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/universal-pre-k 2017-10-18T09:11:44+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com DOE School Survey Shows High Marks, Contrasts with Public Polling 2016-08-09T04:00:00+00:00 2016-08-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6473:doe-school-survey-shows-high-marks-contrasts-with-public-polling Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/28417598980_596042dde9_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Farina student test scores" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor, Chancellor &amp; Student (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In 2007, New York City administered its first comprehensive survey on school satisfaction levels among students, parents, and teachers in the city&rsquo;s vast public school system. That <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/3C9B6404-D3C3-49D7-8FA8-36AC191BC328/25284/SurveyResults6.pdf">year</a>, the Department of Education received just under 600,000 responses. In 2016, with the survey in its tenth year, the number of responses totaled over 1 million for the first time. It was also the first year that parents and teachers involved in the de Blasio administration&rsquo;s new &ldquo;Pre-K for All&rdquo; program were included among the survey&rsquo;s respondents.</p> <p dir="ltr">The results of the survey are usually quite positive and this year was no exception, leading the DOE to celebrate the responses as validation of programming gone right. In the DOE&rsquo;s press release announcing the 2016 survey results, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fari&ntilde;a said, &ldquo;As we work towards equity and excellence in every public school across the City, parents are our partners, and it&rsquo;s great to see over one million New Yorkers &ndash; including a record number of parents &ndash; sharing their input. Together, we&rsquo;ll continue the progress we&rsquo;ve made and make New York City the best urban school district in the nation.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">While the DOE survey suggests students, parents, and teachers are highly satisfied with New York City public schools, a recent Quinnipiac <a href="https://www.qu.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/new-york-city/release-detail?ReleaseID=2370">poll</a> conducted suggests that not all New Yorkers agree. According to the poll, 60 percent of New Yorkers are dissatisfied with New York City public schools while 25 percent are satisfied. (The remaining 15% answered that they don&rsquo;t know.) A higher percentage of respondents said they prefer privately-run public charter schools to traditional public schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">According the Department of Education <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/Accountability/tools/survey/default.htm" target="_blank">website</a>, the purpose of the survey is to aid schools in identifying aspects of its learning environment that need improvement and ensure that schools continue to foster elements of their learning environments that are satisfactory to students, parents, and teachers alike. While the survey provides the DOE with at least some helpful data, there are questions about its usefulness, format, and cost.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are three different versions of the <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/Accountability/tools/survey/default.htm" target="_blank">NYC School Survey</a> -- one each for students, parents, and teachers. This year, 81 percent of teachers, 83 percent of students, and 51 percent of parents in community schools across the city responded to the survey. The response rates increased by one percentage point from the 2015 survey for both students and parents and remained the same for teachers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Parents&rsquo; overall satisfaction with their children&rsquo;s schools continued to be extremely high. When asked &ldquo;How satisfied&rdquo; they were with &ldquo;The education my child has received this year,&rdquo; 95 percent of those who took the survey responding that they are &ldquo;very satisfied&rdquo; or &ldquo;satisfied.&rdquo; That figure has remained constant at 95 percent since 2013. Students recorded high levels of satisfaction with their schools as well, with 80 percent of student respondents recording that they either &ldquo;strongly agree&rdquo; or &ldquo;agree&rdquo; with the statement, &ldquo;My school offers a wide enough variety of programs, classes and activities to keep me interested in school.&rdquo; Additionally, 80 percent of students felt supported by teachers in their preparations for their post-graduation plans.</p> <p dir="ltr">Other specific questions relate to school environment (e.g. school cleanliness, personal safety while at school, bullying among classmates); the quality of academic instruction; level of support among teachers and school leadership; and ease of communication among all parties. While some questions appear on all three surveys with slight variations, some questions are particular to each group. For example, only parents are asked the question of what improvements they would like to see at their school (as in their child&rsquo;s school).</p> <p dir="ltr">Many survey questions ask respondents to note how much they agree with a series of statements. Other questions use a similar format but measure the frequency of a certain behavior or condition - for example, &ldquo;How often do students in your class(es) work in small groups?&rdquo; Some are formatted as multiple choice questions with specific responses to questions like, &ldquo;Which improvements would you most like your schools to make?&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The cost of conducting the 2016 survey was approximately $1.85 million.</p> <p dir="ltr">Elements of school quality are evaluated through the DOE&rsquo;s <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/schools/framework/vision" target="_blank">Framework for Great Schools</a>, a tool of analysis that looks at six aspects of a school&rsquo;s learning environment -- rigorous instruction, supportive environment, collaborative teachers, effective school leadership, strong family and community ties, and trust -- to determine its ability to foster student achievement. The Framework for Great Schools was adopted in 2015, the 2016 schools survey reflects only the second year of results based on the new evaluation framework adopted by the DOE under Chancellor Farina.</p> <p dir="ltr">Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on reducing class size in New York City schools, said that the Framework for Great Schools is a well-intentioned model, but she believes it is an ineffective tool in practice.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The original concept, this Framework of Great Schools that came out of Chicago, was very useful&hellip;[it] came out of this study by Tony Bryk that looked at schools in Chicago, and he looked at which ones had strong Local School Councils and which ones did not, and the ones that had Local School Councils -- which really devolved a lot of decision-making to the school level and it included parents as the majority members -- had better results,&rdquo; Haimson told Gotham Gazette in a phone interview.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Now this administration has a lot of PR about parent involvement, but I can tell you that they have not empowered a School Leadership Team to the degree that they need to. School Leadership Teams -- unlike in Chicago -- do not have the power in New York City, don&rsquo;t have any authority over principal selection or even really principal evaluation, and a lot of other things. They&rsquo;re really disempowered.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the DOE, research from the Chicago Consortium on School Research was one source used to formulate the Framework for Great Schools, but it was not the only source. And while the DOE&rsquo;s Framework was created using research from outside sources, the DOE says that the final product is an analysis tool tailored specifically for the New York City school system.