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/public-school-system 2017-12-11T18:59:33+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com A Budget for the City of Immigrants 2016-05-24T15:21:53+00:00 2016-05-24T15:21:53+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6353:a-budget-for-the-city-of-immigrants Aaron Holmes <p>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2015/adult-lit-classes-12.jpg" width="600" height="450" alt="adult lit classes 12" /></p> <p>Students of an adult literacy class (photo: Make the Road New York)</p> <hr /> <p>In recent years, New York City has taken major strides forward in its engagement with immigrant communities. Under the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the Council as a whole, our city has adopted and invested in new initiatives to welcome and protect immigrants and embrace their tremendous economic, cultural, and political contributions.</p> <p>Now, with the 2017 budget process in final negotiations, our leaders have a key opportunity to further address the barriers to opportunity and equity that immigrant communities continue to face. That’s why today, five leading immigrant organizations are releasing a new report, “<a href="http://www.maketheroad.org/report.php?ID=4279" target="_blank">A Budget for the City of Immigrants</a>,” which identifies key policy areas in which immigrant communities need further investment.</p> <p>Despite path-breaking initiatives like IDNYC (the municipal identification card program), ActionNYC (one of the nation’s first large-scale municipal navigation and outreach programs to connect people to free immigration legal screenings), and the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (the nation’s first program to guarantee counsel to low-income immigrants facing deportation), immigrants still face enormous challenges in accessing public services, getting the support to succeed in the workforce, and being informed of their rights.</p> <p>The new report highlights key priorities across various issue areas, ranging from adult education to youth programs to health care access, but a few priorities bear particular mention.</p> <p>First, our City must expand its investment in adult literacy to a baselined $16 million per year.</p> <p>Adult newcomers who have come here to work and support their families often struggle with limited English proficiency (LEP). Despite enormous demand for adult literacy classes, supply has lagged—less than three percent of those in need can access community-based adult education programs. A recent Make the Road New York and Center for Popular Democracy report, “<a href="http://www.maketheroad.org/report.php?ID=4259" target="_blank">Teaching Toward Equity</a>: The Importance of English Classes to Reducing Economic Inequality in New York,” highlights how meeting the language needs of LEP New Yorkers would both further immigrant integration and generate billions of dollars in new earnings. New York City can lead again by making sure that adult immigrants can learn English and develop the tools they need to thrive.</p> <p>Second, our city must direct $13.5 million for immigration legal services for complex cases.</p> <p>Currently, New York City provides few resources for complex immigration legal cases where an individual is facing imminent deportation yet cannot be served under most existing funding streams. This leaves thousands of immigrants on waiting lists. A survey by the New York Immigration Coalition of the city's legal services providers noted that 60% of immigrants seeking their services had complex cases that need intensive representation. Further resources must focus on these complex immigration cases—especially for families who are on the verge of being torn apart without adequate legal representation.</p> <p>Third, our city must expand its investment in Access Health NYC to $5 million.</p> <p>This new City Council initiative has shown tremendous promise by working with community organizations like the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families to educate immigrants about health care options and enroll them for coverage, wherever possible. Health care access is another area where our city has shown leadership, and it should expand its commitment in this budget year.</p> <p>Fourth, our city must move forward with the investment of $868 million in capital funding for the construction of new classrooms and schools to combat overcrowding and pursue additional means to meet the more than 100,000 school seats needed citywide.</p> <p>The 2017 budget must include strong investment to address this widespread problem, while our leaders explore further action in future years to fix it once and for all.</p> <p>Finally, New York City must take further steps to strengthen the landscape of grassroots, immigrant-led nonprofit organizations that are the backbone of our communities yet often struggle, as the Asian American Federation and the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies have noted, to operate on a level playing field with larger organizations.</p> <p>By increasing the Nonprofit Stabilization Fund to $5 million and amending municipal contracting policies to open new opportunities for these smaller organizations, the city can go a long way to strengthening immigrant communities as well.</p> <p>The priorities outlined in A Budget for the City of Immigrants, of which these are just a few, show concrete opportunities to consolidate the progress our city has made with respect to immigrant communities and ensure that we continue to move forward. With immigrant communities at the heart of our global city, we must use this budget cycle to continue to lead the way in welcoming and protecting immigrants.</p> <p>What is good for immigrant communities is good for New York City, the city of immigrants.</p> <p>***<br /><em>Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. Steve Choi is the Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. On Twitter: <a href="http://twitter.com/maketheroadny" target="_blank">@MaketheRoadNY</a> &amp; <a href="http://twitter.com/thenyic" target="_blank">@thenyic</a>.</em></p> <p>

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<p>&nbsp;<img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2015/adult-lit-classes-12.jpg" width="600" height="450" alt="adult lit classes 12" /></p> <p>Students of an adult literacy class (photo: Make the Road New York)</p> <hr /> <p>In recent years, New York City has taken major strides forward in its engagement with immigrant communities. Under the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the Council as a whole, our city has adopted and invested in new initiatives to welcome and protect immigrants and embrace their tremendous economic, cultural, and political contributions.</p> <p>Now, with the 2017 budget process in final negotiations, our leaders have a key opportunity to further address the barriers to opportunity and equity that immigrant communities continue to face. That’s why today, five leading immigrant organizations are releasing a new report, “<a href="http://www.maketheroad.org/report.php?ID=4279" target="_blank">A Budget for the City of Immigrants</a>,” which identifies key policy areas in which immigrant communities need further investment.</p> <p>Despite path-breaking initiatives like IDNYC (the municipal identification card program), ActionNYC (one of the nation’s first large-scale municipal navigation and outreach programs to connect people to free immigration legal screenings), and the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (the nation’s first program to guarantee counsel to low-income immigrants facing deportation), immigrants still face enormous challenges in accessing public services, getting the support to succeed in the workforce, and being informed of their rights.</p> <p>The new report highlights key priorities across various issue areas, ranging from adult education to youth programs to health care access, but a few priorities bear particular mention.</p> <p>First, our City must expand its investment in adult literacy to a baselined $16 million per year.</p> <p>Adult newcomers who have come here to work and support their families often struggle with limited English proficiency (LEP). Despite enormous demand for adult literacy classes, supply has lagged—less than three percent of those in need can access community-based adult education programs. A recent Make the Road New York and Center for Popular Democracy report, “<a href="http://www.maketheroad.org/report.php?ID=4259" target="_blank">Teaching Toward Equity</a>: The Importance of English Classes to Reducing Economic Inequality in New York,” highlights how meeting the language needs of LEP New Yorkers would both further immigrant integration and generate billions of dollars in new earnings. New York City can lead again by making sure that adult immigrants can learn English and develop the tools they need to thrive.</p> <p>Second, our city must direct $13.5 million for immigration legal services for complex cases.</p> <p>Currently, New York City provides few resources for complex immigration legal cases where an individual is facing imminent deportation yet cannot be served under most existing funding streams. This leaves thousands of immigrants on waiting lists. A survey by the New York Immigration Coalition of the city's legal services providers noted that 60% of immigrants seeking their services had complex cases that need intensive representation. Further resources must focus on these complex immigration cases—especially for families who are on the verge of being torn apart without adequate legal representation.</p> <p>Third, our city must expand its investment in Access Health NYC to $5 million.</p> <p>This new City Council initiative has shown tremendous promise by working with community organizations like the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families to educate immigrants about health care options and enroll them for coverage, wherever possible. Health care access is another area where our city has shown leadership, and it should expand its commitment in this budget year.</p> <p>Fourth, our city must move forward with the investment of $868 million in capital funding for the construction of new classrooms and schools to combat overcrowding and pursue additional means to meet the more than 100,000 school seats needed citywide.</p> <p>The 2017 budget must include strong investment to address this widespread problem, while our leaders explore further action in future years to fix it once and for all.</p> <p>Finally, New York City must take further steps to strengthen the landscape of grassroots, immigrant-led nonprofit organizations that are the backbone of our communities yet often struggle, as the Asian American Federation and the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies have noted, to operate on a level playing field with larger organizations.</p> <p>By increasing the Nonprofit Stabilization Fund to $5 million and amending municipal contracting policies to open new opportunities for these smaller organizations, the city can go a long way to strengthening immigrant communities as well.</p> <p>The priorities outlined in A Budget for the City of Immigrants, of which these are just a few, show concrete opportunities to consolidate the progress our city has made with respect to immigrant communities and ensure that we continue to move forward. With immigrant communities at the heart of our global city, we must use this budget cycle to continue to lead the way in welcoming and protecting immigrants.</p> <p>What is good for immigrant communities is good for New York City, the city of immigrants.</p> <p>***<br /><em>Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. Steve Choi is the Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. On Twitter: <a href="http://twitter.com/maketheroadny" target="_blank">@MaketheRoadNY</a> &amp; <a href="http://twitter.com/thenyic" target="_blank">@thenyic</a>.</em></p> <p>

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School Diversity Benefits All Children - and Parents 2016-03-23T01:53:50+00:00 2016-03-23T01:53:50+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6237:school-diversity-benefits-all-children-and-parents Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14215325806_3fde0ae11d_z.jpg" alt="bdb school" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio on a school visit (photo:&nbsp;Rob Bennett, Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>My four-year-old daughter has a good friend at preschool who happens to have the same name. I'll call them both "Maya." My daughter is Asian, and her friend is Latino. Recently, a classmate said, "There are two Mayas in our class. One is white and the other is brown." My Asian daughter is the "white" Maya. The classmate's mom probed why he categorized the two Mayas this way, but didn't get much of an answer. Innocently, the boy didn't realize why his categorization was inaccurate or unusual.</p> <p>In preschool, children are just beginning to make sense of things, applying lessons and parallels - sometimes accurately and sometimes not - from the world around them.</p> <p>My daughter attends University Settlement Park Slope North/Helen Owen Carey Child Development Center ("Helen Owen Carey"), which manages to maintain a rare balance of racial and income diversity. I really appreciate this aspect of our preschool. Exposure to classmates from a wide range of racial and economic backgrounds is important. Young children need precisely this type of exposure, even if the process by which they come to understand it can be messy. Incidents like the above are awkward, but it's good that my daughter and her classmates are at a school where children can start to take stock of our diverse community. I am glad that Maya's classroom more closely mirrors the population of Brooklyn as a whole, and not just that of our Park Slope neighborhood.</p> <p>Maya and her classmates have unique learning opportunities as a result of their school's student body, both formally and informally. In a lesson themed "All About Me," Maya and her classmates examined their physical appearance including differences in skin tone which they later put on a color spectrum, indirectly allowing the children to consider race.