for math proficiency and, for the first time in history, in line with the statewide average for English.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The steps we took, the investments we made are paying off, and we have objective evidence of that in these test scores,&rdquo; de Blasio said at an August 1 press conference called to celebrate the scores. &ldquo;That is true in both English and math. And I&rsquo;m very proud to say in English, every single one of our 32 local districts improved. And that is extraordinary consistency.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">For students at charter schools, math proficiency rose 4.5 points to 48.7 percent, while English proficiency jumped 13.7 points to 43 percent&mdash;surpassing district school English proficiency for the first time. Charter school proponents said the data evidenced charter schools&rsquo; success, especially for low-income students and students of color, with both groups <a href="http://www.nyccharterschools.org/content/new-york-city-charter-school-center-test-score-analysis-2015-16" target="_blank">scoring higher</a> on average in charter schools than in district schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;From the perspective of the [New York City charter school] sector, the sector scores are strong overall. There's a lot of strong performers,&rdquo; NYC Charter School Center CEO James Merriman told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;The bottom line is it's part of a longer trend where you have a sector that's working and that parents, particularly parents of students who are black and Hispanic, want more of.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Charter school proponents regularly cite the long wait lists for their schools and criticize de Blasio and others for standing in the way of the creation of more charter schools, which are publicly-funded, privately-run schools authorized by state entities. There is a cap on the number of charter schools that is set by state lawmakers, who have generally been supportive of raising it. A recent <a href="https://www.qu.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2370">Quinnipiac public opinion poll</a> showed that among New York City voters, 51 percent said they would prefer for their child to attend a charter school while 37 percent said they would prefer a traditional public school.</p> <p dir="ltr">While de Blasio and his allies have celebrated district school students&rsquo; gains on the tests, some have sought to discredit those jumps. Statewide, proficiency on English exams increased by seven points since last year, critics point out, and for the first time, students were given unlimited time on state exams this year.</p> <p dir="ltr">Moskowitz of Success Academy, a former City Council member, concluded in her recent <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/eva-moskowitz-inconvenient-truth-test-scores-article-1.2737537" target="_blank">Daily News op-ed</a> that unlike district schools, city charters, which exceeded the seven-point statewide jump, are a &ldquo;set of schools that meets the criteria&rdquo; to truly be considered improving.</p> <p dir="ltr">This trend was not uniform, however, across charter schools - something that many in the charter sector are not necessarily eager to point out, even including Moskowitz. Success earned far higher scores than schools across the charter sector, which includes 25 other networks and 216 total schools, pulling the sector average upwards by a significant margin.</p> <p dir="ltr">Over 4,300 Success Academy students took the state tests in 2016, about 10 percent of charter school students tested in the city. Success students showed proficiency at nearly double the rate of all charter schools -- 94 percent were proficient in math and 82 percent were proficient in English this year. Success also outperformed traditional public school students by 58 points in math and 44 points in English.</p> <p dir="ltr">With Success scores factored out, the city&rsquo;s charter school students averaged 43.8 percent proficiency in math and 38.9 percent in English, outperforming district school students by 7.4 points and less than one point, respectively.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The scores from Success are startling. They're incredibly high,&rdquo; Merriman said. &ldquo;Another thing I would say stands out is the relative uniformity across [Moskowitz&rsquo;s] schools. There's a consistency there that I think most people would agree is very difficult to achieve.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">But because of Success&rsquo; approach, and uniquely high scores, David Bloomfield, an education professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, said that categorizing in the same set alongside all other charters in the city is unproductive. Because charter schools are privately operated, Bloomfield said, their methods differ from one school to the next as greatly as private schools, which makes grouping them difficult.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The Success scores give a halo effect to charters in general, and that's based on a fundamental misunderstanding of variation between charters,&rdquo; Bloomfield told Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;What we're supposed to be finding out from these scores is&hellip;how much students are learning, but the variation in the preparation practices makes that impossible.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Representatives of Success Academy say that it makes sense to group all charter schools together since all district schools are discussed in sum although they vary widely as well.</p> <p dir="ltr">Success Academy is driven by an emphasis on standardized testing, preparing students rigorously and from a young age, as explored in depth by <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/07/nyregion/at-success-academy-charter-schools-polarizing-methods-and-superior-results.html?