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/david-bloomfield 2017-10-19T07:32:53+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com 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>
DOE School Survey Shows High Marks, Contrasts with Public Polling 2016-08-09T04:00:00+00:00 2016-08-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6473:doe-school-survey-shows-high-marks-contrasts-with-public-polling Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/28417598980_596042dde9_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Farina student test scores" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor, Chancellor &amp; Student (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In 2007, New York City administered its first comprehensive survey on school satisfaction levels among students, parents, and teachers in the city&rsquo;s vast public school system. That <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/3C9B6404-D3C3-49D7-8FA8-36AC191BC328/25284/SurveyResults6.pdf">year</a>, the Department of Education received just under 600,000 responses. In 2016, with the survey in its tenth year, the number of responses totaled over 1 million for the first time. It was also the first year that parents and teachers involved in the de Blasio administration&rsquo;s new &ldquo;Pre-K for All&rdquo; program were included among the survey&rsquo;s respondents.</p> <p dir="ltr">The results of the survey are usually quite positive and this year was no exception, leading the DOE to celebrate the responses as validation of programming gone right. In the DOE&rsquo;s press release announcing the 2016 survey results, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fari&ntilde;a said, &ldquo;As we work towards equity and excellence in every public school across the City, parents are our partners, and it&rsquo;s great to see over one million New Yorkers &ndash; including a record number of parents &ndash; sharing their input. Together, we&rsquo;ll continue the progress we&rsquo;ve made and make New York City the best urban school district in the nation.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">While the DOE survey suggests students, parents, and teachers are highly satisfied with New York City public schools, a recent Quinnipiac <a href="https://www.qu.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2370">poll</a> conducted suggests that not all New Yorkers agree. According to the poll, 60 percent of New Yorkers are dissatisfied with New York City public schools while 25 percent are satisfied. (The remaining 15% answered that they don&rsquo;t know.) A higher percentage of respondents said they prefer privately-run public charter schools to traditional public schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">According the Department of Education <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/Accountability/tools/survey/default.htm" target="_blank">website</a>, the purpose of the survey is to aid schools in identifying aspects of its learning environment that need improvement and ensure that schools continue to foster elements of their learning environments that are satisfactory to students, parents, and teachers alike. While the survey provides the DOE with at least some helpful data, there are questions about its usefulness, format, and cost.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are three different versions of the <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/Accountability/tools/survey/default.htm" target="_blank">NYC School Survey</a> -- one each for students, parents, and teachers. This year, 81 percent of teachers, 83 percent of students, and 51 percent of parents in community schools across the city responded to the survey. The response rates increased by one percentage point from the 2015 survey for both students and parents and remained the same for teachers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Parents&rsquo; overall satisfaction with their children&rsquo;s schools continued to be extremely high. When asked &ldquo;How satisfied&rdquo; they were with &ldquo;The education my child has received this year,&rdquo; 95 percent of those who took the survey responding that they are &ldquo;very satisfied&rdquo; or &ldquo;satisfied.&rdquo; That figure has remained constant at 95 percent since 2013. Students recorded high levels of satisfaction with their schools as well, with 80 percent of student respondents recording that they either &ldquo;strongly agree&rdquo; or &ldquo;agree&rdquo; with the statement, &ldquo;My school offers a wide enough variety of programs, classes and activities to keep me interested in school.&rdquo; Additionally, 80 percent of students felt supported by teachers in their preparations for their post-graduation plans.</p> <p dir="ltr">Other specific questions relate to school environment (e.g. school cleanliness, personal safety while at school, bullying among classmates); the quality of academic instruction; level of support among teachers and school leadership; and ease of communication among all parties. While some questions appear on all three surveys with slight variations, some questions are particular to each group. For example, only parents are asked the question of what improvements they would like to see at their school (as in their child&rsquo;s school).</p> <p dir="ltr">Many survey questions ask respondents to note how much they agree with a series of statements. Other questions use a similar format but measure the frequency of a certain behavior or condition - for example, &ldquo;How often do students in your class(es) work in small groups?&rdquo; Some are formatted as multiple choice questions with specific responses to questions like, &ldquo;Which improvements would you most like your schools to make?&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The cost of conducting the 2016 survey was approximately $1.85 million.</p> <p dir="ltr">Elements of school quality are evaluated through the DOE&rsquo;s <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/schools/framework/vision" target="_blank">Framework for Great Schools</a>, a tool of analysis that looks at six aspects of a school&rsquo;s learning environment -- rigorous instruction, supportive environment, collaborative teachers, effective school leadership, strong family and community ties, and trust -- to determine its ability to foster student achievement. The Framework for Great Schools was adopted in 2015, the 2016 schools survey reflects only the second year of results based on the new evaluation framework adopted by the DOE under Chancellor Farina.</p> <p dir="ltr">Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on reducing class size in New York City schools, said that the Framework for Great Schools is a well-intentioned model, but she believes it is an ineffective tool in practice.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The original concept, this Framework of Great Schools that came out of Chicago, was very useful&hellip;[it] came out of this study by Tony Bryk that looked at schools in Chicago, and he looked at which ones had strong Local School Councils and which ones did not, and the ones that had Local School Councils -- which really devolved a lot of decision-making to the school level and it included parents as the majority members -- had better results,&rdquo; Haimson told Gotham Gazette in a phone interview.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Now this administration has a lot of PR about parent involvement, but I can tell you that they have not empowered a School Leadership Team to the degree that they need to. School Leadership Teams -- unlike in Chicago -- do not have the power in New York City, don&rsquo;t have any authority over principal selection or even really principal evaluation, and a lot of other things. They&rsquo;re really disempowered.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the DOE, research from the Chicago Consortium on School Research was one source used to formulate the Framework for Great Schools, but it was not the only source. And while the DOE&rsquo;s Framework was created using research from outside sources, the DOE says that the final product is an analysis tool tailored specifically for the New York City school system.</p> <p dir="ltr">Prior to the creation of the Framework for Great Schools the city school survey evaluated schools based on four elements of a school&rsquo;s learning environment: academic expectations, communication, engagement, and safety and respect.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the majority of the survey&rsquo;s questions are designed to assess schools based on the six elements of the Framework for Great Schools, some questions are considered &ldquo;informational.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">One informational question consistently posed to parents has garnered a largely consistent response since the survey&rsquo;s creation. When parents are asked the question of what they would most like to see improved in their child&rsquo;s school, &ldquo;smaller class size&rdquo; and &ldquo;more enrichment programs&rdquo; have been in or near the top two most wanted improvements almost every year that the survey has been given. Also featured at or near the top for many years are &ldquo;more preparation for state tests&rdquo; and &ldquo;more hands-on learning.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite consistently high satisfaction levels among parents with city schools overall, the fact that these improvements continue to be parents&rsquo; top requests year after year may be indicative of a lack of meaningful action taken on these requests by school leadership.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are also questions about the consistency of the survey itself. In 2015, the question of potential improvements wasn&rsquo;t offered to parents for the first time since the survey was created in 2007, but it was reintroduced in the 2016 survey, and, for the first time, the term &ldquo;enrichment programs&rdquo; was explained in the question using examples.</p> <p dir="ltr">David Bloomfield, professor of education at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, questions the usefulness of survey questions posed to parents about improvements, such as smaller class sizes, given the constraints with which the Department of Education operates.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The DOE is clearly not flexible about class size arrangements, which it makes because of the size of schools, the size of classrooms, the size of the budget. It&rsquo;s a persistent problem that doesn&rsquo;t change just because parents put it high on their list of priorities in a survey, so what use is that?&rdquo; Bloomfield said in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the survey serves to evaluate satisfaction by key stakeholders with individual schools and identify a school&rsquo;s problem areas, the larger system that directly influences individual schools is left out of the equation. The questions posed to students, parents, and teachers on the surveys are related almost exclusively to the individual school and the members and leadership of that individual school. Only two questions asked of parents and seven questions asked of teachers were directly related to the wider New York City school system, run out of the Department of Education, under the Mayor, and there were no questions pertaining to statewide policies such as Common Core Learning Standards or teacher performance evaluations.</p> <p dir="ltr">Haimson believes that while general questions about parent and teacher satisfaction with broader government and education policy aren&rsquo;t necessary, asking specific questions on education issues that directly affect students, parents, and teachers would be useful.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think is an important question when so much of what&rsquo;s happening during the school day are driven by these federal or state mandates,&rdquo; said Haimson.</p> <p dir="ltr">From 2012 to 2014, the survey given to teachers included questions on the implementation of the Common Core and state assessments, but starting in 2015, Common Core and assessment questions were no longer included. Additionally, on the 2013 and 2014 surveys, parents were asked to record how much they agreed with the statement, &ldquo;My child&rsquo;s school...helps me understand what the Common Core learning standards mean for my child&hellip;&rdquo; The 2015 and 2016 parent surveys did not include this question.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the DOE, the questions about the Common Core that appeared on previous surveys were included to evaluate the implementation of the then new instruction method. On more recent surveys, there have been questions pertaining to Common Core instruction, though the specific term &ldquo;Common Core&rdquo; has not been included.</p> <p dir="ltr">While certain questions have been changed or taken out of the survey in recent years, a new series of questions was added in 2016. Parents and teachers involved with Mayor de Blasio&rsquo;s &ldquo;Pre-K for All&rdquo; program were given surveys this year for the first time in the survey&rsquo;s history (the students are four years old and not given surveys, which only go to students in grades 6 through 12). While the rates of parent satisfaction on every aspect of the pre-K program exceeded 90 percent, the response rate for both parents and teachers was low, at 47 percent and 69 percent, respectively.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The NYC School Survey is a critical, research-based tool for getting the feedback of over one million parents, teachers, and students, and using that feedback to improve our schools. This year&rsquo;s results recognize the hard work and dedication of school leaders and teachers, and will guide schools as they continue to make progress and work towards equity and excellence,&rdquo; said the DOE in a statement made available to Gotham Gazette via email.</p> <p dir="ltr">High marks from parents on pre-K and the high marks recorded across all public schools in New York City may reflect general satisfaction, but Professor Bloomfield doesn&rsquo;t believe they confirm with any certainty that the survey is a valuable tool for New Yorkers.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think there&rsquo;s a bigger question as to whether it&rsquo;s worth all the money, time, and effort that it takes to put out the survey as relative to its worth,&rdquo; Bloomfield said. &ldquo;It becomes a very hard thing and a PR problem for any mayor or chancellor who would cut back on the survey, but is it really worth it?&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by Libby Wetzler, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/28417598980_596042dde9_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Farina student test scores" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor, Chancellor &amp; Student (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In 2007, New York City administered its first comprehensive survey on school satisfaction levels among students, parents, and teachers in the city&rsquo;s vast public school system. That <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/3C9B6404-D3C3-49D7-8FA8-36AC191BC328/25284/SurveyResults6.pdf">year</a>, the Department of Education received just under 600,000 responses. In 2016, with the survey in its tenth year, the number of responses totaled over 1 million for the first time. It was also the first year that parents and teachers involved in the de Blasio administration&rsquo;s new &ldquo;Pre-K for All&rdquo; program were included among the survey&rsquo;s respondents.</p> <p dir="ltr">The results of the survey are usually quite positive and this year was no exception, leading the DOE to celebrate the responses as validation of programming gone right. In the DOE&rsquo;s press release announcing the 2016 survey results, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fari&ntilde;a said, &ldquo;As we work towards equity and excellence in every public school across the City, parents are our partners, and it&rsquo;s great to see over one million New Yorkers &ndash; including a record number of parents &ndash; sharing their input. Together, we&rsquo;ll continue the progress we&rsquo;ve made and make New York City the best urban school district in the nation.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">While the DOE survey suggests students, parents, and teachers are highly satisfied with New York City public schools, a recent Quinnipiac <a href="https://www.qu.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2370">poll</a> conducted suggests that not all New Yorkers agree. According to the poll, 60 percent of New Yorkers are dissatisfied with New York City public schools while 25 percent are satisfied. (The remaining 15% answered that they don&rsquo;t know.) A higher percentage of respondents said they prefer privately-run public charter schools to traditional public schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">According the Department of Education <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/Accountability/tools/survey/default.htm" target="_blank">website</a>, the purpose of the survey is to aid schools in identifying aspects of its learning environment that need improvement and ensure that schools continue to foster elements of their learning environments that are satisfactory to students, parents, and teachers alike. While the survey provides the DOE with at least some helpful data, there are questions about its usefulness, format, and cost.