</p> <p>Parents and families can also play an important role in this learning. Each spring, my husband and I go into our children's preschool classrooms to teach mini-lessons about two holidays related to our ethnic heritage, Chinese New Year and Burmese New Year. Even casual exposure can expand young children's sense of the world. My three children have sampled Haitian food at preschool potlucks, learned about latkes and matzo, and shared homemade mochi at their own birthday parties.</p> <p>We need more public school classrooms that look like my daughter's preschool class.</p> <p>The New York City Department of Education's recent decision to allow principals at seven public schools to set aside a percentage of seats for particular categories of students (such as low-income students, English Language Learners, or those involved with the child welfare system) in the interest of school integration is a promising and needed measure.</p> <p>Once a more diverse study body walks through the classroom doors, however, a new and more intensive challenge begins – that of educating students of widely varying backgrounds and building a community from these children and their parents. And while it may be simpler to work with kids with roughly the same background and starting point, we know the value of a more diverse learning environment for everyone involved.</p> <p>Parents in a racially and economically diverse school do face unique challenges when negotiating relationships and building community at those schools. For the most part, parents – including myself - at our preschool socialize more with others like themselves – racially, economically, or otherwise. This unfortunate segregation occurs politely and all too naturally, despite good intentions, and persists although many Park Slope parents chose the school precisely because of its diversity.</p> <p>However, I have observed how we all grow more comfortable with one another over time and shared experiences. We nod "hello" when we run into each at drop-off or pickup, racing to avoid the dreaded late drop-off or pickup that occasions a visit to the administrative office. Parents share tips about the kindergarten application process, often in groups wider than our social circles. And so on.</p> <p>Community building is tough, especially within diverse communities, even when this very diversity is what drew you into that community in the first place. I am thankful for the chance to participate in Helen Owen Carey's community. Maya's older brother now attends PS 321, a popular and sought after public elementary school in Park Slope. I've been satisfied with the caliber of instruction he's received there and appreciate the school's deeply engaged parent community. Unfortunately, it lacks the diversity I so love about our preschool. My children have been exposed to a level of diversity before entering kindergarten that they may not experience again in New York City public schools – maybe in their educational careers. That alone is priceless.</p> <p>I benefit from the fact that my son's elementary school is a one mere block from my apartment, and the fact that playdates with my son's classmates are easy to arrange because everyone lives within five minutes. I have enjoyed getting to know many of his friend's parents, with whom I have a lot in common. That said, there is value in exposure to – and perhaps even building a more tenuous relationship with – parents with whom one does not have a lot in common and most likely will never become close friends with. Learning about other parents' experiences and the challenges they may face has expanded both my sense of the privilege I enjoy, as well as my broader understanding of educational equity.</p> <p>As for my three children, as much as I appreciate the fact that we are zoned for PS 321 and what that means for their educational foundation, I hope they will not only reap benefits from their time in preschool but have more opportunities for rich, demanding, and diverse educational experiences in public school and beyond.</p> <p>A good preschool friend of my son lived far away in another part of Brooklyn and is from a working class background. I didn't get to know his parents beyond the usual salutations and pleasantries, and we have not kept in touch. But I hope my son will remember his old friend should he meet other kids who remind him of the friend and that this will help my son keep an open mind and heart to others from different racial and income backgrounds. This hope might be impossibly idealistic, but it is ultimately what we need to achieve from school integration.</p> <p>***<br />Khin Mai Aung has three children aged two, four, and six who attend preschool and public school in New York City. Previously, she was Director of the Educational Equity Program at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and she currently conducts civil rights enforcement for the state of New York. The views contained in this article are solely her own.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14215325806_3fde0ae11d_z.jpg" alt="bdb school" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio on a school visit (photo:&nbsp;Rob Bennett, Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>My four-year-old daughter has a good friend at preschool who happens to have the same name. I'll call them both "Maya." My daughter is Asian, and her friend is Latino. Recently, a classmate said, "There are two Mayas in our class. One is white and the other is brown." My Asian daughter is the "white" Maya. The classmate's mom probed why he categorized the two Mayas this way, but didn't get much of an answer. Innocently, the boy didn't realize why his categorization was inaccurate or unusual.</p> <p>In preschool, children are just beginning to make sense of things, applying lessons and parallels - sometimes accurately and sometimes not - from the world around them.</p> <p>My daughter attends University Settlement Park Slope North/Helen Owen Carey Child Development Center ("Helen Owen Carey"), which manages to maintain a rare balance of racial and income diversity. I really appreciate this aspect of our preschool. Exposure to classmates from a wide range of racial and economic backgrounds is important. Young children need precisely this type of exposure, even if the process by which they come to understand it can be messy. Incidents like the above are awkward, but it's good that my daughter and her classmates are at a school where children can start to take stock of our diverse community. I am glad that Maya's classroom more closely mirrors the population of Brooklyn as a whole, and not just that of our Park Slope neighborhood.</p> <p>Maya and her classmates have unique learning opportunities as a result of their school's student body, both formally and informally. In a lesson themed "All About Me," Maya and her classmates examined their physical appearance including differences in skin tone which they later put on a color spectrum, indirectly allowing the children to consider race.</p> <p>Parents and families can also play an important role in this learning. Each spring, my husband and I go into our children's preschool classrooms to teach mini-lessons about two holidays related to our ethnic heritage, Chinese New Year and Burmese New Year. Even casual exposure can expand young children's sense of the world. My three children have sampled Haitian food at preschool potlucks, learned about latkes and matzo, and shared homemade mochi at their own birthday parties.</p> <p>We need more public school classrooms that look like my daughter's preschool class.</p> <p>The New York City Department of Education's recent decision to allow principals at seven public schools to set aside a percentage of seats for particular categories of students (such as low-income students, English Language Learners, or those involved with the child welfare system) in the interest of school integration is a promising and needed measure.</p> <p>Once a more diverse study body walks through the classroom doors, however, a new and more intensive challenge begins – that of educating students of widely varying backgrounds and building a community from these children and their parents. And while it may be simpler to work with kids with roughly the same background and starting point, we know the value of a more diverse learning environment for everyone involved.</p> <p>Parents in a racially and economically diverse school do face unique challenges when negotiating relationships and building community at those schools. For the most part, parents – including myself - at our preschool socialize more with others like themselves – racially, economically, or otherwise. This unfortunate segregation occurs politely and all too naturally, despite good intentions, and persists although many Park Slope parents chose the school precisely because of its diversity.</p> <p>However, I have observed how we all grow more comfortable with one another over time and shared experiences. We nod "hello" when we run into each at drop-off or pickup, racing to avoid the dreaded late drop-off or pickup that occasions a visit to the administrative office. Parents share tips about the kindergarten application process, often in groups wider than our social circles. And so on.</p> <p>Community building is tough, especially within diverse communities, even when this very diversity is what drew you into that community in the first place. I am thankful for the chance to participate in Helen Owen Carey's community. Maya's older brother now attends PS 321, a popular and sought after public elementary school in Park Slope. I've been satisfied with the caliber of instruction he's received there and appreciate the school's deeply engaged parent community. Unfortunately, it lacks the diversity I so love about our preschool. My children have been exposed to a level of diversity before entering kindergarten that they may not experience again in New York City public schools – maybe in their educational careers. That alone is priceless.</p> <p>I benefit from the fact that my son's elementary school is a one mere block from my apartment, and the fact that playdates with my son's classmates are easy to arrange because everyone lives within five minutes. I have enjoyed getting to know many of his friend's parents, with whom I have a lot in common. That said, there is value in exposure to – and perhaps even building a more tenuous relationship with – parents with whom one does not have a lot in common and most likely will never become close friends with. Learning about other parents' experiences and the challenges they may face has expanded both my sense of the privilege I enjoy, as well as my broader understanding of educational equity.</p> <p>As for my three children, as much as I appreciate the fact that we are zoned for PS 321 and what that means for their educational foundation, I hope they will not only reap benefits from their time in preschool but have more opportunities for rich, demanding, and diverse educational experiences in public school and beyond.</p> <p>A good preschool friend of my son lived far away in another part of Brooklyn and is from a working class background. I didn't get to know his parents beyond the usual salutations and pleasantries, and we have not kept in touch. But I hope my son will remember his old friend should he meet other kids who remind him of the friend and that this will help my son keep an open mind and heart to others from different racial and income backgrounds. This hope might be impossibly idealistic, but it is ultimately what we need to achieve from school integration.</p> <p>***<br />Khin Mai Aung has three children aged two, four, and six who attend preschool and public school in New York City. Previously, she was Director of the Educational Equity Program at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and she currently conducts civil rights enforcement for the state of New York. The views contained in this article are solely her own.</p> <p>

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The Right Model to Follow for Diversity at Specialized High Schools 2016-03-10T23:43:09+00:00 2016-03-10T23:43:09+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6218:the-right-model-to-follow-for-diversity-at-specialized-high-schools Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/debaters_nyc_schools.jpg" alt="debaters nyc schools" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Student debaters (photo: @NYCschools)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last week, 5,000 eighth graders got the exciting news that they were offered admission to one of the city's eight test-in Specialized High Schools, which offer a quality public school education unmatched in the country. But while the vast majority come from poor, working class and immigrant families, as has always been the case, once again far too few come from the black and Latino communities.</p> <p>Black and Latino students comprise a large majority in the city's public school system and should be better represented among those offered admission to its top high schools. Unfortunately, this year about 500 fewer black and Latino students sat for the test compared to last year, and the percentage of these students offered admission declined as well.</p> <p>The school system, like the city it serves, is heavily segregated, but this lack of racial and ethnic diversity in our test-in schools is unacceptable for many reasons. Still, doing away with the test as the sole criteria for deciding admission and switching to inherently subjective multiple criteria would do little to ameliorate the imbalance and could make it worse according to last year's study by NYU's Institute for Education and Social Policy.</p> <p>The city must instead invest the resources – both financial and intellectual – and take proactive steps on both a long-term and an immediate basis in order to diversify admissions to our best schools.</p> <p>A program of enriched educational opportunity must be instituted in every neighborhood to permit all children to have a fair chance of success on the test and in life. Gifted and Talented Programs must exist in every district. Enriched education, especially in math and English language courses, must be available in every middle school in the city. When 53 percent of the students at test-in schools come from only 15 percent of middle schools, the fundamental answer to the problem of underrepresentation is clear.