</p> <p dir="ltr">Prior to the creation of the Framework for Great Schools the city school survey evaluated schools based on four elements of a school&rsquo;s learning environment: academic expectations, communication, engagement, and safety and respect.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the majority of the survey&rsquo;s questions are designed to assess schools based on the six elements of the Framework for Great Schools, some questions are considered &ldquo;informational.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">One informational question consistently posed to parents has garnered a largely consistent response since the survey&rsquo;s creation. When parents are asked the question of what they would most like to see improved in their child&rsquo;s school, &ldquo;smaller class size&rdquo; and &ldquo;more enrichment programs&rdquo; have been in or near the top two most wanted improvements almost every year that the survey has been given. Also featured at or near the top for many years are &ldquo;more preparation for state tests&rdquo; and &ldquo;more hands-on learning.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite consistently high satisfaction levels among parents with city schools overall, the fact that these improvements continue to be parents&rsquo; top requests year after year may be indicative of a lack of meaningful action taken on these requests by school leadership.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are also questions about the consistency of the survey itself. In 2015, the question of potential improvements wasn&rsquo;t offered to parents for the first time since the survey was created in 2007, but it was reintroduced in the 2016 survey, and, for the first time, the term &ldquo;enrichment programs&rdquo; was explained in the question using examples.</p> <p dir="ltr">David Bloomfield, professor of education at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, questions the usefulness of survey questions posed to parents about improvements, such as smaller class sizes, given the constraints with which the Department of Education operates.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The DOE is clearly not flexible about class size arrangements, which it makes because of the size of schools, the size of classrooms, the size of the budget. It&rsquo;s a persistent problem that doesn&rsquo;t change just because parents put it high on their list of priorities in a survey, so what use is that?&rdquo; Bloomfield said in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the survey serves to evaluate satisfaction by key stakeholders with individual schools and identify a school&rsquo;s problem areas, the larger system that directly influences individual schools is left out of the equation. The questions posed to students, parents, and teachers on the surveys are related almost exclusively to the individual school and the members and leadership of that individual school. Only two questions asked of parents and seven questions asked of teachers were directly related to the wider New York City school system, run out of the Department of Education, under the Mayor, and there were no questions pertaining to statewide policies such as Common Core Learning Standards or teacher performance evaluations.</p> <p dir="ltr">Haimson believes that while general questions about parent and teacher satisfaction with broader government and education policy aren&rsquo;t necessary, asking specific questions on education issues that directly affect students, parents, and teachers would be useful.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think is an important question when so much of what&rsquo;s happening during the school day are driven by these federal or state mandates,&rdquo; said Haimson.</p> <p dir="ltr">From 2012 to 2014, the survey given to teachers included questions on the implementation of the Common Core and state assessments, but starting in 2015, Common Core and assessment questions were no longer included. Additionally, on the 2013 and 2014 surveys, parents were asked to record how much they agreed with the statement, &ldquo;My child&rsquo;s school...helps me understand what the Common Core learning standards mean for my child&hellip;&rdquo; The 2015 and 2016 parent surveys did not include this question.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the DOE, the questions about the Common Core that appeared on previous surveys were included to evaluate the implementation of the then new instruction method. On more recent surveys, there have been questions pertaining to Common Core instruction, though the specific term &ldquo;Common Core&rdquo; has not been included.</p> <p dir="ltr">While certain questions have been changed or taken out of the survey in recent years, a new series of questions was added in 2016. Parents and teachers involved with Mayor de Blasio&rsquo;s &ldquo;Pre-K for All&rdquo; program were given surveys this year for the first time in the survey&rsquo;s history (the students are four years old and not given surveys, which only go to students in grades 6 through 12). While the rates of parent satisfaction on every aspect of the pre-K program exceeded 90 percent, the response rate for both parents and teachers was low, at 47 percent and 69 percent, respectively.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The NYC School Survey is a critical, research-based tool for getting the feedback of over one million parents, teachers, and students, and using that feedback to improve our schools. This year&rsquo;s results recognize the hard work and dedication of school leaders and teachers, and will guide schools as they continue to make progress and work towards equity and excellence,&rdquo; said the DOE in a statement made available to Gotham Gazette via email.</p> <p dir="ltr">High marks from parents on pre-K and the high marks recorded across all public schools in New York City may reflect general satisfaction, but Professor Bloomfield doesn&rsquo;t believe they confirm with any certainty that the survey is a valuable tool for New Yorkers.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think there&rsquo;s a bigger question as to whether it&rsquo;s worth all the money, time, and effort that it takes to put out the survey as relative to its worth,&rdquo; Bloomfield said. &ldquo;It becomes a very hard thing and a PR problem for any mayor or chancellor who would cut back on the survey, but is it really worth it?&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by Libby Wetzler, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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

***
by Libby Wetzler, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Top 10 Accomplishments of Progressive Leadership & The Need to #ProtectProgress 2016-05-19T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6344:top-10-accomplishments-of-progressive-leadership-the-need-to-protectprogress Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img5724.jpg" alt="richards reynoso crowd city hall" height="410" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Members Richards, left, and Reynoso, the authors, address a crowd</p> <hr /> <p>As co-chairs of the New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus, we have worked closely with Mayor de Blasio since he took office. It is clear that the mayor has delivered for our constituents and all 8.4 million New Yorkers in transformative ways. From affordable housing to quality jobs to expanded educational programming, New Yorkers are doing better and the scale of the accomplishments is substantial.</p> <p>In partnership with our Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the City Council, Mayor de Blasio has been helping to create a more equitable New York City. But this progress did not happen by chance, and it’s no foregone conclusion that we will be able to sustain it. We cannot allow our momentum to be derailed, destabilized, or diminished.