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are three different versions of the <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/Accountability/tools/survey/default.htm" target="_blank">NYC School Survey</a> -- one each for students, parents, and teachers. This year, 81 percent of teachers, 83 percent of students, and 51 percent of parents in community schools across the city responded to the survey. The response rates increased by one percentage point from the 2015 survey for both students and parents and remained the same for teachers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Parents&rsquo; overall satisfaction with their children&rsquo;s schools continued to be extremely high. When asked &ldquo;How satisfied&rdquo; they were with &ldquo;The education my child has received this year,&rdquo; 95 percent of those who took the survey responding that they are &ldquo;very satisfied&rdquo; or &ldquo;satisfied.&rdquo; That figure has remained constant at 95 percent since 2013. Students recorded high levels of satisfaction with their schools as well, with 80 percent of student respondents recording that they either &ldquo;strongly agree&rdquo; or &ldquo;agree&rdquo; with the statement, &ldquo;My school offers a wide enough variety of programs, classes and activities to keep me interested in school.&rdquo; Additionally, 80 percent of students felt supported by teachers in their preparations for their post-graduation plans.</p> <p dir="ltr">Other specific questions relate to school environment (e.g. school cleanliness, personal safety while at school, bullying among classmates); the quality of academic instruction; level of support among teachers and school leadership; and ease of communication among all parties. While some questions appear on all three surveys with slight variations, some questions are particular to each group. For example, only parents are asked the question of what improvements they would like to see at their school (as in their child&rsquo;s school).</p> <p dir="ltr">Many survey questions ask respondents to note how much they agree with a series of statements. Other questions use a similar format but measure the frequency of a certain behavior or condition - for example, &ldquo;How often do students in your class(es) work in small groups?&rdquo; Some are formatted as multiple choice questions with specific responses to questions like, &ldquo;Which improvements would you most like your schools to make?&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The cost of conducting the 2016 survey was approximately $1.85 million.</p> <p dir="ltr">Elements of school quality are evaluated through the DOE&rsquo;s <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/schools/framework/vision" target="_blank">Framework for Great Schools</a>, a tool of analysis that looks at six aspects of a school&rsquo;s learning environment -- rigorous instruction, supportive environment, collaborative teachers, effective school leadership, strong family and community ties, and trust -- to determine its ability to foster student achievement. The Framework for Great Schools was adopted in 2015, the 2016 schools survey reflects only the second year of results based on the new evaluation framework adopted by the DOE under Chancellor Farina.</p> <p dir="ltr">Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on reducing class size in New York City schools, said that the Framework for Great Schools is a well-intentioned model, but she believes it is an ineffective tool in practice.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The original concept, this Framework of Great Schools that came out of Chicago, was very useful&hellip;[it] came out of this study by Tony Bryk that looked at schools in Chicago, and he looked at which ones had strong Local School Councils and which ones did not, and the ones that had Local School Councils -- which really devolved a lot of decision-making to the school level and it included parents as the majority members -- had better results,&rdquo; Haimson told Gotham Gazette in a phone interview.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Now this administration has a lot of PR about parent involvement, but I can tell you that they have not empowered a School Leadership Team to the degree that they need to. School Leadership Teams -- unlike in Chicago -- do not have the power in New York City, don&rsquo;t have any authority over principal selection or even really principal evaluation, and a lot of other things. They&rsquo;re really disempowered.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the DOE, research from the Chicago Consortium on School Research was one source used to formulate the Framework for Great Schools, but it was not the only source. And while the DOE&rsquo;s Framework was created using research from outside sources, the DOE says that the final product is an analysis tool tailored specifically for the New York City school system.</p> <p dir="ltr">Prior to the creation of the Framework for Great Schools the city school survey evaluated schools based on four elements of a school&rsquo;s learning environment: academic expectations, communication, engagement, and safety and respect.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the majority of the survey&rsquo;s questions are designed to assess schools based on the six elements of the Framework for Great Schools, some questions are considered &ldquo;informational.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">One informational question consistently posed to parents has garnered a largely consistent response since the survey&rsquo;s creation. When parents are asked the question of what they would most like to see improved in their child&rsquo;s school, &ldquo;smaller class size&rdquo; and &ldquo;more enrichment programs&rdquo; have been in or near the top two most wanted improvements almost every year that the survey has been given. Also featured at or near the top for many years are &ldquo;more preparation for state tests&rdquo; and &ldquo;more hands-on learning.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite consistently high satisfaction levels among parents with city schools overall, the fact that these improvements continue to be parents&rsquo; top requests year after year may be indicative of a lack of meaningful action taken on these requests by school leadership.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are also questions about the consistency of the survey itself. In 2015, the question of potential improvements wasn&rsquo;t offered to parents for the first time since the survey was created in 2007, but it was reintroduced in the 2016 survey, and, for the first time, the term &ldquo;enrichment programs&rdquo; was explained in the question using examples.</p> <p dir="ltr">David Bloomfield, professor of education at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, questions the usefulness of survey questions posed to parents about improvements, such as smaller class sizes, given the constraints with which the Department of Education operates.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The DOE is clearly not flexible about class size arrangements, which it makes because of the size of schools, the size of classrooms, the size of the budget. It&rsquo;s a persistent problem that doesn&rsquo;t change just because parents put it high on their list of priorities in a survey, so what use is that?&rdquo; Bloomfield said in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the survey serves to evaluate satisfaction by key stakeholders with individual schools and identify a school&rsquo;s problem areas, the larger system that directly influences individual schools is left out of the equation. The questions posed to students, parents, and teachers on the surveys are related almost exclusively to the individual school and the members and leadership of that individual school. Only two questions asked of parents and seven questions asked of teachers were directly related to the wider New York City school system, run out of the Department of Education, under the Mayor, and there were no questions pertaining to statewide policies such as Common Core Learning Standards or teacher performance evaluations.</p> <p dir="ltr">Haimson believes that while general questions about parent and teacher satisfaction with broader government and education policy aren&rsquo;t necessary, asking specific questions on education issues that directly affect students, parents, and teachers would be useful.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think is an important question when so much of what&rsquo;s happening during the school day are driven by these federal or state mandates,&rdquo; said Haimson.</p> <p dir="ltr">From 2012 to 2014, the survey given to teachers included questions on the implementation of the Common Core and state assessments, but starting in 2015, Common Core and assessment questions were no longer included. Additionally, on the 2013 and 2014 surveys, parents were asked to record how much they agreed with the statement, &ldquo;My child&rsquo;s school...helps me understand what the Common Core learning standards mean for my child&hellip;&rdquo; The 2015 and 2016 parent surveys did not include this question.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the DOE, the questions about the Common Core that appeared on previous surveys were included to evaluate the implementation of the then new instruction method. On more recent surveys, there have been questions pertaining to Common Core instruction, though the specific term &ldquo;Common Core&rdquo; has not been included.</p> <p dir="ltr">While certain questions have been changed or taken out of the survey in recent years, a new series of questions was added in 2016. Parents and teachers involved with Mayor de Blasio&rsquo;s &ldquo;Pre-K for All&rdquo; program were given surveys this year for the first time in the survey&rsquo;s history (the students are four years old and not given surveys, which only go to students in grades 6 through 12). While the rates of parent satisfaction on every aspect of the pre-K program exceeded 90 percent, the response rate for both parents and teachers was low, at 47 percent and 69 percent, respectively.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The NYC School Survey is a critical, research-based tool for getting the feedback of over one million parents, teachers, and students, and using that feedback to improve our schools. This year&rsquo;s results recognize the hard work and dedication of school leaders and teachers, and will guide schools as they continue to make progress and work towards equity and excellence,&rdquo; said the DOE in a statement made available to Gotham Gazette via email.</p> <p dir="ltr">High marks from parents on pre-K and the high marks recorded across all public schools in New York City may reflect general satisfaction, but Professor Bloomfield doesn&rsquo;t believe they confirm with any certainty that the survey is a valuable tool for New Yorkers.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think there&rsquo;s a bigger question as to whether it&rsquo;s worth all the money, time, and effort that it takes to put out the survey as relative to its worth,&rdquo; Bloomfield said. &ldquo;It becomes a very hard thing and a PR problem for any mayor or chancellor who would cut back on the survey, but is it really worth it?&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by Libby Wetzler, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Brooklyn Neighborhoods Look to Address School Overcrowding, Avoid Rezoning Issues Seen Elsewhere 2015-10-26T19:12:03+00:00 2015-10-26T19:12:03+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5951:brooklyn-neighborhoods-look-to-address-school-overcrowding-avoid-rezoning-issues-seen-elsewhere Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/bk_overcrowding_forum.jpg" alt="bk overcrowding forum" height="338" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">The community school forum (<a href="https://twitter.com/JoAnneSimonBK52/status/657302873550794752" target="_blank">photo</a>: @JoAnneSimonBK52)&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>As rezoning problems plague some city school districts, leaders in one area of Brooklyn are looking to avoid similar pitfalls while reducing overcrowding.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Carroll Gardens last week, local officials and parents gathered in the PS 58 auditorium to discuss overcrowding issues facing three elementary schools. Like others across the city, District 15 - which includes the schools at hand, PS 58, PS 32, and PS 29 - is facing challenges around booming development and school-aged populations, school crowding and zoning.</p> <p dir="ltr">Wednesday’s forum, featuring several area elected officials, school leaders, and moderated by Professor David Bloomfield of CUNY, was an attempt to get ahead of these issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Often when we’re dealing with overcrowding, we’re not able to address it until it’s a full-blown crisis,” said Paige Bellenbaum, a local district leader. A parent of second- and third-graders at PS 58, Bellenbaum noted that since 2005, the school’s enrollment has more than doubled.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bellenbaum and other concerned residents heard from and spoke to a panel of elected and appointed decision-makers. The panel included local lawmakers, Department of Education (DOE) planning officials, the School Construction Authority (SCA) external affairs director, PTA parents with rezoning experience, and others.</p> <p dir="ltr">Amid unprecedented growth and development in District 15 - which contains Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, and Sunset Park schools - those who spoke cited the need to “work together in advance to get ahead of the curve,” as Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon put it. City Council Member Brad Lander and State Senator Daniel Squadron, also co-organizers of the event, expressed a similar point.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the district looks to the DOE and SCA to add capacity and rezone neighborhoods, anxiety is high. Local officials organized the forum to begin a dialogue earlier than has occurred in other places facing similar issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">In District 15, the average utilization rate for classrooms is already 111.5 percent. PS 58, its principal explained, has been forced to cap entry into third and fourth grades. “In 2005, enrollment was about 400 students. In 2015, it was 996,” Bellenbaum said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Recently, overcrowding-caused rezonings of <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20141028/windsor-terrace/parents-say-proposed-district-15-rezoning-forces-students-travel-too-far" target="_blank">four district schools last year</a> and the 2012 rezoning of two <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/30/nyregion/at-an-overcrowded-school-in-park-slope-no-one-wants-to-leave.html?_r=0" target="_blank">Park Slope schools</a> have caused controversy. Perhaps compounding anxiety about rezonings are the current uproars concerning PS 8 and PS 307 in downtown Brooklyn and <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/10/19/for-two-sharply-divided-manhattan-schools-an-uncertain-path-to-integration/" target="_blank">PS 191 and PS 199</a> on the Upper West Side. PTA parents from other public schools that had experienced the rezoning process gave advice to parents from District 15 at last week’s forum.</p> <p dir="ltr">Kim Glickman, co-president of the PS 8 PTA, offered her advice to District 15 parents on participating in school rezoning processes. “As leaders of your own schools, you need to be able to understand what the triggers causing the school to be overcrowded are and to be able to speak to them clearly,” Glickman said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Because race and class lines are not as sharply drawn around the three District 15 schools as they are in the other aforementioned school pairings, it is unlikely that a rezoning dispute in the neighborhoods will be the kind of <a href="http://insideschools.org/blog/item/1001036-how-not-to-turn-schools-into-gentrification-battlefields" target="_blank">“gentrification battle”</a> seen elsewhere. <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/OA/SchoolReports/2013-14/School_Quality_Guide_2014_EMS_K058.pdf" target="_blank">PS 58</a>, <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/OA/SchoolReports/2013-14/School_Quality_Guide_2014_EMS_K032.pdf" target="_blank">PS 32</a>, and <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/OA/SchoolReports/2013-14/School_Quality_Guide_2014_EMS_K029.pdf" target="_blank">PS 29</a> were also all deemed either “good standing” or “reward” status by the DOE in its assessment after the 2013-2014 school year.