</p> <p>Immediate actions must be taken to increase the numbers of students from underrepresented communities sitting for the test. And, increased attention must be paid to better preparing underrepresented students to do well enough on the test to gain admission. There is no fixed passing grade on the test. "Passing" is simply a function of scoring high enough to rank among the 5,000 highest scoring students to qualify for admission to one of the schools.</p> <p>The Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation, which I head, with the support of National Grid, has worked with Brooklyn Tech to run an innovative pilot STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Pipeline program for the past three years that reaches out to underrepresented middle schools, identifies children of promise and provides them with accelerated coursework and test prep. The program starts with rising seventh graders and offers them an intensive two year experience with classes during the summers and on Saturdays during the school year.</p> <p>We have had good success during the first two years that students in the program have sat for the test. This year, students received offers from Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant, and Brooklyn Latin, all specialized schools. Half of last year's students in the program – and nearly two-thirds this year – offered admission to Tech are black or Latino.</p> <p>We are encouraged by the support for diversity at specialized high schools shown by Albany legislators in both chambers who are proposing dedicating funds to create similar pipeline programs in every test-in school. This would cost less than $1.3 million a year, or $2.5 million over two years, and enable all eight specialized high schools to run outreach and test preparation programs in underrepresented middle schools throughout the city.</p> <p>While Mayor de Blasio is committed to combatting educational and economic inequality, it is still the case that a child's chances of educational success are closely correlated to where he or she grows up. Because test-in schools should serve students from every neighborhood, there is a special obligation to give all promising students tools to succeed.</p> <p>The answer is not to do away with an admissions test, but to make that promise of social equality real by committing resources and intellectual firepower so that every academically promising child, regardless of their neighborhood, has a fair chance of succeeding on the test, and beyond.</p> <p>***<br />Larry Cary is president of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/debaters_nyc_schools.jpg" alt="debaters nyc schools" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Student debaters (photo: @NYCschools)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last week, 5,000 eighth graders got the exciting news that they were offered admission to one of the city's eight test-in Specialized High Schools, which offer a quality public school education unmatched in the country. But while the vast majority come from poor, working class and immigrant families, as has always been the case, once again far too few come from the black and Latino communities.</p> <p>Black and Latino students comprise a large majority in the city's public school system and should be better represented among those offered admission to its top high schools. Unfortunately, this year about 500 fewer black and Latino students sat for the test compared to last year, and the percentage of these students offered admission declined as well.</p> <p>The school system, like the city it serves, is heavily segregated, but this lack of racial and ethnic diversity in our test-in schools is unacceptable for many reasons. Still, doing away with the test as the sole criteria for deciding admission and switching to inherently subjective multiple criteria would do little to ameliorate the imbalance and could make it worse according to last year's study by NYU's Institute for Education and Social Policy.</p> <p>The city must instead invest the resources – both financial and intellectual – and take proactive steps on both a long-term and an immediate basis in order to diversify admissions to our best schools.</p> <p>A program of enriched educational opportunity must be instituted in every neighborhood to permit all children to have a fair chance of success on the test and in life. Gifted and Talented Programs must exist in every district. Enriched education, especially in math and English language courses, must be available in every middle school in the city. When 53 percent of the students at test-in schools come from only 15 percent of middle schools, the fundamental answer to the problem of underrepresentation is clear.</p> <p>Immediate actions must be taken to increase the numbers of students from underrepresented communities sitting for the test. And, increased attention must be paid to better preparing underrepresented students to do well enough on the test to gain admission. There is no fixed passing grade on the test. "Passing" is simply a function of scoring high enough to rank among the 5,000 highest scoring students to qualify for admission to one of the schools.</p> <p>The Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation, which I head, with the support of National Grid, has worked with Brooklyn Tech to run an innovative pilot STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Pipeline program for the past three years that reaches out to underrepresented middle schools, identifies children of promise and provides them with accelerated coursework and test prep. The program starts with rising seventh graders and offers them an intensive two year experience with classes during the summers and on Saturdays during the school year.</p> <p>We have had good success during the first two years that students in the program have sat for the test. This year, students received offers from Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant, and Brooklyn Latin, all specialized schools. Half of last year's students in the program – and nearly two-thirds this year – offered admission to Tech are black or Latino.</p> <p>We are encouraged by the support for diversity at specialized high schools shown by Albany legislators in both chambers who are proposing dedicating funds to create similar pipeline programs in every test-in school. This would cost less than $1.3 million a year, or $2.5 million over two years, and enable all eight specialized high schools to run outreach and test preparation programs in underrepresented middle schools throughout the city.</p> <p>While Mayor de Blasio is committed to combatting educational and economic inequality, it is still the case that a child's chances of educational success are closely correlated to where he or she grows up. Because test-in schools should serve students from every neighborhood, there is a special obligation to give all promising students tools to succeed.</p> <p>The answer is not to do away with an admissions test, but to make that promise of social equality real by committing resources and intellectual firepower so that every academically promising child, regardless of their neighborhood, has a fair chance of succeeding on the test, and beyond.</p> <p>***<br />Larry Cary is president of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation.</p> <p>

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Addressing NYC's School Overcrowding Crisis 2016-03-07T19:27:28+00:00 2016-03-07T19:27:28+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6210:addressing-nycs-school-overcrowding-crisis Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img2424.jpg" alt="img2424" height="401" width="600" /></p> <p>Protesting school overcrowding in Queens</p> <hr /> <p>All parents in New York City deserve the peace of mind that their children will be able to attend a school where they can thrive and grow. Unfortunately, following years of neglect from the Bloomberg administration, our city's school system is plagued by school overcrowding and excessive class sizes, where hundreds of thousands of our children simply don't have adequate space to learn.</p> <p>With education a top priority for the city, it's critical that our leaders take strong action to address the chronic underfunding of our city's school infrastructure. Key to addressing this issue is investing sufficient capital resources in the city budget, as well as improving the current school planning process, which is broken.</p> <p>Recently, we've had some good news. When the city Department of Education (DOE) released its school capital plan, it included a commitment from Mayor de Blasio to invest nearly $900 million in additional resources to build more school seats. In the same plan, the DOE raised its needs assessment to 83,000 additional seats, given enrollment projections and existing overcrowding. This is closer to the 100,000-seat figure that Class Size Matters estimated in its recent report, "<a href="http://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/SPACE-CRUNCH-Report-Final-OL.pdf" target="_blank">Space Crunch</a>." Together, these two adjustments are a welcome acknowledgement of the crisis in school overcrowding, and we applaud them.</p> <p>But more should be done. The number of new seats in the capital plan is 49,000—only about 59 percent of the DOE's own admitted need—and New York City's population is growing faster than any other large city in the nation. The mayor is now urging the City Council to adopt rezoning plans to accelerate the construction of thousands of new affordable and market-rate housing units, which will increase pressure on our school system. At this critical moment, the city has a real opportunity to address housing and education together.</p> <p>Right now, more than half a million students are crammed into over-utilized schools, according to DOE data. In many cases, this means excessive class sizes of 30 or more, a loss of art, music, or science rooms, and a lack of dedicated spaces for students to receive counseling or mandated special education services – no less the wraparound services inherent in the community school model.</p> <p>According to the analysis in a recent report by Make the Road New York—"<a href="http://www.maketheroad.org/report.php?ID=4178" target="_blank">Where's My Seat?</a>"—immigrant communities have especially egregious overcrowding problems and even greater unmet needs in the DOE capital plan. In many of the schools in these neighborhoods, children are forced to eat their lunch as early as 10 a.m. or are bused to schools far away from their homes. Many do not have adequate opportunity for physical education because there is not enough space in their gyms.</p> <p>We need to build, lease, and expand more schools. At least the 83,000 seats that the DOE projects are necessary. In addition, the process of school planning and siting must be made more efficient. There are many communities, like Sunset Park, which have suffered from extreme overcrowding for a decade or more, even though funding to build more schools in the neighborhood has existed in the capital plan, because the School Construction Agency has not been able to site a single one.</p> <p>According to the DOE, only 15 percent of the school seats needed by 2019 have sites identified and are in the process of being designed. In seven districts, that percentage is zero. The city will fall even further behind in creating seats if the mayor's rezoning proposals are adopted, unless much more is done to build and site schools. A recent Environmental Impact Statement for the East New York rezoning proposal found it would exacerbate school overcrowding, and, along with other changes, drive high school overcrowding in the borough to 109 percent of capacity. Yet the DOE capital plan does not include a single Brooklyn high school to be built.</p> <p>That is why we are urging the City Council, along with the mayor, to create a commission or task force of experts and stakeholder groups, to propose reforms to the school planning process, so that schools must be built along with housing, instead of decades afterwards. Among the issues to be considered would be reforms to the zoning process, including whether the threshold to consider the need for a new school should be lowered – especially when the schools are already overcrowded; whether the formula used by City Planning to estimate the impact of new housing on schools needs to be updated; whether the city should require impact fees from developers and/or use eminent domain more frequently; and how the trends in lost seats, utilization rates, and enrollment could be made more transparent and more accurate through regular reporting by the DOE.</p> <p>As Mayor de Blasio repeated in his recent State of the City speech, the goal across our city must be to ensure that neighborhoods thrive. There cannot be successful neighborhoods unless there are schools with enough space for the children in every community across the city to learn and prosper. It's time to invest all the necessary resources and improve the school planning process to ensure the bright future that all of our children deserve.</p> <p>***<br />Leonie Haimson is the Executive Director of Class Size Matters. Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/leoniehaimson" target="_blank">@leoniehaimson</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/javierhvaldes" target="_blank">@javierhvaldes</a>.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img2424.jpg" alt="img2424" height="401" width="600" /></p> <p>Protesting school overcrowding in Queens</p> <hr /> <p>All parents in New York City deserve the peace of mind that their children will be able to attend a school where they can thrive and grow. Unfortunately, following years of neglect from the Bloomberg administration, our city's school system is plagued by school overcrowding and excessive class sizes, where hundreds of thousands of our children simply don't have adequate space to learn.</p> <p>With education a top priority for the city, it's critical that our leaders take strong action to address the chronic underfunding of our city's school infrastructure. Key to addressing this issue is investing sufficient capital resources in the city budget, as well as improving the current school planning process, which is broken.