</p> <p>Under a boldly progressive mayor and Council speaker, New York is safer and public policy is more equitable than at any point in our lifetimes. We must protect our progress, join us as we launch our <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a> campaign, which includes the following highlights of this work, the Top 10 Accomplishments, by the Numbers:</p> <p><strong>1. Making Communities Safer:</strong> With two consecutive years of record low violent crime statistics, New York is the safest big city in the country.</p> <p><strong>2. Making Pre-K Universal:</strong> More than 68,500 children are getting the head start they deserve this year with full day pre-kindergarten classes for all of New York’s four-year-olds.</p> <p><strong>3. Developing and Preserving Affordable Housing:</strong> Over 100,000 New Yorkers have access to 40,000-plus new units of affordable housing. More affordable housing units were created in 2015 than in any year since the city’s housing department began.</p> <p><strong>4. Creating Economic Growth:</strong> More New York City jobs than ever before, totaling 4,296,100 across all five boroughs as of March 2016. This includes 254,900 new private sector jobs created during this administration, resulting in an unemployment rate of 6.1%, lower than other large cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. This is in part due to new legislation preventing discrimination against job seekers based on credit scores and prior convictions.</p> <p><strong>5. Improving Police-Community Relations:</strong> Reducing unlawful stop-and-frisks, which disproportionately affect African-American &amp; Latino New Yorkers with a 97% decline over four years.</p> <p><strong>6. Expanding Learning Time:</strong> The Mayor’s universal after-school program for 113,874 middle school students (double the number previously served) is providing quality programming during a critical time for childhood development.</p> <p><strong>7. Embracing Immigrant Communities:</strong> IDNYC enables non-citizens to participate in the civic and cultural life of the city, with 855,000-plus cardholders who have secured the peace of mind that comes from recognized government identification.</p> <p><strong>8. Extending New Yorkers’ Legal Right to Sick Leave:</strong> 3,400,000 private and nonprofit sector workers have access to paid sick leave thanks to an expansion created in partnership with the Council and the Mayor’s robust education campaign.</p> <p><strong>9. Making Streets Safer through Vision Zero:</strong> In 2015, New York City saw the fewest traffic fatalities in history, with a 22% reduction resulting from reduced speed limits and comprehensive safety plans.</p> <p><strong>10. Supporting a Living Wage:</strong> A $15 living wage is now guaranteed to every City worker and employee of nonprofit organizations contracted with the City, and the Mayor and Council have advocated for higher wages for all workers across the state.</p> <p>We must be proud of these accomplishments while we also build on them. Today, we call on progressives from Bushwick to Harlem, from the Rockaways to Riverdale to step and up and <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a>. Parents: tweet from your UPK sites that didn’t exist two years ago! Bicyclists: tweet images of your new protected lanes that are helping to save lives! IDNYC cardholders: tweet from wherever you are putting your card to use!</p> <p>Let’s get <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a> into the conversation, so that together we can promote real results that Mayor de Blasio and the City Council have delivered for New Yorkers.</p> <p>***<br />City Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Donovan Richards are co-chairs of the Council’s Progressive Caucus. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DRichards13" target="_blank">@DRichards13</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/CMReynoso34" target="_blank">@CMReynoso34</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img5724.jpg" alt="richards reynoso crowd city hall" height="410" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Members Richards, left, and Reynoso, the authors, address a crowd</p> <hr /> <p>As co-chairs of the New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus, we have worked closely with Mayor de Blasio since he took office. It is clear that the mayor has delivered for our constituents and all 8.4 million New Yorkers in transformative ways. From affordable housing to quality jobs to expanded educational programming, New Yorkers are doing better and the scale of the accomplishments is substantial.</p> <p>In partnership with our Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the City Council, Mayor de Blasio has been helping to create a more equitable New York City. But this progress did not happen by chance, and it’s no foregone conclusion that we will be able to sustain it. We cannot allow our momentum to be derailed, destabilized, or diminished.</p> <p>Under a boldly progressive mayor and Council speaker, New York is safer and public policy is more equitable than at any point in our lifetimes. We must protect our progress, join us as we launch our <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a> campaign, which includes the following highlights of this work, the Top 10 Accomplishments, by the Numbers:</p> <p><strong>1. Making Communities Safer:</strong> With two consecutive years of record low violent crime statistics, New York is the safest big city in the country.</p> <p><strong>2. Making Pre-K Universal:</strong> More than 68,500 children are getting the head start they deserve this year with full day pre-kindergarten classes for all of New York’s four-year-olds.</p> <p><strong>3. Developing and Preserving Affordable Housing:</strong> Over 100,000 New Yorkers have access to 40,000-plus new units of affordable housing. More affordable housing units were created in 2015 than in any year since the city’s housing department began.</p> <p><strong>4. Creating Economic Growth:</strong> More New York City jobs than ever before, totaling 4,296,100 across all five boroughs as of March 2016. This includes 254,900 new private sector jobs created during this administration, resulting in an unemployment rate of 6.1%, lower than other large cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. This is in part due to new legislation preventing discrimination against job seekers based on credit scores and prior convictions.</p> <p><strong>5. Improving Police-Community Relations:</strong> Reducing unlawful stop-and-frisks, which disproportionately affect African-American &amp; Latino New Yorkers with a 97% decline over four years.</p> <p><strong>6. Expanding Learning Time:</strong> The Mayor’s universal after-school program for 113,874 middle school students (double the number previously served) is providing quality programming during a critical time for childhood development.</p> <p><strong>7. Embracing Immigrant Communities:</strong> IDNYC enables non-citizens to participate in the civic and cultural life of the city, with 855,000-plus cardholders who have secured the peace of mind that comes from recognized government identification.</p> <p><strong>8. Extending New Yorkers’ Legal Right to Sick Leave:</strong> 3,400,000 private and nonprofit sector workers have access to paid sick leave thanks to an expansion created in partnership with the Council and the Mayor’s robust education campaign.</p> <p><strong>9. Making Streets Safer through Vision Zero:</strong> In 2015, New York City saw the fewest traffic fatalities in history, with a 22% reduction resulting from reduced speed limits and comprehensive safety plans.</p> <p><strong>10. Supporting a Living Wage:</strong> A $15 living wage is now guaranteed to every City worker and employee of nonprofit organizations contracted with the City, and the Mayor and Council have advocated for higher wages for all workers across the state.</p> <p>We must be proud of these accomplishments while we also build on them. Today, we call on progressives from Bushwick to Harlem, from the Rockaways to Riverdale to step and up and <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a>. Parents: tweet from your UPK sites that didn’t exist two years ago! Bicyclists: tweet images of your new protected lanes that are helping to save lives! IDNYC cardholders: tweet from wherever you are putting your card to use!</p> <p>Let’s get <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23ProtectProgress&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#ProtectProgress</a> into the conversation, so that together we can promote real results that Mayor de Blasio and the City Council have delivered for New Yorkers.</p> <p>***<br />City Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Donovan Richards are co-chairs of the Council’s Progressive Caucus. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DRichards13" target="_blank">@DRichards13</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/CMReynoso34" target="_blank">@CMReynoso34</a>.</p> <p>