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, school district rezonings almost always leave some parents frustrated as their home zones are changed and their children are assigned to different elementary schools than they had planned.</p> <p dir="ltr">Although overcrowding has not yet reached a crisis level in District 15, it has had a corrosive effect on its schools, speakers at the forum said. And, given the scale of development happening in the district - the Lightstone Group’s 700-unit residential complex is being built in the PS 32 zone, for example - the creation of many more school seats will be necessary to accommodate all of the students it will likely receive. Already, PS 32 has been using trailers in its rear yard for about fifteen years because of overcrowding.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Lightstone building students (“200-ish” of whom will eventually go to PS 32, according to Council Member Lander) will get seats in the school. A 436-seat annex will be added to the school, Lander and CSA officials recently announced.</p> <p dir="ltr">“So, it’s good that we’re building 400-plus seats,” Lander told community stakeholders. “But it does speak to the fact that it won’t create enough new capacity to solve our problems collectively.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The annex is also not slated to be completed for a few more years, at which time the rezoning conversation will be at the forefront as officials determine which students are assigned to the new seats.</p> <p dir="ltr">As Community Education Council 15 President Naila Rosario explained with a powerpoint, overcrowding is already having negative effects, including the elimination of enrichment programs, worse building maintenance, and the loss of rooms for art, music, and special services.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though overcrowding appears in many ways as an inevitable result of more people moving into a neighborhood, it is perfectly preventable, according to Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, a nonprofit advocacy group. Haimson, who was at last week’s forum and frequently speaks to school capacity issues, says policymakers can take concrete steps to keep overcrowding from happening.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The median utilization rate for elementary schools is over a hundred percent across the city,” Haimson told Gotham Gazette. The problem, she said, is fixable, though there has been a lack of political will. The DOE’s five-year capital plan includes 38,754 new seats for students, a figure that Haimson and her allies believe should be at least doubled.</p> <p dir="ltr">The PS 32 annex is part of that capital plan, and while it will add seats in District 15, it is clear the district will need even more capacity to serve all of the students in the area.</p> <p dir="ltr">A 2014 <a href="http://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/7E13_123A.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> from City Comptroller Scott Stringer found that one third of elementary schools in New York City registered at least 138 percent of their capacity in 2012. During February of last year, schools chancellor Carmen Fariña created the Blue Book Working Group, which was tasked to review the space utilization formulas of the DOE’s “Blue Book” and recommend reforms to it.</p> <p dir="ltr">After the group gave <a href="https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2183985/blue-book-working-group-recommendations.pdf" target="_blank">its recommendations</a> to the DOE last December, the department did not publish them until July, when <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/07/28/city-to-tweak-how-it-calculates-school-space-needs/" target="_blank">it announced</a> that some of them would be adopted. But it rejected the recommendation to shrink class sizes to those outlined by the Contracts for Excellence Law: on average, 19.9 students for kindergarten through third grade, 22.9 for grades 4-8 and 24.5 for grades 9-12. As <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150729/sunset-park/de-blasio-not-doing-enough-fix-school-overcrowding-critics-say" target="_blank">DNAinfo recently pointed out</a>, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to abide by these sizes during his mayoral campaign.</p> <p dir="ltr">City school officials were criticized several times at the forum last week in Carroll Gardens.</p> <p dir="ltr">The DOE has not built schools in Sunset Park, which has District 15 schools, where money was allocated to do so in order to ease overcrowding. “Sunset Park has been slotted to have schools for at least the last ten years,” one audience member said. “It’s not a budget issue.”</p> <p dir="ltr">One parent, to enthusiastic applause, asked the panel why schools weren't included in new residential developments. When in response, SCA External Affairs Director Michael Mirisola said that his organization is not able to force the creation of schools, an audience member angrily interrupted, “Why not?”</p> <p dir="ltr">It is up to local elected officials and the de Blasio administration to require public benefits like school seats in development deals. Officials are really only able to do so when developers are utilizing rezonings and other public incentives when they build. The administration and local officials in District 15 are currently negotiating a possible deal with the developer of the former Long Island College Hospital (LICH) site, where a rezoning may be allowed so that a larger development can be built in exchange for public benefits including school seats.</p> <p dir="ltr">Haimson touched on another overcrowding issue, though not one at play in District 15 per se, decrying the state ensuring in law that any newly approved charter school is guaranteed space. “Here, we have this massive overcrowding problem in New York City where there are communities that have waited 20 years for a school, and yet any charter school can snap its fingers and the city has to give them space or pay for their rent,” Haimson told Gotham Gazette before the forum (she also spoke briefly as an audience member during the Q&amp;A).</p> <p dir="ltr">The DOE has faced criticism from Brooklyn residents for its handling of the PS 8/PS 307 District 13 rezoning, among others. Early talks with the department could prevent District 15 from having an adversarial relationship with the DOE when its rezoning process begins in earnest. The purpose of last week’s forum was to get dialogue started so that the lines of communication are open and community input is front and center.</p> <p dir="ltr">“By coming together here with no specific group of so-called winners or so-called losers or people who want one thing and others who have a different goal, it is a really important step,” Sen. Squadron said in his remarks. “But it does not end here, because we have also seen that early engagement alone does not force the Department of Education to do what they're supposed to.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Ryan Brady, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p dir="ltr">Note: this article has been corrected to indicate the schools at the center of rezoning talks on the Upper West Side - they are 191 and 199, not 32 and 29 as initially indicated</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/bk_overcrowding_forum.jpg" alt="bk overcrowding forum" height="338" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr">The community school forum (<a href="https://twitter.com/JoAnneSimonBK52/status/657302873550794752" target="_blank">photo</a>: @JoAnneSimonBK52)&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>As rezoning problems plague some city school districts, leaders in one area of Brooklyn are looking to avoid similar pitfalls while reducing overcrowding.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Carroll Gardens last week, local officials and parents gathered in the PS 58 auditorium to discuss overcrowding issues facing three elementary schools. Like others across the city, District 15 - which includes the schools at hand, PS 58, PS 32, and PS 29 - is facing challenges around booming development and school-aged populations, school crowding and zoning.</p> <p dir="ltr">Wednesday’s forum, featuring several area elected officials, school leaders, and moderated by Professor David Bloomfield of CUNY, was an attempt to get ahead of these issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Often when we’re dealing with overcrowding, we’re not able to address it until it’s a full-blown crisis,” said Paige Bellenbaum, a local district leader. A parent of second- and third-graders at PS 58, Bellenbaum noted that since 2005, the school’s enrollment has more than doubled.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bellenbaum and other concerned residents heard from and spoke to a panel of elected and appointed decision-makers. The panel included local lawmakers, Department of Education (DOE) planning officials, the School Construction Authority (SCA) external affairs director, PTA parents with rezoning experience, and others.</p> <p dir="ltr">Amid unprecedented growth and development in District 15 - which contains Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, and Sunset Park schools - those who spoke cited the need to “work together in advance to get ahead of the curve,” as Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon put it. City Council Member Brad Lander and State Senator Daniel Squadron, also co-organizers of the event, expressed a similar point.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the district looks to the DOE and SCA to add capacity and rezone neighborhoods, anxiety is high. Local officials organized the forum to begin a dialogue earlier than has occurred in other places facing similar issues.</p> <p dir="ltr">In District 15, the average utilization rate for classrooms is already 111.5 percent. PS 58, its principal explained, has been forced to cap entry into third and fourth grades. “In 2005, enrollment was about 400 students. In 2015, it was 996,” Bellenbaum said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Recently, overcrowding-caused rezonings of <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20141028/windsor-terrace/parents-say-proposed-district-15-rezoning-forces-students-travel-too-far" target="_blank">four district schools last year</a> and the 2012 rezoning of two <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/30/nyregion/at-an-overcrowded-school-in-park-slope-no-one-wants-to-leave.html?_r=0" target="_blank">Park Slope schools</a> have caused controversy. Perhaps compounding anxiety about rezonings are the current uproars concerning PS 8 and PS 307 in downtown Brooklyn and <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/10/19/for-two-sharply-divided-manhattan-schools-an-uncertain-path-to-integration/" target="_blank">PS 191 and PS 199</a> on the Upper West Side. PTA parents from other public schools that had experienced the rezoning process gave advice to parents from District 15 at last week’s forum.</p> <p dir="ltr">Kim Glickman, co-president of the PS 8 PTA, offered her advice to District 15 parents on participating in school rezoning processes. “As leaders of your own schools, you need to be able to understand what the triggers causing the school to be overcrowded are and to be able to speak to them clearly,” Glickman said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Because race and class lines are not as sharply drawn around the three District 15 schools as they are in the other aforementioned school pairings, it is unlikely that a rezoning dispute in the neighborhoods will be the kind of <a href="http://insideschools.org/blog/item/1001036-how-not-to-turn-schools-into-gentrification-battlefields" target="_blank">“gentrification battle”</a> seen elsewhere. <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/OA/SchoolReports/2013-14/School_Quality_Guide_2014_EMS_K058.pdf" target="_blank">PS 58</a>, <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/OA/SchoolReports/2013-14/School_Quality_Guide_2014_EMS_K032.pdf" target="_blank">PS 32</a>, and <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/OA/SchoolReports/2013-14/School_Quality_Guide_2014_EMS_K029.pdf" target="_blank">PS 29</a> were also all deemed either “good standing” or “reward” status by the DOE in its assessment after the 2013-2014 school year.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, school district rezonings almost always leave some parents frustrated as their home zones are changed and their children are assigned to different elementary schools than they had planned.</p> <p dir="ltr">Although overcrowding has not yet reached a crisis level in District 15, it has had a corrosive effect on its schools, speakers at the forum said. And, given the scale of development happening in the district - the Lightstone Group’s 700-unit residential complex is being built in the PS 32 zone, for example - the creation of many more school seats will be necessary to accommodate all of the students it will likely receive. Already, PS 32 has been using trailers in its rear yard for about fifteen years because of overcrowding.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Lightstone building students (“200-ish” of whom will eventually go to PS 32, according to Council Member Lander) will get seats in the school. A 436-seat annex will be added to the school, Lander and CSA officials recently announced.</p> <p dir="ltr">“So, it’s good that we’re building 400-plus seats,” Lander told community stakeholders. “But it does speak to the fact that it won’t create enough new capacity to solve our problems collectively.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The annex is also not slated to be completed for a few more years, at which time the rezoning conversation will be at the forefront as officials determine which students are assigned to the new seats.</p> <p dir="ltr">As Community Education Council 15 President Naila Rosario explained with a powerpoint, overcrowding is already having negative effects, including the elimination of enrichment programs, worse building maintenance, and the loss of rooms for art, music, and special services.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though overcrowding appears in many ways as an inevitable result of more people moving into a neighborhood, it is perfectly preventable, according to Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters, a nonprofit advocacy group. Haimson, who was at last week’s forum and frequently speaks to school capacity issues, says policymakers can take concrete steps to keep overcrowding from happening.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The median utilization rate for elementary schools is over a hundred percent across the city,” Haimson told Gotham Gazette. The problem, she said, is fixable, though there has been a lack of political will. The DOE’s five-year capital plan includes 38,754 new seats for students, a figure that Haimson and her allies believe should be at least doubled.</p> <p dir="ltr">The PS 32 annex is part of that capital plan, and while it will add seats in District 15, it is clear the district will need even more capacity to serve all of the students in the area.</p> <p dir="ltr">A 2014 <a href="http://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/7E13_123A.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> from City Comptroller Scott Stringer found that one third of elementary schools in New York City registered at least 138 percent of their capacity in 2012. During February of last year, schools chancellor Carmen Fariña created the Blue Book Working Group, which was tasked to review the space utilization formulas of the DOE’s “Blue Book” and recommend reforms to it.</p> <p dir="ltr">After the group gave <a href="https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2183985/blue-book-working-group-recommendations.pdf" target="_blank">its recommendations</a> to the DOE last December, the department did not publish them until July, when <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/07/28/city-to-tweak-how-it-calculates-school-space-needs/" target="_blank">it announced</a> that some of them would be adopted. But it rejected the recommendation to shrink class sizes to those outlined by the Contracts for Excellence Law: on average, 19.9 students for kindergarten through third grade, 22.9 for grades 4-8 and 24.5 for grades 9-12. As <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150729/sunset-park/de-blasio-not-doing-enough-fix-school-overcrowding-critics-say" target="_blank">DNAinfo recently pointed out</a>, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to abide by these sizes during his mayoral campaign.</p> <p dir="ltr">City school officials were criticized several times at the forum last week in Carroll Gardens.</p> <p dir="ltr">The DOE has not built schools in Sunset Park, which has District 15 schools, where money was allocated to do so in order to ease overcrowding. “Sunset Park has been slotted to have schools for at least the last ten years,” one audience member said. “It’s not a budget issue.”