</p> <p>Recently, we've had some good news. When the city Department of Education (DOE) released its school capital plan, it included a commitment from Mayor de Blasio to invest nearly $900 million in additional resources to build more school seats. In the same plan, the DOE raised its needs assessment to 83,000 additional seats, given enrollment projections and existing overcrowding. This is closer to the 100,000-seat figure that Class Size Matters estimated in its recent report, "<a href="http://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/SPACE-CRUNCH-Report-Final-OL.pdf" target="_blank">Space Crunch</a>." Together, these two adjustments are a welcome acknowledgement of the crisis in school overcrowding, and we applaud them.</p> <p>But more should be done. The number of new seats in the capital plan is 49,000—only about 59 percent of the DOE's own admitted need—and New York City's population is growing faster than any other large city in the nation. The mayor is now urging the City Council to adopt rezoning plans to accelerate the construction of thousands of new affordable and market-rate housing units, which will increase pressure on our school system. At this critical moment, the city has a real opportunity to address housing and education together.</p> <p>Right now, more than half a million students are crammed into over-utilized schools, according to DOE data. In many cases, this means excessive class sizes of 30 or more, a loss of art, music, or science rooms, and a lack of dedicated spaces for students to receive counseling or mandated special education services – no less the wraparound services inherent in the community school model.</p> <p>According to the analysis in a recent report by Make the Road New York—"<a href="http://www.maketheroad.org/report.php?ID=4178" target="_blank">Where's My Seat?</a>"—immigrant communities have especially egregious overcrowding problems and even greater unmet needs in the DOE capital plan. In many of the schools in these neighborhoods, children are forced to eat their lunch as early as 10 a.m. or are bused to schools far away from their homes. Many do not have adequate opportunity for physical education because there is not enough space in their gyms.</p> <p>We need to build, lease, and expand more schools. At least the 83,000 seats that the DOE projects are necessary. In addition, the process of school planning and siting must be made more efficient. There are many communities, like Sunset Park, which have suffered from extreme overcrowding for a decade or more, even though funding to build more schools in the neighborhood has existed in the capital plan, because the School Construction Agency has not been able to site a single one.</p> <p>According to the DOE, only 15 percent of the school seats needed by 2019 have sites identified and are in the process of being designed. In seven districts, that percentage is zero. The city will fall even further behind in creating seats if the mayor's rezoning proposals are adopted, unless much more is done to build and site schools. A recent Environmental Impact Statement for the East New York rezoning proposal found it would exacerbate school overcrowding, and, along with other changes, drive high school overcrowding in the borough to 109 percent of capacity. Yet the DOE capital plan does not include a single Brooklyn high school to be built.</p> <p>That is why we are urging the City Council, along with the mayor, to create a commission or task force of experts and stakeholder groups, to propose reforms to the school planning process, so that schools must be built along with housing, instead of decades afterwards. Among the issues to be considered would be reforms to the zoning process, including whether the threshold to consider the need for a new school should be lowered – especially when the schools are already overcrowded; whether the formula used by City Planning to estimate the impact of new housing on schools needs to be updated; whether the city should require impact fees from developers and/or use eminent domain more frequently; and how the trends in lost seats, utilization rates, and enrollment could be made more transparent and more accurate through regular reporting by the DOE.</p> <p>As Mayor de Blasio repeated in his recent State of the City speech, the goal across our city must be to ensure that neighborhoods thrive. There cannot be successful neighborhoods unless there are schools with enough space for the children in every community across the city to learn and prosper. It's time to invest all the necessary resources and improve the school planning process to ensure the bright future that all of our children deserve.</p> <p>***<br />Leonie Haimson is the Executive Director of Class Size Matters. Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/leoniehaimson" target="_blank">@leoniehaimson</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/javierhvaldes" target="_blank">@javierhvaldes</a>.</p> Is Mayor De Blasio Putting Students First? 2016-02-04T17:04:12+00:00 2016-02-04T17:04:12+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6146:is-mayor-de-blasio-putting-students-first Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/21286254099_7a9ba6c03c_z.jpg" alt="de blasio education" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo via The Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor de Blasio's annual State of the City address is a natural time to take a step back and review his performance running the largest school system in the United States. For StudentsFirstNY, our most basic litmus test for policymakers is a simple question – are they putting the interests of students first? After two full years with Mayor de Blasio, we can definitively say that the answer is "no."</p> <p>In analyzing Mayor de Blasio's stewardship of city schools, there are several themes that emerge. First, there is a distinct lack of urgency in delivering results for students. Second, his policies are not based on research. He has ignored evidence that programs like small schools and expanded choice work. Third, he has not shown results on failing schools. And finally, the mayor has ignored teacher quality.</p> <p>Throughout the course of his time in office, this mayor has not shown much fondness for the details of his job. He seems more comfortable pondering the course of progressive philosophy or knocking on doors in Iowa, for example, than he does in setting specific timelines and metrics for results. Take his much-hyped program to have every child read by third grade. The goal is noble, but he doesn't promise results that can be measured until 2026 – long after he is gone from office. What good does that do for kids who will be trying to learn to read this year, or next year, or for years after that?</p> <p>A strong education leader understands that setting realistic short-term targets is essential to tracking results and ensuring progress towards a greater goal. Without real, deliverable metrics, these programs are little more than press releases with empty promises that may never come to fruition.</p> <p>Another hallmark of Mayor de Blasio's time in office has been a fundamental rejection of data and research-based decision-making. Under Mayor Bloomberg, the school system was improving – but Mayor de Blasio has rejected the use of evidence as a personal rebuke of his predecessor. In its place is a menu of nice sounding initiatives that have never been shown to actually improve educational outcomes for kids.</p> <p>Time and time again, Mayor de Blasio has opted to make education decisions based on politics, even when it means rejecting policies that have a proven track record of success. Take small schools as an example. Countless studies have shown that small schools work, but the de Blasio administration has rejected them for political reasons.</p> <p>The same is true with charter schools. Even though New York City has the longest waiting list in the country, with tens of thousands of parents hoping to get spots for their kids in charter schools, the mayor has fought tooth-and-nail against them. Why? It's not about serving kids; the mayor's political allies in the teachers union want to stifle their competition.</p> <p>These politically-motivated decisions threaten to trap another generation of students in failing schools, with no hope of a turnaround. The "Renewal" model was supposed to be Mayor de Blasio's signature program, but so far it has accomplished little for kids in the city's lowest performing schools. Some Renewal schools hit their target goals before the program had even started – a sure sign of artificially low expectations. And despite the claims of progress, objective student achievement measures show that these schools continue to perform poorly.</p> <p>Finally, Mayor de Blasio has not lifted a finger to improve teacher quality. He missed a golden opportunity to improve teacher quality with fundamental reforms during the 2014 teacher contract negotiations. Instead of reform, de Blasio caved to the UFT on every key issue – everything from merit pay for great teachers to eliminating the unwanted teachers from the ATR pool. The mayor likes to call this "collaboration," but in reality, the UFT gets what it wants at the expense of kids. So students are stuck with ineffective teachers and the teachers that no principal wants are forced back into the classroom.</p> <p>At the end of the day, we need to know that students are learning and have access to the highest quality schools possible. Halfway through Mayor de Blasio's term, it's not enough to talk a good game. It's time to deliver results.</p> <p>***<br />Jenny Sedlis is the Executive Director of StudentsFirstNY. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JennySedlis" target="_blank">@JennySedlis</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/StudentsFirstNY" target="_blank">@StudentsFirstNY</a>.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/21286254099_7a9ba6c03c_z.jpg" alt="de blasio education" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo via The Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor de Blasio's annual State of the City address is a natural time to take a step back and review his performance running the largest school system in the United States. For StudentsFirstNY, our most basic litmus test for policymakers is a simple question – are they putting the interests of students first? After two full years with Mayor de Blasio, we can definitively say that the answer is "no."</p> <p>In analyzing Mayor de Blasio's stewardship of city schools, there are several themes that emerge. First, there is a distinct lack of urgency in delivering results for students. Second, his policies are not based on research. He has ignored evidence that programs like small schools and expanded choice work. Third, he has not shown results on failing schools. And finally, the mayor has ignored teacher quality.</p> <p>Throughout the course of his time in office, this mayor has not shown much fondness for the details of his job. He seems more comfortable pondering the course of progressive philosophy or knocking on doors in Iowa, for example, than he does in setting specific timelines and metrics for results. Take his much-hyped program to have every child read by third grade. The goal is noble, but he doesn't promise results that can be measured until 2026 – long after he is gone from office. What good does that do for kids who will be trying to learn to read this year, or next year, or for years after that?</p> <p>A strong education leader understands that setting realistic short-term targets is essential to tracking results and ensuring progress towards a greater goal. Without real, deliverable metrics, these programs are little more than press releases with empty promises that may never come to fruition.</p> <p>Another hallmark of Mayor de Blasio's time in office has been a fundamental rejection of data and research-based decision-making. Under Mayor Bloomberg, the school system was improving – but Mayor de Blasio has rejected the use of evidence as a personal rebuke of his predecessor. In its place is a menu of nice sounding initiatives that have never been shown to actually improve educational outcomes for kids.</p> <p>Time and time again, Mayor de Blasio has opted to make education decisions based on politics, even when it means rejecting policies that have a proven track record of success. Take small schools as an example. Countless studies have shown that small schools work, but the de Blasio administration has rejected them for political reasons.</p> <p>The same is true with charter schools. Even though New York City has the longest waiting list in the country, with tens of thousands of parents hoping to get spots for their kids in charter schools, the mayor has fought tooth-and-nail against them. Why? It's not about serving kids; the mayor's political allies in the teachers union want to stifle their competition.</p> <p>These politically-motivated decisions threaten to trap another generation of students in failing schools, with no hope of a turnaround. The "Renewal" model was supposed to be Mayor de Blasio's signature program, but so far it has accomplished little for kids in the city's lowest performing schools. Some Renewal schools hit their target goals before the program had even started – a sure sign of artificially low expectations. And despite the claims of progress, objective student achievement measures show that these schools continue to perform poorly.</p> <p>Finally, Mayor de Blasio has not lifted a finger to improve teacher quality. He missed a golden opportunity to improve teacher quality with fundamental reforms during the 2014 teacher contract negotiations. Instead of reform, de Blasio caved to the UFT on every key issue – everything from merit pay for great teachers to eliminating the unwanted teachers from the ATR pool. The mayor likes to call this "collaboration," but in reality, the UFT gets what it wants at the expense of kids. So students are stuck with ineffective teachers and the teachers that no principal wants are forced back into the classroom.</p> <p>At the end of the day, we need to know that students are learning and have access to the highest quality schools possible. Halfway through Mayor de Blasio's term, it's not enough to talk a good game. It's time to deliver results.</p> <p>***<br />Jenny Sedlis is the Executive Director of StudentsFirstNY. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JennySedlis" target="_blank">@JennySedlis</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/StudentsFirstNY" target="_blank">@StudentsFirstNY</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