_r=0" target="_blank">The New York Times</a> and <a href="http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2015/04/06/success-academy-a-guide-to-the-citys-largest-most-controversial-charter-school-network/" target="_blank">Chalkbeat</a>, and frequently discussed by Moskowitz and others at the network. Students&rsquo; grades are posted in the hallways at Success schools; students who do well on tests are rewarded with toys and candy, while those who do poorly face punishments like detention or calls home. Extracurriculars can relate to testing&mdash;in April, Moskowitz <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/success-academy-students-prepare-slam-exam-rally-article-1.2586290" target="_blank">organized the network&rsquo;s annual &ldquo;slam the exam&rdquo; rally</a> for third through eighth graders the week before the state tests.</p> <p dir="ltr">The network has come under significant criticism for its approach to testing and has been the target of various accusations around pushing low-performing students out of its schools. In October, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/30/nyregion/at-a-success-academy-charter-school-singling-out-pupils-who-have-got-to-go.html" target="_blank">The Times revealed</a> that one Success principal kept a &ldquo;got to go&rdquo; list of low-performing students he wanted to see leave his school. Moskowitz called it an anomaly, as she did when <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/13/nyregion/success-academy-teacher-rips-up-student-paper.html" target="_blank">The Times published</a> a secretly recorded video of a Success teacher at a different school berating a young student for answering questions incorrectly. The network does not shy away from its especially high rate of student suspensions. In May, <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2016/05/success-academy-documents-point-to-possible-cheating-among-challenges-101595" target="_blank">Politico New York reported</a> that internal Success documents pointed to possible cheating by teachers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, most charter school backers have held Success Academy as a model and praised Moskowitz for her work. There are some in the sector, especially at smaller, non-network schools that are critical of Success and do not align with political work the chain is heavily involved with. Success now includes 41 schools and has the stated goal of expanding to 100 by 2025.</p> <p dir="ltr">Moskowitz&rsquo;s schools continue to be the pace-setters for the charter sector on the state exams.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked by Gotham Gazette about the disparity between charter school and district school performance at a press conference on Wednesday, de Blasio criticized schools that prioritize test prep and implied that those schools distort the sector&rsquo;s overall numbers. He said that his administration believes that tests are important, but not in too much of a focus on them.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Some substantial piece of that [average] is based on charters that focus on test prep. And that&rsquo;s where they put a lot of their time and energy,&rdquo; de Blasio said. &ldquo;Of course it could yield better test scores, but we don&rsquo;t think that&rsquo;s good educational policy so we&rsquo;re going to do it the way we believe is right for our children.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">In response, a Success Academy spokesperson sent a statement to Gotham Gazette extolling the network&rsquo;s well-rounded approach.</p> <p>"At Success Academy we have tried to reimagine public education, putting children at the heart of everything we do -- from our field studies, chess clubs, and recess to hands-on science, literacy, and math,&rdquo; the statement reads. &ldquo;In many district schools, children are bored out of their minds. We banish boredom by filling every day with child-centered learning."</p> <p>

***
by Aaron Holmes, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
De Blasio School Discipline Policy Shift Causes A Stir 2016-05-25T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-25T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6360:de-blasio-school-discipline-policy-shift-causes-a-stir Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/21854633165_c76053a27d_z.jpg" width="600" height="399" alt="de blasio school student discipline" /></p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio at Brooklyn Generation School (photo: Ed Reed, Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In April 2015, the New York City Department of Education modified its discipline code and added an extra step to the process for suspending students from school. Principals are now required to receive authorization from the DOE before suspending students in grades K through 2 for any behavior or any student of any age for incidents involving insubordination, such as cursing at a teacher or refusing to leave a classroom. The change was made in an effort to move away from overusing suspensions and toward alternative disciplinary measures that address the root causes of disruptive behavior.</p> <p dir="ltr">In its first year of implementation, the change in suspension policy and the overall culture shift related to school discipline that the de Blasio administration has sought have yielded a dramatic decrease in student suspensions. The shift has been praised widely, but has also been met with resistance as some say schools are under-resourced to work with students who need to be out of the classroom and others say the policy is leading to a deterioration of school climate.</p> <p dir="ltr">When a school seeks a ‘superintendent’s suspension,’ which can range from six days to one year, an electronic request with a description of the incident is sent to the borough directors of suspension at the DOE, who vote on authorization. An affirmative vote will send the case to the hearing office and begin the suspension process. With the policy change, ‘principal suspensions,’ which range from one to five days, for younger students and cases of minor infractions will follow the same procedure. After the vote, a conversation with the principal is initiated to discuss potential alternative disciplinary measures.