</p> <p dir="ltr">One parent, to enthusiastic applause, asked the panel why schools weren't included in new residential developments. When in response, SCA External Affairs Director Michael Mirisola said that his organization is not able to force the creation of schools, an audience member angrily interrupted, “Why not?”</p> <p dir="ltr">It is up to local elected officials and the de Blasio administration to require public benefits like school seats in development deals. Officials are really only able to do so when developers are utilizing rezonings and other public incentives when they build. The administration and local officials in District 15 are currently negotiating a possible deal with the developer of the former Long Island College Hospital (LICH) site, where a rezoning may be allowed so that a larger development can be built in exchange for public benefits including school seats.</p> <p dir="ltr">Haimson touched on another overcrowding issue, though not one at play in District 15 per se, decrying the state ensuring in law that any newly approved charter school is guaranteed space. “Here, we have this massive overcrowding problem in New York City where there are communities that have waited 20 years for a school, and yet any charter school can snap its fingers and the city has to give them space or pay for their rent,” Haimson told Gotham Gazette before the forum (she also spoke briefly as an audience member during the Q&amp;A).</p> <p dir="ltr">The DOE has faced criticism from Brooklyn residents for its handling of the PS 8/PS 307 District 13 rezoning, among others. Early talks with the department could prevent District 15 from having an adversarial relationship with the DOE when its rezoning process begins in earnest. The purpose of last week’s forum was to get dialogue started so that the lines of communication are open and community input is front and center.</p> <p dir="ltr">“By coming together here with no specific group of so-called winners or so-called losers or people who want one thing and others who have a different goal, it is a really important step,” Sen. Squadron said in his remarks. “But it does not end here, because we have also seen that early engagement alone does not force the Department of Education to do what they're supposed to.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Ryan Brady, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p dir="ltr">Note: this article has been corrected to indicate the schools at the center of rezoning talks on the Upper West Side - they are 191 and 199, not 32 and 29 as initially indicated</p> Measuring the Mayor’s Education Agenda 2015-10-14T04:43:52+00:00 2015-10-14T04:43:52+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5933:measuring-the-mayors-education-agenda Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/21233566033_2e069629a4_z.jpg" alt="de blasio parents school brooklyn" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">De Blasio at a parents' night (<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nycmayorsoffice/21233566033/in/dateposted/" target="_blank">photo</a>:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayor's Office via flickr)</span></p> <hr /> <p>There are three main data points by which New York City mayors are usually judged on their management of city schools: state standardized test scores; and rates of student graduation and college-readiness. As Mayor Bill de Blasio is now in his second year at the helm of the city’s 1,800 schools and 1.1 million students, his ability to improve these numbers is coming under intense scrutiny - from parents, pundits, and Albany lawmakers, among others.</p> <p dir="ltr">To boost school and student performance and produce college- and career-ready graduates, de Blasio and schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña have unveiled a series of new education initiatives, led by the much-heralded rollout of universal pre-kindergarten. The effectiveness of these programs and the pair’s stewardship of the city’s schools will largely be determined by the three aforementioned data points. Of key relevance within those larger statistics is also the outcomes for subgroups of students, like those with disabilities, and the so-called “achievement gap.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In a recent speech called “Equity and Excellence,” de Blasio outlined a series of new education plans aimed at improving the opportunities and outcomes for city students. Many applauded the mayor’s announcements, which included more algebra, computer science, and reading coaches. Others, however, say benchmarks for student success are being set too far off and that more robust and immediate change is needed. Some continue to push de Blasio to close underperforming schools and embrace an expansion of charter schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Our vision for the New York City public schools is that every school is going to be brought up to the point of excellence. We are putting an unprecedented level of resources in – that’s how we achieved full day pre-K for every child in this city - and that’s going to have a huge impact on the future of our children and our schools,” de Blasio said last week on 1010 Wins radio.</p> <p dir="ltr">Over the course of two years, de Blasio and Fariña have put together an extensive education agenda. Progress, or lack thereof, will be a key to de Blasio’s 2017 re-election bid. More importantly, the success of the de Blasio/Fariña era of city school control will be key to the future of many young people. Parents and guardians of the city's 1.1 million students are seeing firsthand every day whether their children's schools give them confidence in those in charge.</p> <p dir="ltr">As stakeholders and watchers keep tabs on the mayor’s education agenda and its impact, Gotham Gazette takes a detailed look at de Blasio’s major programs and how they fit into the assessment of this mayor’s education leadership.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>First, the latest data on the three main metrics mentioned above:</em><br /><strong>TEST SCORES:</strong> The most up-to-date <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/C7E210CA-F686-4805-BEA6-EDD91F76E58B/185429/2015MathELAPublicDeck81215_SITE.pdf" target="_blank">numbers</a> say that about one-third of New York City students in grades 3-8 are proficient on state math and English-Language Arts tests. For math, it’s 35.2 percent proficient; for ELA, 30.4 percent. These numbers, released this summer, show a slight increase from the year before. (They also indicate performance on recently rewritten tests based on the Common Core Learning Standards - tests and standards that are the source of much controversy.)</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>GRADUATION RATE:</strong> The most recently published <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/CBC16138-32FA-4EB8-91BA-525BF4A82EEB/0/2014GraduationRatesPublicWebsite.pdf" target="_blank">graduate rate,</a> from 2014, shows 64.2 percent of high schoolers graduated in four years (including August graduates, the percentage rises to 68.4). Indicative of a long-term upward trend, this also shows an increase, with the August rate up 2.4 percent from the year before.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>COLLEGE-READINESS:</strong> In 2014, <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2014/11/10/city-touts-slight-uptick-in-college-readiness-as-new-school-reports-go-online/#.VhPJ0VVVikp" target="_blank">32 percent of students</a> tested high enough to be considered “college ready.” The college-ready metric, initially introduced by the state, is determined by percentages of students who attain a score of 75 or higher on the English Regents and 80 or higher on the Math Regents (Regents exams are state standardized tests for high school students). This signifies that students will not require remedial classes to attend four-year CUNY universities.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Bill de Blasio, Education Mayor</strong><br />To ring in the new year and quiet some of his critics, Mayor de Blasio gave a wide-ranging September speech to unveil several new education initiatives. Announcements of new efforts to ensure all students are reading at grade level; offer more algebra, advanced placement, and computer science courses; and individually guide the system’s most vulnerable students were mostly met with praise from officials, advocates, parents, and others.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though all agree with the mayor’s expressed principles of “equity and excellence” in all New York City public schools, there are skeptics who question if the mayor is going far enough or fast enough, and those who question how well his programs, new and otherwise, will be implemented. After all, if one-third of grade 3-8 students are proficient in math or ELA, that means that two-thirds are not.</p> <p dir="ltr">The numbers become even more frightening when looking at the city’s lowest performing schools, often in its poorest neighborhoods and populated by children of color, where there are in some instances grades full of students who do not meet the state standards.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio and others do question the new state tests and caution against using standardized test scores as the end-all. They also point to high poverty rates and the challenges faced by students that impede their ability to learn.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, the mayor consistently acknowledges there is a great deal of work to be done to make all schools good schools. He has little choice but to confront that reality. A new report from pro-charter school organization Families for Excellent Schools shows that black and Hispanic students beginning high school in New York City are one-fourth as likely as their white and Asian counterparts to earn a bachelor’s degree.</p> <p dir="ltr">Much of the mayor’s wide-ranging education agenda - beginning with pre-K - is aimed at increasing opportunity and fostering greater equity.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many ask how de Blasio and his schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, plan to measure progress on their signature changes to the city’s education system, looking for both what metrics and what benchmarks are in place to assess and ensure success. They and other top city officials are often hard-pressed to give data points other than the big three mentioned earlier, though they cite things like attendance rates and Advanced Placement course access and enrollment.</p> <p dir="ltr">In de Blasio’s most recent announcement, he outlined several goals set a number of years down the road - such as increasing the proportion of high school graduates deemed ‘college-ready’ from less than half to two-thirds by 2026 - leading many to wonder about more immediate effects and goals. Some note that even a goal set that far into the future leaves one-third of city graduates not deemed ready for college.</p> <p dir="ltr">Some schools and students must see immediate progress. Each of the city’s 94 “renewal schools,” the city’s persistently low-performing schools up against the prospect of state takeover, will have set benchmarks to meet, which usually include attendance and test score improvements.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio is banking on his pre-K initiative to be a game-changer. And it may be, but time and again de Blasio and others are asked how the program is being evaluated and there are few concrete answers, though<a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/06/8569527/guide-citys-2015-pre-k-expansion-challenges" target="_blank"> a consultancy has been hired to track it</a>. Much of the program’s efficacy will be pegged on the third-grade test scores of the students who have enrolled in the program (third grade is the first year of state standardized tests and seen as a key year for assessing whether students are reading at grade-level).</p> <p dir="ltr">On the first day of school this year, in September, Mayor de Blasio celebrated the progress of programs implemented thus far in his tenure, including the expansion of UPK to enrolling more than 65,500 four-year-olds across the city; 130 new community schools; 126 PROSE schools, which are schools working with unique models and outside of some typical union rules; and free after-school programs for all middle-schoolers. Most of the celebration, though, involves their launch, and with much of it still new, like de Blasio as mayor, there is little else to measure yet.</p> <p dir="ltr">The following week, de Blasio announced the roll-out of another wave of education programs buttressed by a vision of public schools running on the “twin engines of equity and excellence.” &nbsp;Programs outlined included computer science and Advanced Placement courses for all; universal second grade literacy; “Single Shepherd,” by which at-risk students are provided individualized counselors; and college campus visits for all before ninth grade.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Excellence and achievement cannot, and should not, discriminate...As we increase the number of student success stories, we have to make sure success is as common in East New York as it is on the Upper East Side,” <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/619-15/education-remarks-mayor-bill-de-blasio-equity-excellence-prepared-delivery" target="_blank">said the mayor</a>, striking the central theme of his campaign and his mayoralty.</p> <p dir="ltr">Changing the largest school system in the country does not happen overnight, of course, and some defend the mayor’s extended timelines. City Council Member Daniel Dromm, chair of the Committee on Education and a former teacher, told Gotham Gazette, “I applaud the mayor for not allowing people to think [these reforms] can be done overnight. It takes awhile to change things, to change cultures, and to have real results.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Along with Dromm, Gotham Gazette consulted several education experts and advocates to discuss the mayor’s education agenda and related metrics.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Pre-K</strong><br />“In principle, [universal pre-k] is an extremely good idea, but in practice, it will depend on the caliber of the program,” David Steiner, executive director at Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and former New York State education commissioner, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Research shows that teacher quality is the single greatest determinant of a student’s performance outside family background and context. So it’s the greatest in-school influence on student performance,” Steiner said, underlining the importance of “the caliber of instruction.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As Steiner considers pre-K, he wants to know if teachers have “been prepared to handle the work that needs to be done to ensure that these young children can learn to read effectively.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Suggesting a teacher residency program model in order to equip teachers with the clinical skills they need to ensure preparedness and high-quality instruction in the classroom, Steiner is among those who want to see systemic focus on teacher preparation and quality.</p> <p dir="ltr">Along with teacher quality, Steiner cites sufficient socialization, play-time, and acquiring skills such as “<a href="http://www.readingrockets.org/reading-topics/phonemic-awareness" target="_blank">phonemic awareness</a>” for the students as critical to building the foundation for reading and long-term success in learning.</p> <p dir="ltr">The de Blasio administration has indeed highlighted the significance of teacher instruction, offering the city’s first-ever “Citywide Professional Development Training specifically for pre-K,” with 6,000 educators participating at the launch of the program in 2014. It is not the residency system Steiner recommends, which would be more robust and expensive.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor and others have continually stressed that pre-K is “high-quality,” but it is unclear exactly how prepared the teachers are and how strong the curriculum is - which is where internal and external evaluation will come into play.</p> <p dir="ltr">There will, of course, also soon be those third grade test scores for the first class of pre-K participants. One major question about pre-K is whether initial gains that participants show last through third grade.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/home/downloads/pdf/reports/2014/Ready-to-Launch-NYCs-Implementation-Plan-for-Free-High-Quality-Full-Day-Universal-Pre-Kindergarten.pdf" target="_blank"> city’s implementation plan</a> for UPK, a core feature of the model is “ensuring recruitment and retention of high-quality UPK lead teachers with early childhood certification.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Instructional coaches from the DOE are placed in schools to provide professional development - which, generally speaking, has been a major focus of Chancellor Fariña, a former teacher and principal herself.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As we move forward with this expansion, we must renew our focus on supporting our pre-K teachers and assistant teachers and creating an atmosphere of engaging and fun learning and play that puts our youngest learners on the path to success in kindergarten and their continuing education,” said Fariña at the initial pre-K launch, in 2014.