Time to Support New York Students with Billions Still Owed from Campaign for Fiscal Equity 2016-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 2016-01-24T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6110:time-to-support-new-york-students-with-44-billion-still-owed-from-campaign-for-fiscal-equity Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/dromm_idnyc_visit_.jpg" alt="dromm idnyc visit " width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Council Member Dromm (middle), the author, at the Queens Library</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo's recently proposed budget plan for education is a mixed bag, but represents a major shift from his attacks on public education in years past. Ultimately, however, his plan falls short by allocating less than $1 billion in new education money this year at a time when public schools are still owed more than $4.4 billion in Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) funding.</p> <p>The CFE was a lawsuit brought by parents against the State of New York over a decade ago. These parents charged the State with failing to provide public school students with an adequate education. In 2006, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding the State in violation of a student's constitutional right to a "sound and basic education" by underfunding schools.</p> <p>Nearly ten years later students have still not received the money due to them. The State still owes New York City a staggering $2 billion, leaving our public schools woefully underfunded.</p> <p>Even the $1.3 billion school aid increase provided in the 2015-16 budget was not enough to restore the massive cuts our schools suffered earlier in the decade. Public schools in immigrant and low-income communities are particularly affected, most of which are owed over 77% of outstanding CFE dollars.</p> <p>Just imagine the transformative impact a $4.4 billion dollar investment in public education would have on our children's lives. If adequately funded, schools would have the ability to hire additional teachers and school support personnel. Among other things, these sorely needed dollars would provide our students with a more robust physical education and help expand arts education in our schools. These CFE funds would bring about a dramatic reduction in class sizes in New York's most overcrowded school districts. The possibilities are endless.</p> <p>Credit where credit is due: I am excited that the Governor sees the value of the community school model and recognizes how successful community schools have been in New York City. Supporting students holistically—by offering support groups and child daycare for parents, access to physical and mental healthcare, mentors for students and other valuable services—will make them successful in many ways.<br />The $100 million he has allocated for community schools is welcome news, but falls short of the $500 million needed considering that these schools have grown exponentially over the past year.</p> <p>I am hopeful that the Governor's budget plan signifies a renewed interest in public education. But it's high time he settles this ten-year-old debt. New York State must deliver the entire $4.4 billion in CFE funding it owes in order to truly do right by our children. Their futures deserve no less.</p> <p>***<br />Daniel Dromm is a City Council member from Queens and chair of the Council Committee on Education. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Dromm25" target="_blank">@Dromm25</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/dromm_idnyc_visit_.jpg" alt="dromm idnyc visit " width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Council Member Dromm (middle), the author, at the Queens Library</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo's recently proposed budget plan for education is a mixed bag, but represents a major shift from his attacks on public education in years past. Ultimately, however, his plan falls short by allocating less than $1 billion in new education money this year at a time when public schools are still owed more than $4.4 billion in Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) funding.</p> <p>The CFE was a lawsuit brought by parents against the State of New York over a decade ago. These parents charged the State with failing to provide public school students with an adequate education. In 2006, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding the State in violation of a student's constitutional right to a "sound and basic education" by underfunding schools.</p> <p>Nearly ten years later students have still not received the money due to them. The State still owes New York City a staggering $2 billion, leaving our public schools woefully underfunded.</p> <p>Even the $1.3 billion school aid increase provided in the 2015-16 budget was not enough to restore the massive cuts our schools suffered earlier in the decade. Public schools in immigrant and low-income communities are particularly affected, most of which are owed over 77% of outstanding CFE dollars.</p> <p>Just imagine the transformative impact a $4.4 billion dollar investment in public education would have on our children's lives. If adequately funded, schools would have the ability to hire additional teachers and school support personnel. Among other things, these sorely needed dollars would provide our students with a more robust physical education and help expand arts education in our schools. These CFE funds would bring about a dramatic reduction in class sizes in New York's most overcrowded school districts. The possibilities are endless.</p> <p>Credit where credit is due: I am excited that the Governor sees the value of the community school model and recognizes how successful community schools have been in New York City. Supporting students holistically—by offering support groups and child daycare for parents, access to physical and mental healthcare, mentors for students and other valuable services—will make them successful in many ways.<br />The $100 million he has allocated for community schools is welcome news, but falls short of the $500 million needed considering that these schools have grown exponentially over the past year.</p> <p>I am hopeful that the Governor's budget plan signifies a renewed interest in public education. But it's high time he settles this ten-year-old debt. New York State must deliver the entire $4.4 billion in CFE funding it owes in order to truly do right by our children. Their futures deserve no less.</p> <p>***<br />Daniel Dromm is a City Council member from Queens and chair of the Council Committee on Education. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Dromm25" target="_blank">@Dromm25</a>.</p> <p>

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</p>
DOE Language Access Expansion Builds Bridges to City Families 2016-01-17T03:44:20+00:00 2016-01-17T03:44:20+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6095:doe-language-access-expansion-builds-bridges-to-city-families Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/unnamed_1.jpg" alt="choi DOE" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Steven Choi, the author&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>For years, advocates and community based organizations have urged the New York City Department of Education to increase translation and interpretation services to public school parents and guardians with limited English proficiency. Last week, I was honored to join schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, a true champion for the immigrant community to announce a series of initiatives aimed at easing language access for parents in schools.</p> <p>Immigrant families face tremendous obstacles – speaking to their child's teacher or principal should not be one of them. With nearly half of public school students – almost half a million families – speaking a language other than English at home, it is essential that these families have the ability to participate in their children's school lives. That's why the New York Immigration Coalition and our Education Collaborative of member organizations representing Asian, Arab, Caribbean, African, Latino, and other immigrant families, launched our "Build the Bridge" campaign that advocated for increased translation and interpretation for immigrant parents.</p> <p>And we are grateful that the DOE has stepped up and heard our calls. The city's language access expansion efforts are a significant step that will help notably reduce language gaps in our schools. The expansion includes the creation of nine new full-time positions in the Borough Field Support Centers and Affinity Groups that will determine the specific needs of each school, and build the necessary supports so that parents receive quality translation and interpretation services.</p> <p>The expansion also includes new direct access to over-the-phone interpreters available after 5 p.m. In the past, schools had to contact the Translation and Interpretation Unit, which then connected the call – a step that has been eliminated. This will help reduce wait time for an interpreter, and allow teachers and staff to call non-English speaking families after business hours. Interpreters are available in 200 languages. In addition, starting this month, members of the Citywide and Community Education Councils will also receive additional language support. We want our elected parent leaders to be representative of our diverse school system and want to make sure they are able to communicate among themselves and with others no matter the language they speak.</p> <p>Having the ability to communicate with parents in a language they understand and in a timely fashion is key to the DOE's work. We will keep up our efforts to ensure that immigrant students and parents are provided with culturally competent services to further strengthen this bridge to immigrant families that the DOE, with help and support from advocates, has built. We celebrate this groundbreaking accomplishment and thank Chancellor Fariña and the DOE for their continued efforts to improve services for immigrant families all across our great city.</p> <p>***<br />by Steven Choi is Executive Director of New York Immigration Coalition. On Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/SteveChoiNYIC" target="_blank">@stevechoinyic</a>&nbsp;&amp;&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/thenyic" target="_blank">@thenyic</a>.</p> <p>***<br />Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? E-mail editor Ben Max: <a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/unnamed_1.jpg" alt="choi DOE" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Steven Choi, the author&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>For years, advocates and community based organizations have urged the New York City Department of Education to increase translation and interpretation services to public school parents and guardians with limited English proficiency. Last week, I was honored to join schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, a true champion for the immigrant community to announce a series of initiatives aimed at easing language access for parents in schools.</p> <p>Immigrant families face tremendous obstacles – speaking to their child's teacher or principal should not be one of them. With nearly half of public school students – almost half a million families – speaking a language other than English at home, it is essential that these families have the ability to participate in their children's school lives. That's why the New York Immigration Coalition and our Education Collaborative of member organizations representing Asian, Arab, Caribbean, African, Latino, and other immigrant families, launched our "Build the Bridge" campaign that advocated for increased translation and interpretation for immigrant parents.</p> <p>And we are grateful that the DOE has stepped up and heard our calls. The city's language access expansion efforts are a significant step that will help notably reduce language gaps in our schools. The expansion includes the creation of nine new full-time positions in the Borough Field Support Centers and Affinity Groups that will determine the specific needs of each school, and build the necessary supports so that parents receive quality translation and interpretation services.</p> <p>The expansion also includes new direct access to over-the-phone interpreters available after 5 p.m. In the past, schools had to contact the Translation and Interpretation Unit, which then connected the call – a step that has been eliminated. This will help reduce wait time for an interpreter, and allow teachers and staff to call non-English speaking families after business hours. Interpreters are available in 200 languages. In addition, starting this month, members of the Citywide and Community Education Councils will also receive additional language support. We want our elected parent leaders to be representative of our diverse school system and want to make sure they are able to communicate among themselves and with others no matter the language they speak.</p> <p>Having the ability to communicate with parents in a language they understand and in a timely fashion is key to the DOE's work. We will keep up our efforts to ensure that immigrant students and parents are provided with culturally competent services to further strengthen this bridge to immigrant families that the DOE, with help and support from advocates, has built. We celebrate this groundbreaking accomplishment and thank Chancellor Fariña and the DOE for their continued efforts to improve services for immigrant families all across our great city.</p> <p>***<br />by Steven Choi is Executive Director of New York Immigration Coalition. On Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/SteveChoiNYIC" target="_blank">@stevechoinyic</a>&nbsp;&amp;&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/thenyic" target="_blank">@thenyic</a>.