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Suspension alone doesn’t change a child’s behavior,” Lois Herrera, CEO of Youth Safety and Development, told Gotham Gazette. “But, for example, restorative practices where the student has to take ownership of the behavior, explain the harm or understand the harm that is caused, and then come up with a solution for repairing the harm is so much more powerful in terms of changing behavior.”</p> <p dir="ltr">What Herrera is explaining is the move toward the “restorative justice” model of school discipline, where students are guided in repairing relationships and investigating the causes of their actions. The process has been panned by some, but the de Blasio administration and the City Council have both committed to it for New York City schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the first half of the school year, the number of suspensions decreased by almost 32 percent compared to the first half of last school year, according to a <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/6FE1AFA7-97FF-4491-9081-DB799789C800/0/March2016LL93BiannualReport33116v2final.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> from the DOE. While many saw this as a mark of success, criticisms of the new suspension policy also began to pick up steam. Representatives from both charter school advocacy groups and the teachers’ union <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/charter-schools-blast-mayor-de-blasio-suspension-overhaul-plan-article-1.2615565" target="_blank">expressed concerns</a>, claiming the new policy interferes with discipline and jeopardizes student safety.</p> <p dir="ltr">The DOE does not oversee disciplinary practices at charter schools. Some charter schools, especially the Success Academy network, have come under scrutiny for their “zero tolerance” discipline code and high suspension rates. Education reform groups like Families for Excellent Schools and StudentsFirstNY, erstwhile de Blasio critics, have become especially vocal in criticizing the de Blasio administration’s discipline policy. A group led by Families for Excellent Schools even filed a <a href="http://safeschoolsnow.nyc" target="_blank">class action lawsuit</a> against the DOE for its “refusal to take action to keep children safe.”</p> <p dir="ltr">A typical de Blasio ally, the United Federation of Teachers, has seen its president say the DOE has not provided adequate support for schools to begin using alternative discipline.</p> <p dir="ltr">The DOE has received $47 million from the city to fund restorative justice programs and mental health supports in schools throughout the city during the next academic year. According to DOE officials, the funding will be used for staff training in social-emotional learning, youth suicide prevention, and therapeutic crisis intervention. It will also allow the DOE to hire more social workers, on-site mental health consultants, and counselors.</p> <p dir="ltr">Staff trained in restorative disciplinary practices will learn to conduct restorative circles, which engage students in repairing and developing relationships, and restorative conferences, which hold a student accountable for his or her actions and the resulting harm and also provides an opportunity to repair the harm.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It isn’t just about taking away something,” said Herrera. “It’s about also providing support and a new way of thinking. It’s a little bit of a mindshift, and in a system as large as the DOE a mindshift can take a number of years.”</p> <p dir="ltr">After years of advocacy by some, the changes began last November when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to reduce the use of punitive school discipline and lower school crime rates.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Parents in all neighborhoods across New York City deserve to the peace of mind to know that their children are empowered to learn and succeed in a safe, inclusive environment,” Mayor de Blasio said in a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/779-15/mayor-de-blasio-roadmap-reduce-punitive-school-discipline-make-schools-safer" target="_blank">press release</a>. “This roadmap will ensure that schools across the city bring families, educators, safety professionals, and community leaders together to support one of New York City's most prized resources – our students."</p> <p dir="ltr">The release also stated that harsh discipline policies disproportionately affected students of color and students with disabilities. Last October, <a href="http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2015/10/30/school-suspensions-fall-sharply-but-continue-to-fall-most-heavily-on-black-students/#.Vz-AXYQ-g3a" target="_blank">Chalkbeat NY</a> reported that black students received about 52 percent of the previous year’s suspensions, even though they represent 28 percent of students. Students with disabilities - 18 percent of the student population - received 38 percent of the suspensions. Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director at Alliance for Quality Education, a teachers union-backed group, believes that suspensions for childish behavior, such as writing on a desk or yelling, drive this racial disparity.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The disparities are clear. The racial lines are very clear, not only in New York but across the country, of what children are being suspended,” Ansari said in a phone interview. “It’s important to remember that the DOE hasn’t eliminated suspensions as an option for schools, but that it created another level of authorization for suspensions for minor infractions.”</p> <p dir="ltr">With this added authorization, Ansari hopes that school officials will continue to have in-depth conversations about what supports students need and that students will learn better conflict resolution skills.