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell told Gotham Gazette that the first wave of pre-K metrics will be released this fall.</p> <p dir="ltr">Norvell described skill acquisition as essential, along with classroom interactions, and available activities. Pre-K participants are, after all, four-year-olds. When asked about ensuring quality in pre-K, the mayor has often stressed that the curriculum involves establishing key learning basics, such as those needed to become a successful reader, as well as plenty of play, which also builds skills.</p> <p dir="ltr">Norvell stressed that enrollment itself is key to the success of the program, especially among disadvantaged families. "This is a two-year expansion, and the first year was heavily focused on low-income communities that benefit most from high quality pre-K. In the ten lowest-income communities, enrollment more than doubled last year. And that focus continued this year, where we pushed and successfully enrolled more than 1,000 children whose families were in homeless shelters,” Norvell told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">Moving children from under-resourced and unstable environments into school a year earlier can have significant effects in terms of their socialization and language acquisition.</p> <p dir="ltr">In a recent defense against accusations that pre-K success is being measured by enrollment and not quality, Norvell <a href="https://twitter.com/WileyNorvell/status/652135119990341633" target="_blank">wrote</a> on Twitter that a “focus on quality” is the “reason we spread expansion over [two years],” adding that there has been a “huge focus on [professional development] and pedagogical oversight.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Community, Renewal, PROSE, &amp; Charter Schools</strong><br />Community schools and <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/schools/RenewalSchool" target="_blank">renewal schools</a> -- at the heart of the mayor’s education reforms -- provide striking examples of divergent policy from de Blasio’s predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio has promised to close schools only as a “last resort,” focusing rather on providing more and better resources to schools which may be struggling. The city’s most-struggling schools are the renewal schools, almost all of which are part of the community schools program, which means these schools become hubs of services, such as providing health care for students or English classes for parents.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Labeling schools ‘low-performing,’ labeling them ‘failing’ makes everybody in that school community feel like they’re failing,” David Bloomfield, professor of education leadership at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center, told Gotham Gazette. “We have to get away from this notion of a failing school; it’s an incorrect description and an obstacle to reform.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In this regard, Bloomfield appears aligned with de Blasio, who has decided that instead of closing schools and reconstituting them as smaller schools with a remade faculty, that he would flood struggling schools with resources.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bloomfield believes rigorous testing implemented during the Bloomberg years showed itself to be a “disaster” and “misunderstands the educational situation of students. It ostensibly equates short-term test performance with long-term educational proficiency.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Assessment of “student learning across multiple measures,” not simply discerned through testing, as well as “professional observation” to determine teacher quality would give a more accurate portrayal of student and teacher performance, Bloomfield says.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We are investing in tools that we know help students catch up and succeed – more learning time, extra tutoring, coaches to help teachers improve instruction,” said the mayor at a press conference with students and faculty of Richmond Hill High School, one of the 94 renewal schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have a plan to fix long-struggling schools, and we’ll hold ourselves and these schools accountable for results,” de Blasio said. When discussing his stewardship of city schools and the mayoral control system that New York City mayors are allowed through state law, de Blasio has repeatedly said that he has the education system on the right track and that closing school doesn’t solve the problems facing the students in them. He says he will be judged by voters come 2017.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, critics believe that the community and renewal school school approach of extra resources is not the answer, but that closing schools and opening more independently-run charter schools is a better general alternative path.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio has been a vocal opponent of the expansion of charter schools, though his rhetoric on the subject has cooled of late. The mayor and others have talked of partnering with charter schools as an opportunity to increase the quality of education in public schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">A controversial recent <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3LSrSZXM8Q&amp;feature=youtu.be" target="_blank">advertisement </a>by Families for Excellent Schools, the pro-charter group, slamming de Blasio for “forcing kids into failing schools” is indicative of a <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/education/2014/03/bill_de_blasio_vs_charter_schools_a_feud_in_new_york_city_has_broad_national.html" target="_blank">long-running dispute</a>. Prior to that ad, which is being followed <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/10/8579417/charter-ad-takes-aim-de-blasio-education-agenda" target="_blank">by another</a> critical of the mayor’s education leadership, and a large pro-charter, anti-de Blasio rally, the mayor announced a new program to fund 50 formal partnerships between district schools and charter schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">The administration cites that it will be similar to the <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/Academics/InterschoolCollaboration/Welcome/default.htm" target="_blank">Learning Partners Program</a>, matching “host” schools with “partner” schools for collaboration on areas of demonstrated need by the partner schools. Drawing from individual strengths, schools will apply and be matched in pairs “to learn from each other's best practices” creating <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/education-vision-2015-speech-highlights.page" target="_blank">District-Charter Learning Partnerships</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Moreover, another DOE effort to support struggling schools is the Progressive Redesign Opportunity for Schools of Excellence (PROSE) initiative. Led by the Office of School Design and Charter Partnerships (OSDCP), the initiative aims to design and develop new schools, overhaul under-enrolled schools, and support school flexibility.</p> <p dir="ltr">While de Blasio and Fariña’s teams track multiple measures, and have revamped the system by which schools are graded to show a diversity of metrics instead of a single letter grade, much of this can be seen as alphabet soup by those who simply want to know: are schools improving or not? There’s no getting around the fact that schools will largely be judged by state leaders and others through their standardized test scores, seen by many as the best objective measure.</p> <p dir="ltr">Clara Hemphill, senior editor of InsideSchools.org, a publication of The Center for NYC Affairs at the New School, says that “Tests tell you where a school has been, but not where a school is going. There is other data that is predictive of where a school is heading.” She described “improved attendance, increased enrollment, and increased satisfaction by parents, teachers, students” as evidence for “signs of a flourishing school.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Universal 2nd Grade Literacy</strong><br />Every elementary school will receive support from a reading specialist to ensure students are reading at grade level by the end of second grade, Mayor de Blasio announced, noting that early intervention determines long-term success for young children and the importance of early literacy.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/education-vision-2015-speech-highlights.page" target="_blank">The Mayor’s Office cites</a> that “students who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Hemphill is pleased to see the initiative: “The plan for 700 reading specialists is long overdue,” she says. “It’s the one thing that’s really been shown to work in helping kids who may have some difficulties to read get the skills they need.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Learning to read is critical,” Hemphill continues. “There are a large number of kids who don’t learn easily even with good instruction. Reading specialists are teachers with master’s degrees specialized in how to teach reading. Putting one in an elementary will go a long way.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, suggested “process-based metrics” in which a student is evaluated over time to gauge improved reading skills for grade-level proficiency by the end of second grade. This would create stronger tracking and assessment well before those third grade tests scores come back.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Our goal is to have all second graders reading with fluency by 2026. Teachers will track students’ progress through nationally-recognized assessments, and provide the right kind of additional support to those kids who need it,”<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/619-15/education-remarks-mayor-bill-de-blasio-equity-excellence-prepared-delivery" target="_blank"> announced the Mayor.</a></p> <p dir="ltr">Clearly, the success of this initiative will mostly come down to student scores on the state ELA tests all students take in third grade. One especially important subgroup to watch will be English-Language Learners, or students whose first language is not English. While this is true throughout all grade levels, it is important at younger ages that students show they are beginning to master the official language of most of their schooling.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Algebra for All</strong><br />“For New York City public high school students, algebra 1 represents either the gateway to advanced math or a huge, even insurmountable, stumbling block in their education,” begins an <a href="http://static1.squarespace.com/static/53ee4f0be4b015b9c3690d84/t/55d22728e4b06f52f9e678d8/1439835944390/CNYCA+Rough+Calculations.pdf" target="_blank">August 2015 report</a> prepared by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School. Why is that so? The report states that the vast majority of students can fulfill math requirements for graduation by passing the Regents exam for the algebra 1 course.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, according to the Center’s analysis, of the estimated 75,500 students who entered high school as the prospective Class of 2014, more than 22,000 failed the Integrated Algebra Regents on their first attempt. “Those who failed the first time went on to retake the exam an average of twice more in later years in order to graduate,” and among the students repeating the exam, “the pass rate plummeted to as low as 20 percent.”</p> <p dir="ltr">And the test has only become significantly more difficult. A new exam was introduced in June 2014, aligning with the tougher academic standards of Common Core, as required in New York State. The test now consists of material that used to be on Algebra 2/Trigonometry Regents exams.</p> <p dir="ltr">The difficulty of the exam has elicited reactions ranging from concern to <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/06/27/a-disturbing-look-at-common-core-tests-in-new-york/" target="_blank">outrage</a> given the high stakes for students who may not graduate on time - or even not at all - depending on exam results. Part of the issue at play with algebra, like in other instances, appears to be access.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/education-vision-2015-speech-highlights.page" target="_blank">announced</a> the Algebra for All initiative to ensure algebra courses for all eighth-graders citywide by Fall 2021, along with “academic supports in place earlier in middle school to build greater algebra readiness.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Today, <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/education-vision-2015-speech-highlights.page" target="_blank">less than 60 percent</a> of public middle schools offer some algebra coursework.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Computer Science for All</strong><br />By 2025, every student in elementary, middle and high school will receive computer science education. Funded through a public-private partnership, city money will be matched by New York City Foundation for Computer Science Education (CSNYC), Robin Hood Foundation, and AOL Charitable Foundation for a total of $81 million invested over the next 10 years.</p> <p dir="ltr">Tim Armstrong, CEO and chairman of AOL, said that these contributions will, “allow children of all backgrounds to share equally in the future of a software-driven economy and continue to bolster New York’s position as one of the leading technology cities in the world.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Speaking with Gotham Gazette, Natasha Capers, parent leader and Coordinator of Coalition for Educational Justice, shared in the praise saying “giving [students] this education [will] build the workforce” of the future.</p> <p dir="ltr">An initial pilot program during the 2014-15 school year, the <a href="http://sepnyc.org/" target="_blank">Software Engineering Pilot</a> (SEP), has implemented computer science classes in 18 middle and high schools, enrolling 2,700 students for courses about web design, coding, robotics and more. Computer science classes will expand significantly in other schools beginning in Fall 2016.</p> <p dir="ltr">Some do not see computer science coursework as necessary for every student. De Blasio and others who support the initiative say that it will have multiple positive effects, including engaging students in school, preparing students for the workforce, and enhancing thinking schools. If it is part of improvement in college-readiness and workplace success rates, de Blasio will get credit.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>AP for All</strong><br />Today, <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/618-15/equity-excellence-mayor-de-blasio-reforms-raise-achievement-across-all-public" target="_blank">nearly 40,000 students</a> are enrolled in high schools, grades 9-12, that do not offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Low-income students and black and Latino students are particularly affected, with only 44 percent enrolling in AP. Full implementation of AP for All is projected for Fall 2021, by which AP courses and prep classes will be available in all schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">Again here, some may point to a far off goal. Progress will be measurable each year in terms of additional offerings, but it is a multi-year expansion plan, and one aimed at improving college-readiness, but also college graduation rates.</p> <p dir="ltr">This initiative builds on the<a href="http://insideschools.org/blog/item/1000738-city-to-offer-more-advanced-placement-classes" target="_blank"> AP Expansion program</a> created in 2013 by the NYC Department of Education which has implemented AP courses in over 70 schools since its launch.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://insideschools.org/blog/item/1000736-report-examines-why-kids-are-not-college-ready" target="_blank">A report reviewed</a> by Inside Schools determines that “taking even one CUNY College Now or AP course reduces the likelihood that students will need remedial classes in college.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Kim Nauer, education project director at Center for New York City Affairs, notes that statistically it is true that more students of all income levels are attending college but many are not completing their degrees. Taking AP courses in high school often serves as effective preparation for college course loads.</p> <p dir="ltr">In fact, “we know students who take AP classes are twice as likely to graduate college in five years, compared to those who don’t,” <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/619-15/education-remarks-mayor-bill-de-blasio-equity-excellence-prepared-delivery" target="_blank">noted</a> de Blasio.</p> <p dir="ltr">Students are also more likely to be prepared for college and careers with individual support from school guidance counselors.