</p> <p>***<br />Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? E-mail editor Ben Max: <a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></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> In End of Session 'Scorecard,' Plenty for Next Year's Albany Agenda 2015-06-29T20:09:15+00:00 2015-06-29T20:09:15+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5791:in-end-of-session-scorecard-plenty-for-next-years-albany-agenda Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/19131688266_b1bf3b40bb_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Heastie Flanagan" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (L-R) (photo: Governor's Office <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/19131688266/in/album-72157654656109670/" target="_blank">via flickr</a>)</span></p> <hr /> <p>In the Democrat-controlled Assembly, it was 122-13; in the Republican-controlled Senate, 47-12. With those votes and a Governor Andrew Cuomo signature, a final policy package brought an underwhelming end to a tumultuous 2015 legislative session in New York's capital.&nbsp;</p> <p>Look at <a href="http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S6012-2015" target="_blank">the bill</a>, which combines laws on a variety of disparate issues, and see it's headlined "relates to rent-control provisions," referencing what was to many the most important aspect of the deal reached by Governor Cuomo, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. This year's 'three men in a room' took a little extra time to get to "yes," with the 2015 'big ugly' passed through the Legislature a little over a week after the originally scheduled end of session.</p> <p>You can forgive Albany lawmakers for being a little tardy, though - as Governor Cuomo has said, it was no ordinary year in Albany. "This was a very difficult year," Cuomo said last Tuesday when announcing the framework of a deal. "There were extraordinary developments...It was almost unimaginable to have this kind of change in this period of time. You wound up with two new leaders." He was, of course, alluding to the fact that both Flanagan's and Heastie's predeccesors were <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5710-dean-skelos-thwarted-reform-and-maintained-power-despite-the-odds" target="_blank">arrested</a> on corruption charges earlier this year.</p> <p>Along with an extension of rent regulations that mostly concern New York City tenants and their allies, the deal includes action briefly extending mayoral control of city schools and the 421-a real estate tax abatement program; providing property tax rebates; setting aside funding for nonpublic schools; and altering the cap on charter schools so more can open in New York City. Cuomo and the Legislature also struck deals on campus sexual conduct and nail salon regulation.</p> <p>While extensions were passed on major sunsetting items, the 2015 deal may be more notable for how much it did not include than for what it did.</p> <p>Cases in point: noting the absence of items he had promised action on, Cuomo announced two executive orders he would be issuing on criminal justice issues. Facing an uncooperative Senate, the governor had also already <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5739-cuomo-seizes-on-wage-issue-as-legislature-sits-paralyzed-by-scandal-partisanship" target="_blank">set things in motion</a> to up the minimum wage on his own, with his Department of Labor convening a fast food worker wage board set to deliver recommendations soon.</p> <p>But on those issues some action is being taken - there is also a wide variety of policy seeing no movement through the end of session deal or Cuomo on his own, angering advocates behind pushes to enact paid family leave, the Gender Non-Discrimination Act, the DREAM Act, government ethics and campaign finance reform, and mixed martial arts (MMA), to name a few of the most-sought. New York will continue to be the only state that does not sanction MMA and one of only two that continues to try 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system.</p> <p>Yet according to Cuomo, the end-of-session deal is a robust package, plenty good for New Yorkers, and further evidence that New York government is functional. Speaking at a press conference announcing a final agreement, Cuomo said, "I am personally very happy and very proud of this legislative package. I think that it is responsive to the problems that are pressing the state right now. I think that it is actually a very robust and extensive legislative package of reforms that goes a long way towards making this state a better state."</p> <p>The governor also praised Flanagan and Heastie. "These gentlemen were in a very difficult situation to step in as a new leader," Cuomo said, adding that it was "extraordinary" that the two could step into the legislative process in the middle of negotiations and ensure government keeps working.</p> <p>Flanagan seemed mostly pleased with the session's policy outcomes. Heastie less so. But, Heastie and many of his supporters have been quick to note that the deal appears to be the best the new speaker could do. He was fighting an uphill battle, many Democrats argue, against an obstinate Senate Republican conference and, in some cases, an unsympathetic Democratic governor. New York City Democrats - elected and otherwise - were largely disappointed, and many point a finger at Cuomo, who they say did not fight hard enough on key issues or for tenants.</p> <p>State Senator Adriano Espaillat, a Manhattan Democrat who voted against the end-of-session deal, said, "We are far from where we need to be to protect tenants...we need strong rent laws, not a slight improvement."</p> <p>City Comptroller Scott Stringer said similarly, "When it came to protecting tenants, Albany failed miserably," Stringer said Sunday on John Catsimatidis' radio show, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/stringer-lawmakers-failed-miserably-protect-tenants-article-1.2274725" target="_blank">according to</a> the Daily News. "We have an affordable housing crisis," Stringer added, "But the rent stabilization deal didn't address those issues."</p> <p>The rent laws took center stage as Albany lawmakers let them briefly expire and the session <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5776-albany-lawmakers-putter-past-deadlines-surprising-no-one" target="_blank">puttered into overtime</a>. But, the regulations were among many issues at play, some of which saw action. In looking at the outcomes of the 2015 legislative session - which some have called anemic or <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/political-itch/2015/06/29/ny1-itch--riding-off-into-albany-s-sunset-.html" target="_blank">"the absolutely bare minimum"</a> - we see the initial framework for next year's policy agenda.</p> <p><strong>WHAT WAS DONE<br /></strong><strong>Rent Regulations:</strong> extended for four years, and strengthened slightly with an increase and indexing of the threshold by which units can be removed from the regulated rolls; an increase in civil harassment penalties where owners harass a tenant to obtain a vacancy; and an adjustment to the limits landlords can charge tenants to receive reimbursement for building improvements. Senate Republicans attempted to insert income verification measures, but they did not make the final deal.</p> <p>Of Assembly Speaker Heastie's push on rent regulations, Governor Cuomo said, "I believe the rent package that he has obtained is a major step forward. You have certain voices that would say rent regulations should just go away - I understand that, but that's not going to happen any time soon. But he has done an extraordinary job in crafting a program that addresses the entire spectrum of the problem."</p> <p><strong>Reaction:</strong> the extension came as a relief to tenants and their allies, but is seen as largely inadequate, as the comments from Espaillat and Stringer indicate. City Council Member Jumaane Williams has said that "Governor Cuomo completely and thoroughly let New York City tenants down."</p> <p>A spokesperson for a coalition of pro-tenant groups, Real Affordability for All, said "This deal is very bad for tenants, good for corruption and a step further to eliminating the largest source of affordable housing in the state. The changes included to the laws are as insignificant as the reforms made in 2011, which led to the displacement of thousands of working class New Yorkers and to the high record number of families who ended up in city shelters. It completely ignores the affordable housing crisis." Activists say thousands of rent regulated apartments will be lost each year and they plan to continue to protest the deal.</p> <p><strong>Taxes:</strong> the state property tax cap, limiting growth at two percent per year, is extended for an additional four years, and a new property tax credit, "$3.1 billion over four years in direct relief to struggling New York taxpayers," is included. In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan said, "We are taking action on long-held Republican priorities that reduce the property tax burden here in New York so that we can create jobs, grow businesses, and help taxpayers keep more of their hard-earned money."</p> <p><strong>Reaction:</strong> the governor is largely praised for fiscal discipline when it comes to property tax increases, while the property tax cap and the new tax credit are seen as wins for middle class and wealthy homeowners. The Citizens Budget Commission, however, expresses concern about the tax credit, <a href="http://www.cbcny.org/cbc-blogs/blogs/expensive-albany-deal" target="_blank">writing</a>, "The legislative package passed in Albany last week rejected some misguided and expensive proposals, including a tax credit for benefactors of private schools. Unfortunately, other expensive proposals were included, adding to current and future state expenses without providing offsetting savings or revenues...By far the largest part is a new property tax relief rebate program, which will cost $1.3 billion annually when fully implemented."</p> <p><strong>421-a:</strong> "The legislation extends the 421-a program for six months, with a provision that allows representatives of labor and industry groups to reach a memorandum of understanding regarding wage protections for construction workers. If such an agreement is reached, the program will automatically be extended for four years," according to a release from the governor's office. A key piece of the deal is that affordable housing will be mandated as part of any development approved to receive the tax break, a significant change from the previous version, which included major exceptions. The deal also bans the so-called "poor door" setup that some developers enacted with separate entrances for market-rate tenants and affordable unit tenants.</p> <p><strong>Reaction:</strong> 421-a was a source of conflict between Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. The final plan - assuming that the two sides can come to a wage agreement - is very close to what de Blasio proposed, which he and his aides have pointed out, including through a convincing <a href="https://twitter.com/WileyNorvell/status/614466574192410624" target="_blank">infographic</a>.</p> <p>"Some real progress was made on 421-a. We were very proud of that fact," de Blasio said on Monday, <a href="http://observer.com/2015/06/despite-cuomos-claims-de-blasio-hails-real-progress-on-421a/#ixzz3eTdoWewO" target="_blank">according to</a> The Observer. "We're going to have a lot more affordable housing than we would have otherwise, and taxpayers are going to get a much better deal, because any time we subsidize a building, there will be affordable housing as part of that." The deal does not include the so-called "mansion tax" de Blasio called for on sales of apartments over $1.75 million and used to fund affordable housing, which the mayor called "a mistake" and a "lost opportunity."</p> <p>The deal appears to work for just about all the key stakeholders, though the labor agreement that must be reached could halt the celebration, and even if it is worked out by the parties, the proof of this deal's success will be in the pudding that is real estate development and accompanying affordable housing built over the coming years.</p> <p><strong>Education:</strong> there is $250 million to private schools "for the costs of performing State-mandated services," money which many say the schools are already owed; requirements for the "disclosure of state exam questions and answers" and other measures to improve standardized testing; a "one-year extension of mayoral control of the New York City school system"; and an "increase in the number of charter schools available to be issued in New York City to 50 and enhanced flexibility in teacher certification rules" for charter schools.</p> <p><strong>Reaction:</strong> de Blasio and his allies had sought at least three years extension of mayoral control (de Blasio had originally pushed for it to be made permanent and the Assmebly had passed a seven-year extension); the one-year deal is seen as an insult to the mayor and, to some, revenge by Senate Republicans for de Blasio's 2014 efforts to swing the Senate to Democrats. It is unclear how much Governor Cuomo fought for a longer extension, though he had himself originally proposed three years early in 2015. "The outcome of the negotiations was the best that we could do," Cuomo said. Mayoral control will now be a focal point again in 2016 as de Blasio seeks another extension.</p> <p>Meanwhile, much of the rest of the deal appears to extend the governor's education reform agenda. Cuomo allies in the charter school sector praised the deal. "Today Albany leaders stepped up and delivered for parents and students who demanded more choice," said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis. "Too many children are stuck in failing schools without options...Thankfully, Albany leaders understand that charter schools play a critical role in the delivery of free, public education in New York."</p> <p>Albany lawmakers also announced a deal enacting Cuomo's "Enough is Enough" <strong>campus sexual assault conduct policy</strong> across the state. "We have a bill on sexual assault on campuses that is the smartest and toughest bill in the United States," Cuomo said announcing the deal. "I think it's going to set a new national model for other states to follow."</p> <p><strong>EXECUTIVE ACTION:<br /></strong>The governor is taking executive action on three issues, each of which will still be revisited in terms of legislation, likely in 2016.