</p> <p dir="ltr">Relying on disciplinary measures other than suspension can also benefit students’ futures, research has shown. When de Blasio created a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/sclt/downloads/pdf/Safety-with-Dignity-Executive-Summary.pdf" target="_blank">Mayoral Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline</a> last year, researchers studied the negative effects of suspensions and repeated behavioral referrals. According to NYU Professor Eddie Fergus, who served as the co-chair of the team’s data and research group, suspensions result in loss of educational time, attendance issues, and a higher likelihood of involvement with the criminal justice system.</p> <p dir="ltr">A majority of education advocates, academics, and other experts agree that students should not be suspended from school for things like talking back to a teacher or engaging in a verbal argument with a classmate. All agree, though, that schools must have the proper resources to work with students in conflict. If there has been a choppy first phase of the new DOE discipline policy, it has been around those resources. The ratio of students to guidance counselors in city schools has been the subject of controversy recently, and the de Blasio administration has increased funding for more counselors.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are also always those resistant to change, some point out.</p> <p dir="ltr">Advocates for Children began the School Justice Project to address the root causes of suspension and help keep students out of the criminal justice system. The project also helps students in juvenile detention or those returning from detention stay on track to reach their academic goals.</p> <p>“When students are suspended, it increases their likelihood of not graduating from high school, it increases their likelihood of being involved in the juvenile justice system,” said Paulina Davis, supervising attorney of AFC’s School Justice Project. “There are high stakes outcomes on the line every time a student is suspended. So it’s really a process that we need to be very thoughtful about.”</p> <p>***<br />by Carmen Russo, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/21854633165_c76053a27d_z.jpg" width="600" height="399" alt="de blasio school student discipline" /></p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio at Brooklyn Generation School (photo: Ed Reed, Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In April 2015, the New York City Department of Education modified its discipline code and added an extra step to the process for suspending students from school. Principals are now required to receive authorization from the DOE before suspending students in grades K through 2 for any behavior or any student of any age for incidents involving insubordination, such as cursing at a teacher or refusing to leave a classroom. The change was made in an effort to move away from overusing suspensions and toward alternative disciplinary measures that address the root causes of disruptive behavior.</p> <p dir="ltr">In its first year of implementation, the change in suspension policy and the overall culture shift related to school discipline that the de Blasio administration has sought have yielded a dramatic decrease in student suspensions. The shift has been praised widely, but has also been met with resistance as some say schools are under-resourced to work with students who need to be out of the classroom and others say the policy is leading to a deterioration of school climate.</p> <p dir="ltr">When a school seeks a ‘superintendent’s suspension,’ which can range from six days to one year, an electronic request with a description of the incident is sent to the borough directors of suspension at the DOE, who vote on authorization. An affirmative vote will send the case to the hearing office and begin the suspension process. With the policy change, ‘principal suspensions,’ which range from one to five days, for younger students and cases of minor infractions will follow the same procedure. After the vote, a conversation with the principal is initiated to discuss potential alternative disciplinary measures.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Suspension alone doesn’t change a child’s behavior,” Lois Herrera, CEO of Youth Safety and Development, told Gotham Gazette. “But, for example, restorative practices where the student has to take ownership of the behavior, explain the harm or understand the harm that is caused, and then come up with a solution for repairing the harm is so much more powerful in terms of changing behavior.”</p> <p dir="ltr">What Herrera is explaining is the move toward the “restorative justice” model of school discipline, where students are guided in repairing relationships and investigating the causes of their actions. The process has been panned by some, but the de Blasio administration and the City Council have both committed to it for New York City schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the first half of the school year, the number of suspensions decreased by almost 32 percent compared to the first half of last school year, according to a <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/6FE1AFA7-97FF-4491-9081-DB799789C800/0/March2016LL93BiannualReport33116v2final.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> from the DOE. While many saw this as a mark of success, criticisms of the new suspension policy also began to pick up steam. Representatives from both charter school advocacy groups and the teachers’ union <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/charter-schools-blast-mayor-de-blasio-suspension-overhaul-plan-article-1.2615565" target="_blank">expressed concerns</a>, claiming the new policy interferes with discipline and jeopardizes student safety.</p> <p dir="ltr">The DOE does not oversee disciplinary practices at charter schools. Some charter schools, especially the Success Academy network, have come under scrutiny for their “zero tolerance” discipline code and high suspension rates. Education reform groups like Families for Excellent Schools and StudentsFirstNY, erstwhile de Blasio critics, have become especially vocal in criticizing the de Blasio administration’s discipline policy. A group led by Families for Excellent Schools even filed a <a href="http://safeschoolsnow.nyc" target="_blank">class action lawsuit</a> against the DOE for its “refusal to take action to keep children safe.”