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, in 2013, <a href="http://insideschools.org/blog/item/1000736-report-examines-why-kids-are-not-college-ready" target="_blank">61 percent of guidance counselors</a> faced caseloads of 100 to 300 students -- far too many, critics say, to substantially help students individually prepare for college or career, much less navigate key aspects of their current schools. (The remaining counselors faced caseloads even higher.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Thus, in addition to expanding AP course selection, the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/education-vision-2015-speech-highlights.page" target="_blank">College Access for All</a> program de Blasio announced will guide students through the college application process, in which “every student will have the resources and individually tailored supports at their high school to pursue a path to college.”</p> <p dir="ltr">College campus visits, assistance in completing applications, mentorships with college students and strategies for family financial planning to afford college tuition are all resources which will be available for students, sixth-twelfth grade, launching in Fall 2016.</p> <p dir="ltr">In increasing the focus on college preparedness and college goal-setting, de Blasio may be taking a page from the charter school book. Supporters often note that many charter schools have a college-going culture in place, talking with students about college from kindergarten onward.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Single Shepherd</strong><br /><a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/education-vision-2015-speech-highlights.page" target="_blank">The Single Shepherd program</a> pairs counselors with specific students from sixth grade through their high school graduation and college enrollment, and is being piloted in District 7, in the South Bronx, and District 23, in Central Brooklyn. The program will launch in Fall 2016.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Districts 7 and 23 have among the lowest graduation and college readiness rates in the city, and each serve high poverty, high needs students. We selected two districts with high need, in different areas of the city, and of varying size to serve as proof-points for the initiative so that with evidence, it can be scaled to other communities,” said Department of Education spokesperson Devora Kaye, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The Single Shepherd role will focus explicitly on high school graduation, college readiness and on building a long-term relationship with their students,” Kaye continued. “Starting day one of implementation, we’ll be monitoring the progress of this program, and will expand it as we see progress.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Students in the program, and the program itself, are sure to be measured in terms of improvements in attendance, grades, and test scores, along with graduation and college-readiness, as Kaye mentioned.</p> <p dir="ltr">Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director at the <a href="http://www.aqeny.org/" target="_blank">Alliance for Quality Education</a>, also said it is important to watch suspension rates. Ansari, whose group is largely aligned with the mayor and the teachers union, highlights the importance of looking at graduation rates and college placement for students, but also said more schools should be implementing “restorative justice practices,” referring to an approach to school discipline and community building that strays away from suspensions in most cases.</p> <p dir="ltr">The social and emotional well-being of students and parent and community engagement are “crucial” for student success, Ansari said. De Blasio and Fariña have devoted new resources to restorative justice and believe that keeping students in school when suspension is avoidable will give students a greater shot at success.</p> <p dir="ltr">Students for which restorative justice is an alternative to out-of-school suspension are likely to be candidates for the shepard program, though that program is only seeing a small pilot in the next school year. Still, the shepard program is another example of the de Blasio administration infusing significant resources toward addressing education problems.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>School Segregation</strong><br />Professor Bloomfield brought up one key for any big city mayor, the differences in learning experiences and outcomes of students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. There has been <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/tale-two-schools/" target="_blank">a renewed focus of late</a> on New York City’s segregated schools - the city’s schools are among the most segregated in the country, some of which has to do with the city’s housing, which largely determines elementary school enrollment.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are enrollment and admissions policies that many want to see changed. Others, still, want to see the expansion of charter schools - less so to reduce segregation and more so to reduce the so-called <a href="http://ciep.hunter.cuny.edu/the-persistent-achievement-gaps-in-american-education/" target="_blank">achievement gap</a> between black and Latino students on one hand and white and Asian students on the other. Many charter schools have proved to be more successful alternatives to nearby district schools when it comes to student test scores, and charter schools in New York City are almost exclusively attended by children of color.</p> <p dir="ltr">This past summer, de Blasio signed the School Diversity Accountability Act, which tracks demographic data relating to grade levels and programs within schools, but lacks a mandate for actionable steps to reduce segregation.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bloomfield says, “The way to address [the achievement gap] is not simply through remediation, which is more or less what the mayor’s laundry list of [new] reforms [are].” It is necessary, he says, “to make sure that all students have access to resources by making sure affluent and low-income students are educated together and all students are educated in integrated environments because all students benefit from that.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“I want to include the shameful inequity in our competitive high schools Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech,” Bloomfield adds. “The mayor promised he would change that and he hasn’t come up with any proposals.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Bloomfield refers to the admissions process for the city’s specialized high schools. De Blasio said as a candidate and repeated as mayor, though not lately, that he wants to see the admissions process for the city’s specialized high schools change away from a single test. On the issue of school integration, de Blasio has been cool to innovative admissions models, instead saying that his pre-K and affordable housing programs would foster more integrated schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lori Podvesker, a parent-advocate and manager of disability and education policy at INCLUDEnyc, also discussed the problem of segregation in New York City public schools. Podvesker cites the lack of initiatives for District 75 students, who primarily have significant disabilities.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It feels like students receiving [special education] services are getting lost in this conversation -- &nbsp;and the overall education conversation -- &nbsp;because everything is being applied to all kids and it’s really not true,” said Podvesker, who also sits on the city’s Panel for Educational Policy.</p> <p dir="ltr">“A lot of students in District 75 don’t take standardized testing and are not going to college. So, the new ‘shepherd’ program -- what does that look like for those kids?”</p> <p dir="ltr">She believes, “special education is siloed,” in the general public conversation on education. “Under Chancellor Fariña it’s getting better,” she says, “but I still feel like it’s an afterthought and it’s not part of decision-making from the beginning.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Though disappointed the mayor has not been more proactive on special education, Podvesker noted the initiatives that have been announced are “amazing.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As de Blasio seeks an <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5884-pre-k-pillar-in-place-de-blasio-must-build-rest-of-his-case-for-mayoral-control">extension for mayoral control</a> next year from the state legislature and Governor Cuomo, he faces tremendous pressure to ensure that others see his vision for education as his supporters do. He must present immediate results beyond pre-K enrollment, and the mayor and his team know it. This summer, de Blasio took great pains to tout small increases in state test score results for students in grades 3-8, and will bring those gains to Albany, as well as his list of programs and any data he can to support their initial successes.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Albany in 2016 and then at home in New York City in 2017, de Blasio will be forced to present data - have test scores continued to rise? Are they rising fast enough? Have graduation and college-readiness rates improved?</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor will also have to contend with the impressions of parents, each of whom has a personal experience with the school system.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio will surely use whatever numbers he can to make the case that he has the city’s students on the right track. He’ll also make his equity argument, spelling out opportunity and access, if not yet excellence.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Kaela Sanborn-Hum, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/21233566033_2e069629a4_z.jpg" alt="de blasio parents school brooklyn" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">De Blasio at a parents' night (<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nycmayorsoffice/21233566033/in/dateposted/" target="_blank">photo</a>:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayor's Office via flickr)</span></p> <hr /> <p>There are three main data points by which New York City mayors are usually judged on their management of city schools: state standardized test scores; and rates of student graduation and college-readiness. As Mayor Bill de Blasio is now in his second year at the helm of the city’s 1,800 schools and 1.1 million students, his ability to improve these numbers is coming under intense scrutiny - from parents, pundits, and Albany lawmakers, among others.</p> <p dir="ltr">To boost school and student performance and produce college- and career-ready graduates, de Blasio and schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña have unveiled a series of new education initiatives, led by the much-heralded rollout of universal pre-kindergarten. The effectiveness of these programs and the pair’s stewardship of the city’s schools will largely be determined by the three aforementioned data points. Of key relevance within those larger statistics is also the outcomes for subgroups of students, like those with disabilities, and the so-called “achievement gap.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In a recent speech called “Equity and Excellence,” de Blasio outlined a series of new education plans aimed at improving the opportunities and outcomes for city students. Many applauded the mayor’s announcements, which included more algebra, computer science, and reading coaches. Others, however, say benchmarks for student success are being set too far off and that more robust and immediate change is needed. Some continue to push de Blasio to close underperforming schools and embrace an expansion of charter schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Our vision for the New York City public schools is that every school is going to be brought up to the point of excellence. We are putting an unprecedented level of resources in – that’s how we achieved full day pre-K for every child in this city - and that’s going to have a huge impact on the future of our children and our schools,” de Blasio said last week on 1010 Wins radio.</p> <p dir="ltr">Over the course of two years, de Blasio and Fariña have put together an extensive education agenda. Progress, or lack thereof, will be a key to de Blasio’s 2017 re-election bid. More importantly, the success of the de Blasio/Fariña era of city school control will be key to the future of many young people. Parents and guardians of the city's 1.1 million students are seeing firsthand every day whether their children's schools give them confidence in those in charge.</p> <p dir="ltr">As stakeholders and watchers keep tabs on the mayor’s education agenda and its impact, Gotham Gazette takes a detailed look at de Blasio’s major programs and how they fit into the assessment of this mayor’s education leadership.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>First, the latest data on the three main metrics mentioned above:</em><br /><strong>TEST SCORES:</strong> The most up-to-date <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/C7E210CA-F686-4805-BEA6-EDD91F76E58B/185429/2015MathELAPublicDeck81215_SITE.pdf" target="_blank">numbers</a> say that about one-third of New York City students in grades 3-8 are proficient on state math and English-Language Arts tests. For math, it’s 35.2 percent proficient; for ELA, 30.4 percent. These numbers, released this summer, show a slight increase from the year before. (They also indicate performance on recently rewritten tests based on the Common Core Learning Standards - tests and standards that are the source of much controversy.)</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>GRADUATION RATE:</strong> The most recently published <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/CBC16138-32FA-4EB8-91BA-525BF4A82EEB/0/2014GraduationRatesPublicWebsite.pdf" target="_blank">graduate rate,</a> from 2014, shows 64.2 percent of high schoolers graduated in four years (including August graduates, the percentage rises to 68.4). Indicative of a long-term upward trend, this also shows an increase, with the August rate up 2.4 percent from the year before.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>COLLEGE-READINESS:</strong> In 2014, <a href="http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2014/11/10/city-touts-slight-uptick-in-college-readiness-as-new-school-reports-go-online/#.VhPJ0VVVikp" target="_blank">32 percent of students</a> tested high enough to be considered “college ready.” The college-ready metric, initially introduced by the state, is determined by percentages of students who attain a score of 75 or higher on the English Regents and 80 or higher on the Math Regents (Regents exams are state standardized tests for high school students). This signifies that students will not require remedial classes to attend four-year CUNY universities.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Bill de Blasio, Education Mayor</strong><br />To ring in the new year and quiet some of his critics, Mayor de Blasio gave a wide-ranging September speech to unveil several new education initiatives. Announcements of new efforts to ensure all students are reading at grade level; offer more algebra, advanced placement, and computer science courses; and individually guide the system’s most vulnerable students were mostly met with praise from officials, advocates, parents, and others.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though all agree with the mayor’s expressed principles of “equity and excellence” in all New York City public schools, there are skeptics who question if the mayor is going far enough or fast enough, and those who question how well his programs, new and otherwise, will be implemented. After all, if one-third of grade 3-8 students are proficient in math or ELA, that means that two-thirds are not.</p> <p dir="ltr">The numbers become even more frightening when looking at the city’s lowest performing schools, often in its poorest neighborhoods and populated by children of color, where there are in some instances grades full of students who do not meet the state standards.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio and others do question the new state tests and caution against using standardized test scores as the end-all. They also point to high poverty rates and the challenges faced by students that impede their ability to learn.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, the mayor consistently acknowledges there is a great deal of work to be done to make all schools good schools. He has little choice but to confront that reality. A new report from pro-charter school organization Families for Excellent Schools shows that black and Hispanic students beginning high school in New York City are one-fourth as likely as their white and Asian counterparts to earn a bachelor’s degree.</p> <p dir="ltr">Much of the mayor’s wide-ranging education agenda - beginning with pre-K - is aimed at increasing opportunity and fostering greater equity.