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo wanted legislation passed to <strong>raise the age of criminal responsibility</strong>, but Senate Republicans balked. "To me the single most important piece of 'raise the age' is getting the 16- and 17-year-olds out of state prisons and that's what I can do by executive order," Cuomo said last week. "We'll be creating facilities designed for those 16- and 17-year-olds that will be much more appropriate than a state prison," he said.</p> <p>Cuomo also announced that since he could not come to a deal with legislative leaders on a <strong>special prosecutor</strong> in cases where police officers kill unarmed civilians, he was appointing the attorney general as such for one year, and will hope to come to a legislative solution in 2016.</p> <p>The governor has pushed a further increase in the <strong>minimum wage</strong>, which is now $8.75 per hour and set to go to $9 at the end of the year. Unable to get Senate Republicans to bite, Cuomo announced he had instructed his Department of Labor <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5739-cuomo-seizes-on-wage-issue-as-legislature-sits-paralyzed-by-scandal-partisanship" target="_blank">to convene a wage board</a> examining wages in the fast food industry. The wage board has held several public hearings and is set to announce its recommendations any day. Hopes are high that the board will "do the right thing and recommend a $15 wage for fast-food workers that will take effect as soon as possible," as a statement from Working Families Party State Director Bill Lipton read. Even if the board announces something less than $15 per hour, it is likely to push a significantly higher wage than $9.</p> <p><strong>ON TO NEXT YEAR:<br /></strong>While Cuomo acts on his own regarding the minimum wage in the fast food industry, where 16- and 17-year olds are imprisoned, and how investigations into police killings of unarmed civilians are run, it is almost certain that the governor and others will want to see legislative action on the three issues come 2016.</p> <p>Advocates will have to continue to push for <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5734-as-he-campaigns-for-top-priorities-many-wonder-where-cuomo-is-on-dream" target="_blank">the DREAM Act</a>; paid family leave; the Gender Non-Discrimination Act; raising the age of criminal responsibility and other criminal justice reforms; an increase in the minimum wage; legalizing <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5620-fight-for-mma-legalization-sees-new-life-after-silver-ko" target="_blank">mixed martial arts</a>; ethics and campaign finance reform; and much more. Cuomo did not get Assembly Democrats to agree to his education tax credit proposal that would have incentivized contributions to nonpublic schools, and it is unclear if there will be another push for it in the future. It is clear, however, that the other issues on this list will remain the focus of much lobbying and activism:</p> <p><strong>Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform:</strong> "I'm disappointed and, frankly, find it incomprehensible, that there were not further measures taken to reform the procedures in our state government and in our campaigns," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said on Friday, <a href="http://observer.com/2015/06/schneiderman-calls-absence-of-ethics-reform-from-albany-deal-incomprehensible/" target="_blank">according to</a> The Observer.</p> <p>Schneiderman, who has put forth his own sweeping ethics reform package, said he wants to see a special legislative session before the scheduled January return of business to Albany. Good government groups, including Citizens Union, the Brennan Center, and NYPIRG, released a statement saying, "New York's leading civic organizations today decried Albany's continuing failure to fully address the ceaseless ethics problems head-on during the 2015 legislative session. The groups called on Governor Cuomo and the state's legislative leaders to convene a special session to tackle ethics reforms before the end of the calendar year."</p> <p>Among the reforms the good government groups and Schneiderman want to see are limits on legislators' outside income and the closing of the infamous <strong>LLC loophole</strong>, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations.</p> <p><strong>The Gender Non-Discrimination Act:</strong> The State Assembly has passed GENDA eight times, but the legislation, which, according to the Empire State Pride Agenda, "would update the state's anti-discrimination protections to cover transgender New Yorkers," has stalled in the Senate. The Pride Agenda released a statement saying that with the end of "a deplorably unproductive legislative session," the Senate has left transgender New Yorkers at continued risk "to the vicious discrimination that haunts countless trans lives." The Pride Agenda and allies also want to see action banning "conversion therapy" on minors in New York, which has also passed the Assembly.</p> <p><strong>Paid Family Leave:</strong> It's an issue gaining more and more traction nationally, but New Yorkers <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5709-even-amid-albany-dysfunction-advocates-forge-path-to-paid-family-leave" target="_blank">are looking to push</a> paid family leave at the state level in the absene of federal policy. Reacting to a lack of movement before the end of the 2015 session, the New York Paid Family Leave Insurance campaign issued a statement, saying, "It now appears that New York families will have to wait yet another year for paid family leave. Meanwhile, thousands of workers upstate and down are still forced to choose between caring for their loved ones and their families' economic security...While employers and employees in California, Rhode Island, and even next door in New Jersey continue to reap the benefits of this overdue policy, New York is still woefully behind." Advocates cite The Paid Family Leave Insurance Act, which passed the Assembly in March and "would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill family member, and deal with issues that arise when a family member is called to active military service."</p> <p>Business owners and their allies continue to express reservations about any additional mandates placed on owners, both in terms of monetary cost and productivity. Many insist that New York should not take any further action to make the state more unfriendly toward business.</p> <p>Well before the end-of-session deal was reached, it was clear that little beyond the basics would be done. Those behind the issues above, plus the <strong>DREAM Act, a farm workers bill of rights, the abortion plank of the Women's Equality Agenda, MMA</strong>, and other pieces of legislation watched the final negotiations in disappointment, and beginning to think about influencing the start of business next year.</p> <p>In most instances, it is Democrats left wanting more. When the final deal was announced on Thursday, Assembly Speaker Heastie spoke of coming to terms with reality. "You could always want better," he said. "This is a bicameral Legislature and the Republicans in the Senate have their own vision on what they'd like to see and you do the best you can and try to compromise...We would have loved to have done more."&nbsp;</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/19131688266_b1bf3b40bb_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Heastie Flanagan" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Heastie, Cuomo, Flanagan (L-R) (photo: Governor's Office <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/governorandrewcuomo/19131688266/in/album-72157654656109670/" target="_blank">via flickr</a>)</span></p> <hr /> <p>In the Democrat-controlled Assembly, it was 122-13; in the Republican-controlled Senate, 47-12. With those votes and a Governor Andrew Cuomo signature, a final policy package brought an underwhelming end to a tumultuous 2015 legislative session in New York's capital.&nbsp;</p> <p>Look at <a href="http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S6012-2015" target="_blank">the bill</a>, which combines laws on a variety of disparate issues, and see it's headlined "relates to rent-control provisions," referencing what was to many the most important aspect of the deal reached by Governor Cuomo, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. This year's 'three men in a room' took a little extra time to get to "yes," with the 2015 'big ugly' passed through the Legislature a little over a week after the originally scheduled end of session.</p> <p>You can forgive Albany lawmakers for being a little tardy, though - as Governor Cuomo has said, it was no ordinary year in Albany. "This was a very difficult year," Cuomo said last Tuesday when announcing the framework of a deal. "There were extraordinary developments...It was almost unimaginable to have this kind of change in this period of time. You wound up with two new leaders." He was, of course, alluding to the fact that both Flanagan's and Heastie's predeccesors were <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5710-dean-skelos-thwarted-reform-and-maintained-power-despite-the-odds" target="_blank">arrested</a> on corruption charges earlier this year.</p> <p>Along with an extension of rent regulations that mostly concern New York City tenants and their allies, the deal includes action briefly extending mayoral control of city schools and the 421-a real estate tax abatement program; providing property tax rebates; setting aside funding for nonpublic schools; and altering the cap on charter schools so more can open in New York City. Cuomo and the Legislature also struck deals on campus sexual conduct and nail salon regulation.</p> <p>While extensions were passed on major sunsetting items, the 2015 deal may be more notable for how much it did not include than for what it did.</p> <p>Cases in point: noting the absence of items he had promised action on, Cuomo announced two executive orders he would be issuing on criminal justice issues. Facing an uncooperative Senate, the governor had also already <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5739-cuomo-seizes-on-wage-issue-as-legislature-sits-paralyzed-by-scandal-partisanship" target="_blank">set things in motion</a> to up the minimum wage on his own, with his Department of Labor convening a fast food worker wage board set to deliver recommendations soon.</p> <p>But on those issues some action is being taken - there is also a wide variety of policy seeing no movement through the end of session deal or Cuomo on his own, angering advocates behind pushes to enact paid family leave, the Gender Non-Discrimination Act, the DREAM Act, government ethics and campaign finance reform, and mixed martial arts (MMA), to name a few of the most-sought. New York will continue to be the only state that does not sanction MMA and one of only two that continues to try 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system.</p> <p>Yet according to Cuomo, the end-of-session deal is a robust package, plenty good for New Yorkers, and further evidence that New York government is functional. Speaking at a press conference announcing a final agreement, Cuomo said, "I am personally very happy and very proud of this legislative package. I think that it is responsive to the problems that are pressing the state right now. I think that it is actually a very robust and extensive legislative package of reforms that goes a long way towards making this state a better state."</p> <p>The governor also praised Flanagan and Heastie. "These gentlemen were in a very difficult situation to step in as a new leader," Cuomo said, adding that it was "extraordinary" that the two could step into the legislative process in the middle of negotiations and ensure government keeps working.</p> <p>Flanagan seemed mostly pleased with the session's policy outcomes. Heastie less so. But, Heastie and many of his supporters have been quick to note that the deal appears to be the best the new speaker could do. He was fighting an uphill battle, many Democrats argue, against an obstinate Senate Republican conference and, in some cases, an unsympathetic Democratic governor. New York City Democrats - elected and otherwise - were largely disappointed, and many point a finger at Cuomo, who they say did not fight hard enough on key issues or for tenants.</p> <p>State Senator Adriano Espaillat, a Manhattan Democrat who voted against the end-of-session deal, said, "We are far from where we need to be to protect tenants...we need strong rent laws, not a slight improvement."</p> <p>City Comptroller Scott Stringer said similarly, "When it came to protecting tenants, Albany failed miserably," Stringer said Sunday on John Catsimatidis' radio show, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/stringer-lawmakers-failed-miserably-protect-tenants-article-1.2274725" target="_blank">according to</a> the Daily News. "We have an affordable housing crisis," Stringer added, "But the rent stabilization deal didn't address those issues."</p> <p>The rent laws took center stage as Albany lawmakers let them briefly expire and the session <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5776-albany-lawmakers-putter-past-deadlines-surprising-no-one" target="_blank">puttered into overtime</a>. But, the regulations were among many issues at play, some of which saw action. In looking at the outcomes of the 2015 legislative session - which some have called anemic or <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/political-itch/2015/06/29/ny1-itch--riding-off-into-albany-s-sunset-.html" target="_blank">"the absolutely bare minimum"</a> - we see the initial framework for next year's policy agenda.</p> <p><strong>WHAT WAS DONE<br /></strong><strong>Rent Regulations:</strong> extended for four years, and strengthened slightly with an increase and indexing of the threshold by which units can be removed from the regulated rolls; an increase in civil harassment penalties where owners harass a tenant to obtain a vacancy; and an adjustment to the limits landlords can charge tenants to receive reimbursement for building improvements. Senate Republicans attempted to insert income verification measures, but they did not make the final deal.</p> <p>Of Assembly Speaker Heastie's push on rent regulations, Governor Cuomo said, "I believe the rent package that he has obtained is a major step forward. You have certain voices that would say rent regulations should just go away - I understand that, but that's not going to happen any time soon. But he has done an extraordinary job in crafting a program that addresses the entire spectrum of the problem."