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Pre-K Offers Parents Opportunity at Economic Gain 2016-05-11T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6326:pre-k-offers-parents-opportunity-at-economic-gain Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/26708391836_0cf7cbf44c_z.jpg" width="600" height="399" alt="families queens library mayor's visit" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Scene at the Queens Library (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Three years after Bill de Blasio promised universal pre-kindergarten in his mayoral campaign, New York City alone has more enrolled preschoolers than any other state except for Georgia. The city’s free <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/174-15/pre-k-all-22-000-families-apply-pre-k-first-day#/0" target="_blank">Pre-K For All</a> program received interest from 6,500 families on its first day of accepting applications in 2014. Now more than 68,000 children are enrolled in the rapidly expanding initiative.</p> <p dir="ltr">Ninety-two percent of parents <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/35669F51-084F-42D7-BCE0-457E0F27F067/0/BranchAssociatesFamilyPerceptionsReport21916.pdf" target="_blank">surveyed</a> by a city-contracted research firm rate the Pre-K For All program as good or excellent, citing educational and behavioral benefits for their children. Years of research has found high-quality preschool programs to be especially beneficial to children of low-income families, children with disabilities, and children of color, since all often face learning gaps when entering kindergarten. Though there is concern about pre-K gains being <a href="http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/early_years/2012/12/head_start_advantages_mostly_gone_by_third_grade_study_finds.html" target="_blank">lost by third grade</a>, the de Blasio administration is attempting to run a program and larger education system that sets and keeps students on a stronger trajectory.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the main focus of pre-K has been and will be student learning and development, a universal pre-kindergarten program also has significant potential benefits for working parents and the economy. It is a secondary positive that Mayor de Blasio and his team don’t often cite, but have referenced on several occasions over the years.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Every child, regardless of their family’s means or the zip code they call home, will have access to a life-changing early education,” de Blasio said at a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/596-15/pre-k-all-mayor-de-blasio-chancellor-fari-a-kick-off-first-day-school-full-day#/0" target="_blank">press conference</a> on the first day of this school year, in September. “Because of Pre-K for All, tens of thousands of children will do better in school, be more likely to graduate high school, and be better prepared for college and beyond.”</p> <p dir="ltr">UPK was de Blasio’s number one campaign pledge and a key cog in his promise to create more equity in New York City. The more immediate economic benefits for parents and the economy also stand to help shrink the socioeconomic and opportunity gaps that the mayor has targeted.</p> <p dir="ltr">The pre-K program is “saving parents money and helping them work,” de Blasio stated in a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/192-16/with-just-two-weeks-left-apply-early-mayor-de-blasio-urges-parents-sign-up-pre-k-all#/0" target="_blank">press release</a> urging families to apply to pre-K early this year, but only after saying that “This is one of the best choices any family will ever make for a child.” At several press conferences, though, de Blasio has mentioned this secondary benefit of the UPK program, stressing parents’ ability to save on child care expenses, find a job, or pick up more work hours.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2012, <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/08/rising-cost-of-child-care-may-help-explain-increase-in-stay-at-home-moms/" target="_blank">Pew Research Center</a> found that New York was the most expensive state for four-year-old and school-age child care. “The average family saves $10,000 per year in childcare costs through the free Pre-K for All program,” the de Blasio administration <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/192-16/with-just-two-weeks-left-apply-early-mayor-de-blasio-urges-parents-sign-up-pre-k-all#/0" target="_blank">says</a>. For low-income families, the elimination of this financial burden is especially significant.</p> <p dir="ltr">Middle-income families also benefit from UPK because they don’t qualify for federally funded programs like Head Start, and are still unable to afford tuition for private preschools or child care. Some have questioned if the city should be subsidizing upper-middle- or upper-class families’ pre-school costs by making the additional grade universal.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If a family needs to cover child care for the day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., even if pre-K is only from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and they have to pay for after care, it still defrays the cost,” said Katie Hamm, Senior Director of Early Childhood Policy at the Center for American Progress.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Center for American Progress found that before the city’s UPK program existed, more than one-third of New York families waitlisted for child care assistance lost their jobs or were unable to work. A similar <a href="https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2016/04/27/833132/10162145/en/Impact-of-Pre-K-vital-to-L-A-County-and-Local-Economies-Concludes-New-Study.html#.VyU6sJsyNok.twitter" target="_blank">study</a> in Los Angeles reported that a lack of affordable and reliable child care forces working parents to face lost hours and wages and low employment rates, which is estimated to cost L.A. County almost $600 million in economic activity every year.</p> <p dir="ltr">The report also states that working mothers are disproportionately affected when there are no viable child care options. As Los Angeles preschools face steep <a href="http://www.scpr.org/news/2016/04/19/59773/massive-loss-of-preschool-seats-looms-for-la-count/" target="_blank">funding cuts</a>, the report estimates that the loss of affordable preschool seats will cause 6,000 working mothers to give up about 1.5 million work hours, costing them an annual total of $24.9 million in lost wages, or $4,150 per working mother.</p> <p dir="ltr">With consistent child care, mothers are twice as likely to keep their jobs, according to research by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Another <a href="http://www.thenation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/child_care_report08113.pdf">study</a> suggests that government-funded preschool programs could increase the employment rate of mothers by 10 percent.