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many ask how de Blasio and his schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, plan to measure progress on their signature changes to the city’s education system, looking for both what metrics and what benchmarks are in place to assess and ensure success. They and other top city officials are often hard-pressed to give data points other than the big three mentioned earlier, though they cite things like attendance rates and Advanced Placement course access and enrollment.</p> <p dir="ltr">In de Blasio’s most recent announcement, he outlined several goals set a number of years down the road - such as increasing the proportion of high school graduates deemed ‘college-ready’ from less than half to two-thirds by 2026 - leading many to wonder about more immediate effects and goals. Some note that even a goal set that far into the future leaves one-third of city graduates not deemed ready for college.</p> <p dir="ltr">Some schools and students must see immediate progress. Each of the city’s 94 “renewal schools,” the city’s persistently low-performing schools up against the prospect of state takeover, will have set benchmarks to meet, which usually include attendance and test score improvements.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio is banking on his pre-K initiative to be a game-changer. And it may be, but time and again de Blasio and others are asked how the program is being evaluated and there are few concrete answers, though<a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/06/8569527/guide-citys-2015-pre-k-expansion-challenges" target="_blank"> a consultancy has been hired to track it</a>. Much of the program’s efficacy will be pegged on the third-grade test scores of the students who have enrolled in the program (third grade is the first year of state standardized tests and seen as a key year for assessing whether students are reading at grade-level).</p> <p dir="ltr">On the first day of school this year, in September, Mayor de Blasio celebrated the progress of programs implemented thus far in his tenure, including the expansion of UPK to enrolling more than 65,500 four-year-olds across the city; 130 new community schools; 126 PROSE schools, which are schools working with unique models and outside of some typical union rules; and free after-school programs for all middle-schoolers. Most of the celebration, though, involves their launch, and with much of it still new, like de Blasio as mayor, there is little else to measure yet.</p> <p dir="ltr">The following week, de Blasio announced the roll-out of another wave of education programs buttressed by a vision of public schools running on the “twin engines of equity and excellence.” &nbsp;Programs outlined included computer science and Advanced Placement courses for all; universal second grade literacy; “Single Shepherd,” by which at-risk students are provided individualized counselors; and college campus visits for all before ninth grade.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Excellence and achievement cannot, and should not, discriminate...As we increase the number of student success stories, we have to make sure success is as common in East New York as it is on the Upper East Side,” <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/619-15/education-remarks-mayor-bill-de-blasio-equity-excellence-prepared-delivery" target="_blank">said the mayor</a>, striking the central theme of his campaign and his mayoralty.</p> <p dir="ltr">Changing the largest school system in the country does not happen overnight, of course, and some defend the mayor’s extended timelines. City Council Member Daniel Dromm, chair of the Committee on Education and a former teacher, told Gotham Gazette, “I applaud the mayor for not allowing people to think [these reforms] can be done overnight. It takes awhile to change things, to change cultures, and to have real results.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Along with Dromm, Gotham Gazette consulted several education experts and advocates to discuss the mayor’s education agenda and related metrics.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Pre-K</strong><br />“In principle, [universal pre-k] is an extremely good idea, but in practice, it will depend on the caliber of the program,” David Steiner, executive director at Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and former New York State education commissioner, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Research shows that teacher quality is the single greatest determinant of a student’s performance outside family background and context. So it’s the greatest in-school influence on student performance,” Steiner said, underlining the importance of “the caliber of instruction.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As Steiner considers pre-K, he wants to know if teachers have “been prepared to handle the work that needs to be done to ensure that these young children can learn to read effectively.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Suggesting a teacher residency program model in order to equip teachers with the clinical skills they need to ensure preparedness and high-quality instruction in the classroom, Steiner is among those who want to see systemic focus on teacher preparation and quality.</p> <p dir="ltr">Along with teacher quality, Steiner cites sufficient socialization, play-time, and acquiring skills such as “<a href="http://www.readingrockets.org/reading-topics/phonemic-awareness" target="_blank">phonemic awareness</a>” for the students as critical to building the foundation for reading and long-term success in learning.</p> <p dir="ltr">The de Blasio administration has indeed highlighted the significance of teacher instruction, offering the city’s first-ever “Citywide Professional Development Training specifically for pre-K,” with 6,000 educators participating at the launch of the program in 2014. It is not the residency system Steiner recommends, which would be more robust and expensive.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor and others have continually stressed that pre-K is “high-quality,” but it is unclear exactly how prepared the teachers are and how strong the curriculum is - which is where internal and external evaluation will come into play.</p> <p dir="ltr">There will, of course, also soon be those third grade test scores for the first class of pre-K participants. One major question about pre-K is whether initial gains that participants show last through third grade.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/home/downloads/pdf/reports/2014/Ready-to-Launch-NYCs-Implementation-Plan-for-Free-High-Quality-Full-Day-Universal-Pre-Kindergarten.pdf" target="_blank"> city’s implementation plan</a> for UPK, a core feature of the model is “ensuring recruitment and retention of high-quality UPK lead teachers with early childhood certification.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Instructional coaches from the DOE are placed in schools to provide professional development - which, generally speaking, has been a major focus of Chancellor Fariña, a former teacher and principal herself.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As we move forward with this expansion, we must renew our focus on supporting our pre-K teachers and assistant teachers and creating an atmosphere of engaging and fun learning and play that puts our youngest learners on the path to success in kindergarten and their continuing education,” said Fariña at the initial pre-K launch, in 2014.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell told Gotham Gazette that the first wave of pre-K metrics will be released this fall.</p> <p dir="ltr">Norvell described skill acquisition as essential, along with classroom interactions, and available activities. Pre-K participants are, after all, four-year-olds. When asked about ensuring quality in pre-K, the mayor has often stressed that the curriculum involves establishing key learning basics, such as those needed to become a successful reader, as well as plenty of play, which also builds skills.</p> <p dir="ltr">Norvell stressed that enrollment itself is key to the success of the program, especially among disadvantaged families. "This is a two-year expansion, and the first year was heavily focused on low-income communities that benefit most from high quality pre-K. In the ten lowest-income communities, enrollment more than doubled last year. And that focus continued this year, where we pushed and successfully enrolled more than 1,000 children whose families were in homeless shelters,” Norvell told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">Moving children from under-resourced and unstable environments into school a year earlier can have significant effects in terms of their socialization and language acquisition.</p> <p dir="ltr">In a recent defense against accusations that pre-K success is being measured by enrollment and not quality, Norvell <a href="https://twitter.com/WileyNorvell/status/652135119990341633" target="_blank">wrote</a> on Twitter that a “focus on quality” is the “reason we spread expansion over [two years],” adding that there has been a “huge focus on [professional development] and pedagogical oversight.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Community, Renewal, PROSE, &amp; Charter Schools</strong><br />Community schools and <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/schools/RenewalSchool" target="_blank">renewal schools</a> -- at the heart of the mayor’s education reforms -- provide striking examples of divergent policy from de Blasio’s predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio has promised to close schools only as a “last resort,” focusing rather on providing more and better resources to schools which may be struggling. The city’s most-struggling schools are the renewal schools, almost all of which are part of the community schools program, which means these schools become hubs of services, such as providing health care for students or English classes for parents.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Labeling schools ‘low-performing,’ labeling them ‘failing’ makes everybody in that school community feel like they’re failing,” David Bloomfield, professor of education leadership at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center, told Gotham Gazette. “We have to get away from this notion of a failing school; it’s an incorrect description and an obstacle to reform.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In this regard, Bloomfield appears aligned with de Blasio, who has decided that instead of closing schools and reconstituting them as smaller schools with a remade faculty, that he would flood struggling schools with resources.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bloomfield believes rigorous testing implemented during the Bloomberg years showed itself to be a “disaster” and “misunderstands the educational situation of students. It ostensibly equates short-term test performance with long-term educational proficiency.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Assessment of “student learning across multiple measures,” not simply discerned through testing, as well as “professional observation” to determine teacher quality would give a more accurate portrayal of student and teacher performance, Bloomfield says.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We are investing in tools that we know help students catch up and succeed – more learning time, extra tutoring, coaches to help teachers improve instruction,” said the mayor at a press conference with students and faculty of Richmond Hill High School, one of the 94 renewal schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have a plan to fix long-struggling schools, and we’ll hold ourselves and these schools accountable for results,” de Blasio said. When discussing his stewardship of city schools and the mayoral control system that New York City mayors are allowed through state law, de Blasio has repeatedly said that he has the education system on the right track and that closing school doesn’t solve the problems facing the students in them. He says he will be judged by voters come 2017.</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, critics believe that the community and renewal school school approach of extra resources is not the answer, but that closing schools and opening more independently-run charter schools is a better general alternative path.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio has been a vocal opponent of the expansion of charter schools, though his rhetoric on the subject has cooled of late. The mayor and others have talked of partnering with charter schools as an opportunity to increase the quality of education in public schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">A controversial recent <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3LSrSZXM8Q&amp;feature=youtu.be" target="_blank">advertisement </a>by Families for Excellent Schools, the pro-charter group, slamming de Blasio for “forcing kids into failing schools” is indicative of a <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/education/2014/03/bill_de_blasio_vs_charter_schools_a_feud_in_new_york_city_has_broad_national.html" target="_blank">long-running dispute</a>. Prior to that ad, which is being followed <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/10/8579417/charter-ad-takes-aim-de-blasio-education-agenda" target="_blank">by another</a> critical of the mayor’s education leadership, and a large pro-charter, anti-de Blasio rally, the mayor announced a new program to fund 50 formal partnerships between district schools and charter schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">The administration cites that it will be similar to the <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/Academics/InterschoolCollaboration/Welcome/default.htm" target="_blank">Learning Partners Program</a>, matching “host” schools with “partner” schools for collaboration on areas of demonstrated need by the partner schools. Drawing from individual strengths, schools will apply and be matched in pairs “to learn from each other's best practices” creating <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/education-vision-2015-speech-highlights.page" target="_blank">District-Charter Learning Partnerships</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Moreover, another DOE effort to support struggling schools is the Progressive Redesign Opportunity for Schools of Excellence (PROSE) initiative. Led by the Office of School Design and Charter Partnerships (OSDCP), the initiative aims to design and develop new schools, overhaul under-enrolled schools, and support school flexibility.</p> <p dir="ltr">While de Blasio and Fariña’s teams track multiple measures, and have revamped the system by which schools are graded to show a diversity of metrics instead of a single letter grade, much of this can be seen as alphabet soup by those who simply want to know: are schools improving or not? There’s no getting around the fact that schools will largely be judged by state leaders and others through their standardized test scores, seen by many as the best objective measure.</p> <p dir="ltr">Clara Hemphill, senior editor of InsideSchools.org, a publication of The Center for NYC Affairs at the New School, says that “Tests tell you where a school has been, but not where a school is going. There is other data that is predictive of where a school is heading.” She described “improved attendance, increased enrollment, and increased satisfaction by parents, teachers, students” as evidence for “signs of a flourishing school.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Universal 2nd Grade Literacy</strong><br />Every elementary school will receive support from a reading specialist to ensure students are reading at grade level by the end of second grade, Mayor de Blasio announced, noting that early intervention determines long-term success for young children and the importance of early literacy.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/education-vision-2015-speech-highlights.page" target="_blank">The Mayor’s Office cites</a> that “students who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Hemphill is pleased to see the initiative: “The plan for 700 reading specialists is long overdue,” she says. “It’s the one thing that’s really been shown to work in helping kids who may have some difficulties to read get the skills they need.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Learning to read is critical,” Hemphill continues. “There are a large number of kids who don’t learn easily even with good instruction. Reading specialists are teachers with master’s degrees specialized in how to teach reading. Putting one in an elementary will go a long way.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, suggested “process-based metrics” in which a student is evaluated over time to gauge improved reading skills for grade-level proficiency by the end of second grade. This would create stronger tracking and assessment well before those third grade tests scores come back.