</p> <p dir="ltr">A typical de Blasio ally, the United Federation of Teachers, has seen its president say the DOE has not provided adequate support for schools to begin using alternative discipline.</p> <p dir="ltr">The DOE has received $47 million from the city to fund restorative justice programs and mental health supports in schools throughout the city during the next academic year. According to DOE officials, the funding will be used for staff training in social-emotional learning, youth suicide prevention, and therapeutic crisis intervention. It will also allow the DOE to hire more social workers, on-site mental health consultants, and counselors.</p> <p dir="ltr">Staff trained in restorative disciplinary practices will learn to conduct restorative circles, which engage students in repairing and developing relationships, and restorative conferences, which hold a student accountable for his or her actions and the resulting harm and also provides an opportunity to repair the harm.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It isn’t just about taking away something,” said Herrera. “It’s about also providing support and a new way of thinking. It’s a little bit of a mindshift, and in a system as large as the DOE a mindshift can take a number of years.”</p> <p dir="ltr">After years of advocacy by some, the changes began last November when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to reduce the use of punitive school discipline and lower school crime rates.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Parents in all neighborhoods across New York City deserve to the peace of mind to know that their children are empowered to learn and succeed in a safe, inclusive environment,” Mayor de Blasio said in a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/779-15/mayor-de-blasio-roadmap-reduce-punitive-school-discipline-make-schools-safer" target="_blank">press release</a>. “This roadmap will ensure that schools across the city bring families, educators, safety professionals, and community leaders together to support one of New York City's most prized resources – our students."</p> <p dir="ltr">The release also stated that harsh discipline policies disproportionately affected students of color and students with disabilities. Last October, <a href="http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2015/10/30/school-suspensions-fall-sharply-but-continue-to-fall-most-heavily-on-black-students/#.Vz-AXYQ-g3a" target="_blank">Chalkbeat NY</a> reported that black students received about 52 percent of the previous year’s suspensions, even though they represent 28 percent of students. Students with disabilities - 18 percent of the student population - received 38 percent of the suspensions. Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director at Alliance for Quality Education, a teachers union-backed group, believes that suspensions for childish behavior, such as writing on a desk or yelling, drive this racial disparity.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The disparities are clear. The racial lines are very clear, not only in New York but across the country, of what children are being suspended,” Ansari said in a phone interview. “It’s important to remember that the DOE hasn’t eliminated suspensions as an option for schools, but that it created another level of authorization for suspensions for minor infractions.”</p> <p dir="ltr">With this added authorization, Ansari hopes that school officials will continue to have in-depth conversations about what supports students need and that students will learn better conflict resolution skills.</p> <p dir="ltr">Relying on disciplinary measures other than suspension can also benefit students’ futures, research has shown. When de Blasio created a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/sclt/downloads/pdf/Safety-with-Dignity-Executive-Summary.pdf" target="_blank">Mayoral Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline</a> last year, researchers studied the negative effects of suspensions and repeated behavioral referrals. According to NYU Professor Eddie Fergus, who served as the co-chair of the team’s data and research group, suspensions result in loss of educational time, attendance issues, and a higher likelihood of involvement with the criminal justice system.</p> <p dir="ltr">A majority of education advocates, academics, and other experts agree that students should not be suspended from school for things like talking back to a teacher or engaging in a verbal argument with a classmate. All agree, though, that schools must have the proper resources to work with students in conflict. If there has been a choppy first phase of the new DOE discipline policy, it has been around those resources. The ratio of students to guidance counselors in city schools has been the subject of controversy recently, and the de Blasio administration has increased funding for more counselors.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are also always those resistant to change, some point out.</p> <p dir="ltr">Advocates for Children began the School Justice Project to address the root causes of suspension and help keep students out of the criminal justice system. The project also helps students in juvenile detention or those returning from detention stay on track to reach their academic goals.</p> <p>“When students are suspended, it increases their likelihood of not graduating from high school, it increases their likelihood of being involved in the juvenile justice system,” said Paulina Davis, supervising attorney of AFC’s School Justice Project. “There are high stakes outcomes on the line every time a student is suspended. So it’s really a process that we need to be very thoughtful about.”</p> <p>***<br />by Carmen Russo, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p>