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Enabling more women to work by improving access to child care can help mitigate the gender wage gap and reduce a mother’s likelihood of going on public assistance,” wrote Center for American Progress researchers in a <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/report/2013/05/08/62519/the-importance-of-preschool-and-child-care-for-working-mothers/" target="_blank">report</a> on preschool and working mothers.</p> <p dir="ltr">A working mother and Bushwick resident, Rocio Espada, says she was able to keep her job because of New York City’s pre-K program. Espada is a member of advocacy group Make the Road New York and a single mother of four children. She worked at a restaurant to support her family while her youngest daughter was enrolled in public preschool.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Without public pre-K, I would’ve had to stay home with her or found a way to pay a babysitter,” Espada said in a phone interview. “Public pre-K is the best thing the city government has done so far. It’s a big relief.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Espada found that public preschool was the best option for her daughter because she was not only taken care of while Espada had to work, but she was also beginning her education and learning how to interact with other children. Using babysitters or private child care does not have the same educational benefits for children. At the same time, many are eagerly waiting to more formally measure how much academic and social impact pre-K is having on the children who participate.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the city has indeed enrolled almost 70,000 four-year-olds in pre-K, as of this past fall more than 6,000 are still in full-time child care instead, according to the <a href="http://ibo.nyc.ny.us/cgi-park2/?p=1379" target="_blank">Independent Budget Office</a>. This care is provided through vouchers given to families with young children receiving cash assistance and participating in work training programs or qualifying low-income working families. The vouchers can be used for the child care option of the family’s choice, which lack the educational foundation that comes with preschool.</p> <p dir="ltr">After <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/new-york-preschool-push-benefiting-wealthier-families-first/2014/10/08/ee828bd8-4e5f-11e4-babe-e91da079cb8a_story.html" target="_blank">criticism</a> that the initial expansion of UPK focused on wealthier families, the city has focused outreach on low-income families, like those eligible for vouchers. Last year, children from low-income families accounted for <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/exclusive-kids-pre-k-income-neighborhood-article-1.2358284" target="_blank">more than half</a> of the program’s enrollment. In a phone interview, Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Josh Wallack said the program will continue expanding until it can offer a seat to every child in New York City and give all families access to educational child care.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the pre-K program continues to grow, the city has contracted Metis Consulting Group, Westat research firm, and researchers from New York University to track how the program is benefiting children and parents. Part of their research will include the economic well-being of families and their ability to participate in the workforce. With the second school year of the expanded pre-K program almost complete and enrollment for the third year continuing, more data is becoming available.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many will be watching not only for metrics from those hired to track UPK, but for students’ third grade test scores - state standardized tests in English Language Arts and math begin in third grade - especially the comparison between UPK participants and nonparticipants from the same year or prior years.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city and DOE view quality early childhood education as an investment in the public school system as well as an important aspect of developing the economy, Wallack said.</p> <p>“Pre-K itself is an investment that the city is making in our children that will go on to help build the city going forward,” Wallack said. “It’s an investment that we’re making in the economy of New York City, both because of the immediate effects of helping families participate in the workforce, but also in helping a whole generation of students do even better in school and then go on to participate in the economy of New York City in the next generation.”</p> <p>***<br />by Carmen Russo, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/carmenjrusso" target="_blank">@carmenjrusso</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/26708391836_0cf7cbf44c_z.jpg" width="600" height="399" alt="families queens library mayor's visit" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Scene at the Queens Library (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Three years after Bill de Blasio promised universal pre-kindergarten in his mayoral campaign, New York City alone has more enrolled preschoolers than any other state except for Georgia. The city’s free <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/174-15/pre-k-all-22-000-families-apply-pre-k-first-day#/0" target="_blank">Pre-K For All</a> program received interest from 6,500 families on its first day of accepting applications in 2014. Now more than 68,000 children are enrolled in the rapidly expanding initiative.</p> <p dir="ltr">Ninety-two percent of parents <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/35669F51-084F-42D7-BCE0-457E0F27F067/0/BranchAssociatesFamilyPerceptionsReport21916.pdf" target="_blank">surveyed</a> by a city-contracted research firm rate the Pre-K For All program as good or excellent, citing educational and behavioral benefits for their children. Years of research has found high-quality preschool programs to be especially beneficial to children of low-income families, children with disabilities, and children of color, since all often face learning gaps when entering kindergarten. Though there is concern about pre-K gains being <a href="http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/early_years/2012/12/head_start_advantages_mostly_gone_by_third_grade_study_finds.html" target="_blank">lost by third grade</a>, the de Blasio administration is attempting to run a program and larger education system that sets and keeps students on a stronger trajectory.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the main focus of pre-K has been and will be student learning and development, a universal pre-kindergarten program also has significant potential benefits for working parents and the economy. It is a secondary positive that Mayor de Blasio and his team don’t often cite, but have referenced on several occasions over the years.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Every child, regardless of their family’s means or the zip code they call home, will have access to a life-changing early education,” de Blasio said at a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/596-15/pre-k-all-mayor-de-blasio-chancellor-fari-a-kick-off-first-day-school-full-day#/0" target="_blank">press conference</a> on the first day of this school year, in September. “Because of Pre-K for All, tens of thousands of children will do better in school, be more likely to graduate high school, and be better prepared for college and beyond.”</p> <p dir="ltr">UPK was de Blasio’s number one campaign pledge and a key cog in his promise to create more equity in New York City. The more immediate economic benefits for parents and the economy also stand to help shrink the socioeconomic and opportunity gaps that the mayor has targeted.