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Our goal is to have all second graders reading with fluency by 2026. Teachers will track students’ progress through nationally-recognized assessments, and provide the right kind of additional support to those kids who need it,”<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/619-15/education-remarks-mayor-bill-de-blasio-equity-excellence-prepared-delivery" target="_blank"> announced the Mayor.</a></p> <p dir="ltr">Clearly, the success of this initiative will mostly come down to student scores on the state ELA tests all students take in third grade. One especially important subgroup to watch will be English-Language Learners, or students whose first language is not English. While this is true throughout all grade levels, it is important at younger ages that students show they are beginning to master the official language of most of their schooling.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Algebra for All</strong><br />“For New York City public high school students, algebra 1 represents either the gateway to advanced math or a huge, even insurmountable, stumbling block in their education,” begins an <a href="http://static1.squarespace.com/static/53ee4f0be4b015b9c3690d84/t/55d22728e4b06f52f9e678d8/1439835944390/CNYCA+Rough+Calculations.pdf" target="_blank">August 2015 report</a> prepared by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School. Why is that so? The report states that the vast majority of students can fulfill math requirements for graduation by passing the Regents exam for the algebra 1 course.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, according to the Center’s analysis, of the estimated 75,500 students who entered high school as the prospective Class of 2014, more than 22,000 failed the Integrated Algebra Regents on their first attempt. “Those who failed the first time went on to retake the exam an average of twice more in later years in order to graduate,” and among the students repeating the exam, “the pass rate plummeted to as low as 20 percent.”</p> <p dir="ltr">And the test has only become significantly more difficult. A new exam was introduced in June 2014, aligning with the tougher academic standards of Common Core, as required in New York State. The test now consists of material that used to be on Algebra 2/Trigonometry Regents exams.</p> <p dir="ltr">The difficulty of the exam has elicited reactions ranging from concern to <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/06/27/a-disturbing-look-at-common-core-tests-in-new-york/" target="_blank">outrage</a> given the high stakes for students who may not graduate on time - or even not at all - depending on exam results. Part of the issue at play with algebra, like in other instances, appears to be access.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/education-vision-2015-speech-highlights.page" target="_blank">announced</a> the Algebra for All initiative to ensure algebra courses for all eighth-graders citywide by Fall 2021, along with “academic supports in place earlier in middle school to build greater algebra readiness.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Today, <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/education-vision-2015-speech-highlights.page" target="_blank">less than 60 percent</a> of public middle schools offer some algebra coursework.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Computer Science for All</strong><br />By 2025, every student in elementary, middle and high school will receive computer science education. Funded through a public-private partnership, city money will be matched by New York City Foundation for Computer Science Education (CSNYC), Robin Hood Foundation, and AOL Charitable Foundation for a total of $81 million invested over the next 10 years.</p> <p dir="ltr">Tim Armstrong, CEO and chairman of AOL, said that these contributions will, “allow children of all backgrounds to share equally in the future of a software-driven economy and continue to bolster New York’s position as one of the leading technology cities in the world.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Speaking with Gotham Gazette, Natasha Capers, parent leader and Coordinator of Coalition for Educational Justice, shared in the praise saying “giving [students] this education [will] build the workforce” of the future.</p> <p dir="ltr">An initial pilot program during the 2014-15 school year, the <a href="http://sepnyc.org/" target="_blank">Software Engineering Pilot</a> (SEP), has implemented computer science classes in 18 middle and high schools, enrolling 2,700 students for courses about web design, coding, robotics and more. Computer science classes will expand significantly in other schools beginning in Fall 2016.</p> <p dir="ltr">Some do not see computer science coursework as necessary for every student. De Blasio and others who support the initiative say that it will have multiple positive effects, including engaging students in school, preparing students for the workforce, and enhancing thinking schools. If it is part of improvement in college-readiness and workplace success rates, de Blasio will get credit.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>AP for All</strong><br />Today, <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/618-15/equity-excellence-mayor-de-blasio-reforms-raise-achievement-across-all-public" target="_blank">nearly 40,000 students</a> are enrolled in high schools, grades 9-12, that do not offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Low-income students and black and Latino students are particularly affected, with only 44 percent enrolling in AP. Full implementation of AP for All is projected for Fall 2021, by which AP courses and prep classes will be available in all schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">Again here, some may point to a far off goal. Progress will be measurable each year in terms of additional offerings, but it is a multi-year expansion plan, and one aimed at improving college-readiness, but also college graduation rates.</p> <p dir="ltr">This initiative builds on the<a href="http://insideschools.org/blog/item/1000738-city-to-offer-more-advanced-placement-classes" target="_blank"> AP Expansion program</a> created in 2013 by the NYC Department of Education which has implemented AP courses in over 70 schools since its launch.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://insideschools.org/blog/item/1000736-report-examines-why-kids-are-not-college-ready" target="_blank">A report reviewed</a> by Inside Schools determines that “taking even one CUNY College Now or AP course reduces the likelihood that students will need remedial classes in college.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Kim Nauer, education project director at Center for New York City Affairs, notes that statistically it is true that more students of all income levels are attending college but many are not completing their degrees. Taking AP courses in high school often serves as effective preparation for college course loads.</p> <p dir="ltr">In fact, “we know students who take AP classes are twice as likely to graduate college in five years, compared to those who don’t,” <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/619-15/education-remarks-mayor-bill-de-blasio-equity-excellence-prepared-delivery" target="_blank">noted</a> de Blasio.</p> <p dir="ltr">Students are also more likely to be prepared for college and careers with individual support from school guidance counselors.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, in 2013, <a href="http://insideschools.org/blog/item/1000736-report-examines-why-kids-are-not-college-ready" target="_blank">61 percent of guidance counselors</a> faced caseloads of 100 to 300 students -- far too many, critics say, to substantially help students individually prepare for college or career, much less navigate key aspects of their current schools. (The remaining counselors faced caseloads even higher.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Thus, in addition to expanding AP course selection, the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/education-vision-2015-speech-highlights.page" target="_blank">College Access for All</a> program de Blasio announced will guide students through the college application process, in which “every student will have the resources and individually tailored supports at their high school to pursue a path to college.”</p> <p dir="ltr">College campus visits, assistance in completing applications, mentorships with college students and strategies for family financial planning to afford college tuition are all resources which will be available for students, sixth-twelfth grade, launching in Fall 2016.</p> <p dir="ltr">In increasing the focus on college preparedness and college goal-setting, de Blasio may be taking a page from the charter school book. Supporters often note that many charter schools have a college-going culture in place, talking with students about college from kindergarten onward.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Single Shepherd</strong><br /><a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/education-vision-2015-speech-highlights.page" target="_blank">The Single Shepherd program</a> pairs counselors with specific students from sixth grade through their high school graduation and college enrollment, and is being piloted in District 7, in the South Bronx, and District 23, in Central Brooklyn. The program will launch in Fall 2016.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Districts 7 and 23 have among the lowest graduation and college readiness rates in the city, and each serve high poverty, high needs students. We selected two districts with high need, in different areas of the city, and of varying size to serve as proof-points for the initiative so that with evidence, it can be scaled to other communities,” said Department of Education spokesperson Devora Kaye, in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The Single Shepherd role will focus explicitly on high school graduation, college readiness and on building a long-term relationship with their students,” Kaye continued. “Starting day one of implementation, we’ll be monitoring the progress of this program, and will expand it as we see progress.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Students in the program, and the program itself, are sure to be measured in terms of improvements in attendance, grades, and test scores, along with graduation and college-readiness, as Kaye mentioned.</p> <p dir="ltr">Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director at the <a href="http://www.aqeny.org/" target="_blank">Alliance for Quality Education</a>, also said it is important to watch suspension rates. Ansari, whose group is largely aligned with the mayor and the teachers union, highlights the importance of looking at graduation rates and college placement for students, but also said more schools should be implementing “restorative justice practices,” referring to an approach to school discipline and community building that strays away from suspensions in most cases.</p> <p dir="ltr">The social and emotional well-being of students and parent and community engagement are “crucial” for student success, Ansari said. De Blasio and Fariña have devoted new resources to restorative justice and believe that keeping students in school when suspension is avoidable will give students a greater shot at success.</p> <p dir="ltr">Students for which restorative justice is an alternative to out-of-school suspension are likely to be candidates for the shepard program, though that program is only seeing a small pilot in the next school year. Still, the shepard program is another example of the de Blasio administration infusing significant resources toward addressing education problems.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>School Segregation</strong><br />Professor Bloomfield brought up one key for any big city mayor, the differences in learning experiences and outcomes of students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. There has been <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/tale-two-schools/" target="_blank">a renewed focus of late</a> on New York City’s segregated schools - the city’s schools are among the most segregated in the country, some of which has to do with the city’s housing, which largely determines elementary school enrollment.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are enrollment and admissions policies that many want to see changed. Others, still, want to see the expansion of charter schools - less so to reduce segregation and more so to reduce the so-called <a href="http://ciep.hunter.cuny.edu/the-persistent-achievement-gaps-in-american-education/" target="_blank">achievement gap</a> between black and Latino students on one hand and white and Asian students on the other. Many charter schools have proved to be more successful alternatives to nearby district schools when it comes to student test scores, and charter schools in New York City are almost exclusively attended by children of color.</p> <p dir="ltr">This past summer, de Blasio signed the School Diversity Accountability Act, which tracks demographic data relating to grade levels and programs within schools, but lacks a mandate for actionable steps to reduce segregation.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bloomfield says, “The way to address [the achievement gap] is not simply through remediation, which is more or less what the mayor’s laundry list of [new] reforms [are].” It is necessary, he says, “to make sure that all students have access to resources by making sure affluent and low-income students are educated together and all students are educated in integrated environments because all students benefit from that.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“I want to include the shameful inequity in our competitive high schools Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech,” Bloomfield adds. “The mayor promised he would change that and he hasn’t come up with any proposals.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Bloomfield refers to the admissions process for the city’s specialized high schools. De Blasio said as a candidate and repeated as mayor, though not lately, that he wants to see the admissions process for the city’s specialized high schools change away from a single test. On the issue of school integration, de Blasio has been cool to innovative admissions models, instead saying that his pre-K and affordable housing programs would foster more integrated schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lori Podvesker, a parent-advocate and manager of disability and education policy at INCLUDEnyc, also discussed the problem of segregation in New York City public schools. Podvesker cites the lack of initiatives for District 75 students, who primarily have significant disabilities.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It feels like students receiving [special education] services are getting lost in this conversation -- &nbsp;and the overall education conversation -- &nbsp;because everything is being applied to all kids and it’s really not true,” said Podvesker, who also sits on the city’s Panel for Educational Policy.</p> <p dir="ltr">“A lot of students in District 75 don’t take standardized testing and are not going to college. So, the new ‘shepherd’ program -- what does that look like for those kids?”</p> <p dir="ltr">She believes, “special education is siloed,” in the general public conversation on education. “Under Chancellor Fariña it’s getting better,” she says, “but I still feel like it’s an afterthought and it’s not part of decision-making from the beginning.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Though disappointed the mayor has not been more proactive on special education, Podvesker noted the initiatives that have been announced are “amazing.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As de Blasio seeks an <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5884-pre-k-pillar-in-place-de-blasio-must-build-rest-of-his-case-for-mayoral-control">extension for mayoral control</a> next year from the state legislature and Governor Cuomo, he faces tremendous pressure to ensure that others see his vision for education as his supporters do. He must present immediate results beyond pre-K enrollment, and the mayor and his team know it. This summer, de Blasio took great pains to tout small increases in state test score results for students in grades 3-8, and will bring those gains to Albany, as well as his list of programs and any data he can to support their initial successes.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Albany in 2016 and then at home in New York City in 2017, de Blasio will be forced to present data - have test scores continued to rise? Are they rising fast enough? Have graduation and college-readiness rates improved?</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor will also have to contend with the impressions of parents, each of whom has a personal experience with the school system.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio will surely use whatever numbers he can to make the case that he has the city’s students on the right track. He’ll also make his equity argument, spelling out opportunity and access, if not yet excellence.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Kaela Sanborn-Hum, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p>