</p> <p><strong>Reaction:</strong> the extension came as a relief to tenants and their allies, but is seen as largely inadequate, as the comments from Espaillat and Stringer indicate. City Council Member Jumaane Williams has said that "Governor Cuomo completely and thoroughly let New York City tenants down."</p> <p>A spokesperson for a coalition of pro-tenant groups, Real Affordability for All, said "This deal is very bad for tenants, good for corruption and a step further to eliminating the largest source of affordable housing in the state. The changes included to the laws are as insignificant as the reforms made in 2011, which led to the displacement of thousands of working class New Yorkers and to the high record number of families who ended up in city shelters. It completely ignores the affordable housing crisis." Activists say thousands of rent regulated apartments will be lost each year and they plan to continue to protest the deal.</p> <p><strong>Taxes:</strong> the state property tax cap, limiting growth at two percent per year, is extended for an additional four years, and a new property tax credit, "$3.1 billion over four years in direct relief to struggling New York taxpayers," is included. In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan said, "We are taking action on long-held Republican priorities that reduce the property tax burden here in New York so that we can create jobs, grow businesses, and help taxpayers keep more of their hard-earned money."</p> <p><strong>Reaction:</strong> the governor is largely praised for fiscal discipline when it comes to property tax increases, while the property tax cap and the new tax credit are seen as wins for middle class and wealthy homeowners. The Citizens Budget Commission, however, expresses concern about the tax credit, <a href="http://www.cbcny.org/cbc-blogs/blogs/expensive-albany-deal" target="_blank">writing</a>, "The legislative package passed in Albany last week rejected some misguided and expensive proposals, including a tax credit for benefactors of private schools. Unfortunately, other expensive proposals were included, adding to current and future state expenses without providing offsetting savings or revenues...By far the largest part is a new property tax relief rebate program, which will cost $1.3 billion annually when fully implemented."</p> <p><strong>421-a:</strong> "The legislation extends the 421-a program for six months, with a provision that allows representatives of labor and industry groups to reach a memorandum of understanding regarding wage protections for construction workers. If such an agreement is reached, the program will automatically be extended for four years," according to a release from the governor's office. A key piece of the deal is that affordable housing will be mandated as part of any development approved to receive the tax break, a significant change from the previous version, which included major exceptions. The deal also bans the so-called "poor door" setup that some developers enacted with separate entrances for market-rate tenants and affordable unit tenants.</p> <p><strong>Reaction:</strong> 421-a was a source of conflict between Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. The final plan - assuming that the two sides can come to a wage agreement - is very close to what de Blasio proposed, which he and his aides have pointed out, including through a convincing <a href="https://twitter.com/WileyNorvell/status/614466574192410624" target="_blank">infographic</a>.</p> <p>"Some real progress was made on 421-a. We were very proud of that fact," de Blasio said on Monday, <a href="http://observer.com/2015/06/despite-cuomos-claims-de-blasio-hails-real-progress-on-421a/#ixzz3eTdoWewO" target="_blank">according to</a> The Observer. "We're going to have a lot more affordable housing than we would have otherwise, and taxpayers are going to get a much better deal, because any time we subsidize a building, there will be affordable housing as part of that." The deal does not include the so-called "mansion tax" de Blasio called for on sales of apartments over $1.75 million and used to fund affordable housing, which the mayor called "a mistake" and a "lost opportunity."</p> <p>The deal appears to work for just about all the key stakeholders, though the labor agreement that must be reached could halt the celebration, and even if it is worked out by the parties, the proof of this deal's success will be in the pudding that is real estate development and accompanying affordable housing built over the coming years.</p> <p><strong>Education:</strong> there is $250 million to private schools "for the costs of performing State-mandated services," money which many say the schools are already owed; requirements for the "disclosure of state exam questions and answers" and other measures to improve standardized testing; a "one-year extension of mayoral control of the New York City school system"; and an "increase in the number of charter schools available to be issued in New York City to 50 and enhanced flexibility in teacher certification rules" for charter schools.</p> <p><strong>Reaction:</strong> de Blasio and his allies had sought at least three years extension of mayoral control (de Blasio had originally pushed for it to be made permanent and the Assmebly had passed a seven-year extension); the one-year deal is seen as an insult to the mayor and, to some, revenge by Senate Republicans for de Blasio's 2014 efforts to swing the Senate to Democrats. It is unclear how much Governor Cuomo fought for a longer extension, though he had himself originally proposed three years early in 2015. "The outcome of the negotiations was the best that we could do," Cuomo said. Mayoral control will now be a focal point again in 2016 as de Blasio seeks another extension.</p> <p>Meanwhile, much of the rest of the deal appears to extend the governor's education reform agenda. Cuomo allies in the charter school sector praised the deal. "Today Albany leaders stepped up and delivered for parents and students who demanded more choice," said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis. "Too many children are stuck in failing schools without options...Thankfully, Albany leaders understand that charter schools play a critical role in the delivery of free, public education in New York."</p> <p>Albany lawmakers also announced a deal enacting Cuomo's "Enough is Enough" <strong>campus sexual assault conduct policy</strong> across the state. "We have a bill on sexual assault on campuses that is the smartest and toughest bill in the United States," Cuomo said announcing the deal. "I think it's going to set a new national model for other states to follow."</p> <p><strong>EXECUTIVE ACTION:<br /></strong>The governor is taking executive action on three issues, each of which will still be revisited in terms of legislation, likely in 2016.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo wanted legislation passed to <strong>raise the age of criminal responsibility</strong>, but Senate Republicans balked. "To me the single most important piece of 'raise the age' is getting the 16- and 17-year-olds out of state prisons and that's what I can do by executive order," Cuomo said last week. "We'll be creating facilities designed for those 16- and 17-year-olds that will be much more appropriate than a state prison," he said.</p> <p>Cuomo also announced that since he could not come to a deal with legislative leaders on a <strong>special prosecutor</strong> in cases where police officers kill unarmed civilians, he was appointing the attorney general as such for one year, and will hope to come to a legislative solution in 2016.</p> <p>The governor has pushed a further increase in the <strong>minimum wage</strong>, which is now $8.75 per hour and set to go to $9 at the end of the year. Unable to get Senate Republicans to bite, Cuomo announced he had instructed his Department of Labor <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5739-cuomo-seizes-on-wage-issue-as-legislature-sits-paralyzed-by-scandal-partisanship" target="_blank">to convene a wage board</a> examining wages in the fast food industry. The wage board has held several public hearings and is set to announce its recommendations any day. Hopes are high that the board will "do the right thing and recommend a $15 wage for fast-food workers that will take effect as soon as possible," as a statement from Working Families Party State Director Bill Lipton read. Even if the board announces something less than $15 per hour, it is likely to push a significantly higher wage than $9.</p> <p><strong>ON TO NEXT YEAR:<br /></strong>While Cuomo acts on his own regarding the minimum wage in the fast food industry, where 16- and 17-year olds are imprisoned, and how investigations into police killings of unarmed civilians are run, it is almost certain that the governor and others will want to see legislative action on the three issues come 2016.</p> <p>Advocates will have to continue to push for <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5734-as-he-campaigns-for-top-priorities-many-wonder-where-cuomo-is-on-dream" target="_blank">the DREAM Act</a>; paid family leave; the Gender Non-Discrimination Act; raising the age of criminal responsibility and other criminal justice reforms; an increase in the minimum wage; legalizing <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5620-fight-for-mma-legalization-sees-new-life-after-silver-ko" target="_blank">mixed martial arts</a>; ethics and campaign finance reform; and much more. Cuomo did not get Assembly Democrats to agree to his education tax credit proposal that would have incentivized contributions to nonpublic schools, and it is unclear if there will be another push for it in the future. It is clear, however, that the other issues on this list will remain the focus of much lobbying and activism:</p> <p><strong>Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform:</strong> "I'm disappointed and, frankly, find it incomprehensible, that there were not further measures taken to reform the procedures in our state government and in our campaigns," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said on Friday, <a href="http://observer.com/2015/06/schneiderman-calls-absence-of-ethics-reform-from-albany-deal-incomprehensible/" target="_blank">according to</a> The Observer.</p> <p>Schneiderman, who has put forth his own sweeping ethics reform package, said he wants to see a special legislative session before the scheduled January return of business to Albany. Good government groups, including Citizens Union, the Brennan Center, and NYPIRG, released a statement saying, "New York's leading civic organizations today decried Albany's continuing failure to fully address the ceaseless ethics problems head-on during the 2015 legislative session. The groups called on Governor Cuomo and the state's legislative leaders to convene a special session to tackle ethics reforms before the end of the calendar year."</p> <p>Among the reforms the good government groups and Schneiderman want to see are limits on legislators' outside income and the closing of the infamous <strong>LLC loophole</strong>, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations.</p> <p><strong>The Gender Non-Discrimination Act:</strong> The State Assembly has passed GENDA eight times, but the legislation, which, according to the Empire State Pride Agenda, "would update the state's anti-discrimination protections to cover transgender New Yorkers," has stalled in the Senate. The Pride Agenda released a statement saying that with the end of "a deplorably unproductive legislative session," the Senate has left transgender New Yorkers at continued risk "to the vicious discrimination that haunts countless trans lives." The Pride Agenda and allies also want to see action banning "conversion therapy" on minors in New York, which has also passed the Assembly.</p> <p><strong>Paid Family Leave:</strong> It's an issue gaining more and more traction nationally, but New Yorkers <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5709-even-amid-albany-dysfunction-advocates-forge-path-to-paid-family-leave" target="_blank">are looking to push</a> paid family leave at the state level in the absene of federal policy. Reacting to a lack of movement before the end of the 2015 session, the New York Paid Family Leave Insurance campaign issued a statement, saying, "It now appears that New York families will have to wait yet another year for paid family leave. Meanwhile, thousands of workers upstate and down are still forced to choose between caring for their loved ones and their families' economic security...While employers and employees in California, Rhode Island, and even next door in New Jersey continue to reap the benefits of this overdue policy, New York is still woefully behind." Advocates cite The Paid Family Leave Insurance Act, which passed the Assembly in March and "would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill family member, and deal with issues that arise when a family member is called to active military service."</p> <p>Business owners and their allies continue to express reservations about any additional mandates placed on owners, both in terms of monetary cost and productivity. Many insist that New York should not take any further action to make the state more unfriendly toward business.</p> <p>Well before the end-of-session deal was reached, it was clear that little beyond the basics would be done. Those behind the issues above, plus the <strong>DREAM Act, a farm workers bill of rights, the abortion plank of the Women's Equality Agenda, MMA</strong>, and other pieces of legislation watched the final negotiations in disappointment, and beginning to think about influencing the start of business next year.</p> <p>In most instances, it is Democrats left wanting more. When the final deal was announced on Thursday, Assembly Speaker Heastie spoke of coming to terms with reality. "You could always want better," he said. "This is a bicameral Legislature and the Republicans in the Senate have their own vision on what they'd like to see and you do the best you can and try to compromise...We would have loved to have done more."&nbsp;</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p>