</p> <p dir="ltr">The pre-K program is “saving parents money and helping them work,” de Blasio stated in a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/192-16/with-just-two-weeks-left-apply-early-mayor-de-blasio-urges-parents-sign-up-pre-k-all#/0" target="_blank">press release</a> urging families to apply to pre-K early this year, but only after saying that “This is one of the best choices any family will ever make for a child.” At several press conferences, though, de Blasio has mentioned this secondary benefit of the UPK program, stressing parents’ ability to save on child care expenses, find a job, or pick up more work hours.</p> <p dir="ltr">In 2012, <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/08/rising-cost-of-child-care-may-help-explain-increase-in-stay-at-home-moms/" target="_blank">Pew Research Center</a> found that New York was the most expensive state for four-year-old and school-age child care. “The average family saves $10,000 per year in childcare costs through the free Pre-K for All program,” the de Blasio administration <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/192-16/with-just-two-weeks-left-apply-early-mayor-de-blasio-urges-parents-sign-up-pre-k-all#/0" target="_blank">says</a>. For low-income families, the elimination of this financial burden is especially significant.</p> <p dir="ltr">Middle-income families also benefit from UPK because they don’t qualify for federally funded programs like Head Start, and are still unable to afford tuition for private preschools or child care. Some have questioned if the city should be subsidizing upper-middle- or upper-class families’ pre-school costs by making the additional grade universal.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If a family needs to cover child care for the day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., even if pre-K is only from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and they have to pay for after care, it still defrays the cost,” said Katie Hamm, Senior Director of Early Childhood Policy at the Center for American Progress.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Center for American Progress found that before the city’s UPK program existed, more than one-third of New York families waitlisted for child care assistance lost their jobs or were unable to work. A similar <a href="https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2016/04/27/833132/10162145/en/Impact-of-Pre-K-vital-to-L-A-County-and-Local-Economies-Concludes-New-Study.html#.VyU6sJsyNok.twitter" target="_blank">study</a> in Los Angeles reported that a lack of affordable and reliable child care forces working parents to face lost hours and wages and low employment rates, which is estimated to cost L.A. County almost $600 million in economic activity every year.</p> <p dir="ltr">The report also states that working mothers are disproportionately affected when there are no viable child care options. As Los Angeles preschools face steep <a href="http://www.scpr.org/news/2016/04/19/59773/massive-loss-of-preschool-seats-looms-for-la-count/" target="_blank">funding cuts</a>, the report estimates that the loss of affordable preschool seats will cause 6,000 working mothers to give up about 1.5 million work hours, costing them an annual total of $24.9 million in lost wages, or $4,150 per working mother.</p> <p dir="ltr">With consistent child care, mothers are twice as likely to keep their jobs, according to research by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Another <a href="http://www.thenation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/child_care_report08113.pdf">study</a> suggests that government-funded preschool programs could increase the employment rate of mothers by 10 percent.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Enabling more women to work by improving access to child care can help mitigate the gender wage gap and reduce a mother’s likelihood of going on public assistance,” wrote Center for American Progress researchers in a <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/report/2013/05/08/62519/the-importance-of-preschool-and-child-care-for-working-mothers/" target="_blank">report</a> on preschool and working mothers.</p> <p dir="ltr">A working mother and Bushwick resident, Rocio Espada, says she was able to keep her job because of New York City’s pre-K program. Espada is a member of advocacy group Make the Road New York and a single mother of four children. She worked at a restaurant to support her family while her youngest daughter was enrolled in public preschool.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Without public pre-K, I would’ve had to stay home with her or found a way to pay a babysitter,” Espada said in a phone interview. “Public pre-K is the best thing the city government has done so far. It’s a big relief.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Espada found that public preschool was the best option for her daughter because she was not only taken care of while Espada had to work, but she was also beginning her education and learning how to interact with other children. Using babysitters or private child care does not have the same educational benefits for children. At the same time, many are eagerly waiting to more formally measure how much academic and social impact pre-K is having on the children who participate.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the city has indeed enrolled almost 70,000 four-year-olds in pre-K, as of this past fall more than 6,000 are still in full-time child care instead, according to the <a href="http://ibo.nyc.ny.us/cgi-park2/?p=1379" target="_blank">Independent Budget Office</a>. This care is provided through vouchers given to families with young children receiving cash assistance and participating in work training programs or qualifying low-income working families. The vouchers can be used for the child care option of the family’s choice, which lack the educational foundation that comes with preschool.</p> <p dir="ltr">After <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/new-york-preschool-push-benefiting-wealthier-families-first/2014/10/08/ee828bd8-4e5f-11e4-babe-e91da079cb8a_story.html" target="_blank">criticism</a> that the initial expansion of UPK focused on wealthier families, the city has focused outreach on low-income families, like those eligible for vouchers. Last year, children from low-income families accounted for <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/exclusive-kids-pre-k-income-neighborhood-article-1.2358284" target="_blank">more than half</a> of the program’s enrollment. In a phone interview, Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Josh Wallack said the program will continue expanding until it can offer a seat to every child in New York City and give all families access to educational child care.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the pre-K program continues to grow, the city has contracted Metis Consulting Group, Westat research firm, and researchers from New York University to track how the program is benefiting children and parents. Part of their research will include the economic well-being of families and their ability to participate in the workforce. With the second school year of the expanded pre-K program almost complete and enrollment for the third year continuing, more data is becoming available.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many will be watching not only for metrics from those hired to track UPK, but for students’ third grade test scores - state standardized tests in English Language Arts and math begin in third grade - especially the comparison between UPK participants and nonparticipants from the same year or prior years.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city and DOE view quality early childhood education as an investment in the public school system as well as an important aspect of developing the economy, Wallack said.</p> <p>“Pre-K itself is an investment that the city is making in our children that will go on to help build the city going forward,” Wallack said. “It’s an investment that we’re making in the economy of New York City, both because of the immediate effects of helping families participate in the workforce, but also in helping a whole generation of students do even better in school and then go on to participate in the economy of New York City in the next generation.”</p> <p>***<br />by Carmen Russo, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/carmenjrusso" target="_blank">@carmenjrusso</a></p> The Next Step to Helping Immigrant Families Thrive 2016-03-28T16:40:48+00:00 2016-03-28T16:40:48+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6247:the-next-step-to-helping-immigrant-families-thrive Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/menchaca_idnyc.jpg" alt="menchaca idnyc" height="472" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Council Member Menchaca, a co-author, promotes IDNYC (photo: @IDNYC)</span></p> <hr /> <p>In recent years, New York City has taken tremendous strides forward in supporting immigrants. Many of Mayor de Blasio's signature initiatives—particularly universal pre-kindergarten (UPK), IDNYC, and community schools—have offered vital new services to New Yorkers across the city that have been tremendously beneficial for immigrants seeking to fully integrate themselves into our society and see their families thrive.</p> <p>Now, there's another critical step that New York City can take to build on these immigrant integration successes: investing in adult education.</p> <p>New York City has the largest immigrant community of any city in the United States, with three million immigrants from all over the world—that's more than the entire population of Chicago. Immigrants help drive our city—accounting for 45 percent of the workforce and 49 percent of small business owners, and endowing the Big Apple with much of its incredible cultural vibrancy.</p> <p>New York City has led the way in offering vital services to immigrant communities, in particular to children from immigrant households. But it's critical that we now move forward to ensure that immigrant parents are equally equipped to take advantage of new path-breaking city programs, and that means supporting adult literacy initiatives that help immigrant New Yorkers learn English and ensure basic reading and writing skills.</p> <p>Adult literacy is crucial for helping parents know how to navigate the city and unlock the power of major policy achievements. To make UPK, IDNYC, and community schools live up to their potential, for example, we need to make sure parents are equipped with the tools they need to access them. English-speaking parents have a much easier time ensuring their children's educational success—for example, by being able to fully engage during parent-teacher meetings—and being able to proactively seek out the indispensable services provided at community schools.</p> <p>Adult literacy is necessary for our immigrant communities, and more broadly, it's important for the economic well-being of our city. As <a href="https://populardemocracy.org/news/publications/teaching-toward-equity" target="_blank">a new report</a> by the Center for Popular Democracy and Make the Road New York has found, directing additional resources toward adult literacy will raise immigrant New Yorkers' wages and increase tax revenues.</p> <p>Take the example of Yanilda, a Dominican immigrant enrolled in English classes at Make the Road New York in Bushwick. Since beginning her classes, Yanilda notes, "I can help my niece with her homework. She's in kindergarten now and when I help her read her books, I learn too." Yanilda is also confident that her steadily improving English will help her get a better job. For her and thousands of others citywide who are lucky enough to have a spot in a free English class, adult literacy programs offer a win-win.</p> <p>There are 1.7 million and 2.3 million Limited-English proficient residents like Yanilda, in New York City and New York State, respectively, according to the Census, and many others in need of basic literacy courses. Within immigrant communities there is a tremendous unmet need for English classes and adult basic education, with state funding now only sufficient to accommodate one of every 39 New Yorkers who need ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) classes. Simply put, adult literacy funding has not kept pace with the need.</p> <p>That's why we need New York City to dedicate $16 million in its upcoming budget to new investments to help 13,300 students access adult literacy programs, including ESOL, Basic Education in Native Language (BENL), Adult Basic Education (ABE), and High School Equivalency Preparation (HSE).</p> <p>We've made so much progress in expanding services to immigrant New Yorkers since Mayor de Blasio took office. It's time for New York City to take the next step in full immigrant integration by investing in adult literacy.</p> <p>***<br />Carlos Menchaca is a member of the New York City Council. Theo Oshiro is the Deputy Director Make the Road New York. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/cmenchaca" target="_blank">@cmenchaca</a>&nbsp;&amp;&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadNY" target="_blank">@maketheroadny</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/menchaca_idnyc.jpg" alt="menchaca idnyc" height="472" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Council Member Menchaca, a co-author, promotes IDNYC (photo: @IDNYC)</span></p> <hr /> <p>In recent years, New York City has taken tremendous strides forward in supporting immigrants. Many of Mayor de Blasio's signature initiatives—particularly universal pre-kindergarten (UPK), IDNYC, and community schools—have offered vital new services to New Yorkers across the city that have been tremendously beneficial for immigrants seeking to fully integrate themselves into our society and see their families thrive.</p> <p>Now, there's another critical step that New York City can take to build on these immigrant integration successes: investing in adult education.</p> <p>New York City has the largest immigrant community of any city in the United States, with three million immigrants from all over the world—that's more than the entire population of Chicago. Immigrants help drive our city—accounting for 45 percent of the workforce and 49 percent of small business owners, and endowing the Big Apple with much of its incredible cultural vibrancy.</p> <p>New York City has led the way in offering vital services to immigrant communities, in particular to children from immigrant households. But it's critical that we now move forward to ensure that immigrant parents are equally equipped to take advantage of new path-breaking city programs, and that means supporting adult literacy initiatives that help immigrant New Yorkers learn English and ensure basic reading and writing skills.</p> <p>Adult literacy is crucial for helping parents know how to navigate the city and unlock the power of major policy achievements. To make UPK, IDNYC, and community schools live up to their potential, for example, we need to make sure parents are equipped with the tools they need to access them. English-speaking parents have a much easier time ensuring their children's educational success—for example, by being able to fully engage during parent-teacher meetings—and being able to proactively seek out the indispensable services provided at community schools.</p> <p>Adult literacy is necessary for our immigrant communities, and more broadly, it's important for the economic well-being of our city. As <a href="https://populardemocracy.org/news/publications/teaching-toward-equity" target="_blank">a new report</a> by the Center for Popular Democracy and Make the Road New York has found, directing additional resources toward adult literacy will raise immigrant New Yorkers' wages and increase tax revenues.</p> <p>Take the example of Yanilda, a Dominican immigrant enrolled in English classes at Make the Road New York in Bushwick. Since beginning her classes, Yanilda notes, "I can help my niece with her homework. She's in kindergarten now and when I help her read her books, I learn too." Yanilda is also confident that her steadily improving English will help her get a better job. For her and thousands of others citywide who are lucky enough to have a spot in a free English class, adult literacy programs offer a win-win.</p> <p>There are 1.7 million and 2.3 million Limited-English proficient residents like Yanilda, in New York City and New York State, respectively, according to the Census, and many others in need of basic literacy courses. Within immigrant communities there is a tremendous unmet need for English classes and adult basic education, with state funding now only sufficient to accommodate one of every 39 New Yorkers who need ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) classes. Simply put, adult literacy funding has not kept pace with the need.</p> <p>That's why we need New York City to dedicate $16 million in its upcoming budget to new investments to help 13,300 students access adult literacy programs, including ESOL, Basic Education in Native Language (BENL), Adult Basic Education (ABE), and High School Equivalency Preparation (HSE).</p> <p>We've made so much progress in expanding services to immigrant New Yorkers since Mayor de Blasio took office. It's time for New York City to take the next step in full immigrant integration by investing in adult literacy.</p> <p>***<br />Carlos Menchaca is a member of the New York City Council. Theo Oshiro is the Deputy Director Make the Road New York. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/cmenchaca" target="_blank">@cmenchaca</a>&nbsp;&amp;&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadNY" target="_blank">@maketheroadny</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Library Funding One Discrepancy in Quiet City Budget Season 2016-03-24T20:29:13+00:00 2016-03-24T20:29:13+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6240:library-funding-one-discrepancy-in-quiet-city-budget-season Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/van_bramer_libraries_rally_.jpg" alt="van bramer libraries rally " height="400" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Member Van Bramer leads a library funding rally (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Funding for New York City’s three public library systems is still $22 million short of the $65 million in city funding libraries received before the recession, despite increased demand for the services libraries provide, the presidents of the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library said at a March 23 City Council preliminary budget hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">Hundreds of orange-clad librarians and library advocates filled the Council chambers at City Hall to support the three library heads in calling for the entire $43 million in funding that was restored in last year’s budget to be baselined by Mayor de Blasio, and for the additional $22 million in funding that was cut from libraries in 2008 to be restored.</p> <p dir="ltr">A greater investment in libraries is necessary, the three library presidents argue, to expand access to vital programs libraries provide, such as English Speakers of Other Languages <a href="http://www.nypl.org/events/classes/esol" target="_blank">classes</a>, early literacy programs, after school programs, adult-learning classes, and job training. Not to mention more basic library services providing books, space, and internet.</p> <p dir="ltr">With last year’s added funding, the Queens Library system “increased its ESOL seats by 6.6 percent,” said Dennis Walcott, the new president of the Queens Public Library and former schools chancellor. “However, we still turned away more than 1,100 students due to the lack of capacity. The 2016 investment was historic, but too many needs remain unmet.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Though the Mayor and the City Council restored $43 million in funding in last year’s budget, Mayor de Blasio has baselined $21 million in his preliminary fiscal year 2017 budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This year, we have taken the unprecedented step in the preliminary FY 2017 budget of baselining the additional mayoral operating funds provided last year,” Amy Spitalnick, a spokesperson for the mayor, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">The $21 million that de Blasio has baselined is the share of the funding that the administration contributed last year, and the remaining $22 million that has not been baselined was the Council’s share of the funding, yet it seems the three library heads and Council members want the mayor to baseline the entire $43 million.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have been fighting for several years, as all of you know, to restore the funding that was cut from the libraries beginning in 2008,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who chaired the hearing, in his opening remarks. “We have continued to urge the administration to baseline all of that funding, and were very pleased when the mayor baselined roughly half of that in the preliminary budget. But it is equally important that the remainder be baselined in the executive budget.”</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio unveiled an $82 billion preliminary FY17 budget in late January. His executive budget will be released in late April or early May and after the Council has presented its official preliminary budget response. In a year with little drama around the budget, funding for libraries and summer school programming appear to be among the few discrepancies between the administration and the Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is unusual for the administration’s presence to be somewhat absent at a City Council budget hearing, and though Tom Finklepearl, commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs, testified, funding for libraries went unmentioned throughout his time in front of the Council members presiding over the hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the presidents of the three library systems; Council members; representatives from DC37, the union that largely staffs libraries; and the many librarians and library advocates present at the hearing were all strongly in favor of completely restoring funding and baselining that money, no one from the de Blasio administration discussed the issue on the record. In part, this is the result of the fact that the libraries have their own boards of directors and operate in somewhat gray area. It was not immediately clear why Finklepearl was not asked to explain the administration’s stance on library funding.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio did include library systems in the 10-year capital plan for the first time ever last year, dedicating more than $300 million to the three systems. Yet, the three library presidents argue that the capital investment falls more than $250 million short of what is needed to address critical maintenance needs of the city’s libraries, many of which are over half a century old.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Infrastructure problems have a direct, negative impact on our staff’s programming,” said Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, which serves Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island. “At 115th [Street] Library in Harlem, for example, a coveted basement programming space was rendered unusable by serious leaks in a nearly 100-year-old underground pipe. The leaks destroyed the floor, and the outdated pipe and boiler need to be replaced.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“I fear for the soul of a city that allows libraries to deteriorate so quickly,” said Linda Johnson, president of the Brooklyn Public Library, adding that unplanned branch closures caused by the sudden need for repairs are an all-too-frequent occurrence for Brooklyn’s branches. Johnson says the administration must “baseline the increased operating support from last year and provide sufficient capital funding for libraries to appropriately address emergency needs.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Libraries provide an array of services that help to achieve the goals of both the mayor and the City Council, including providing IDNYC enrollment and universal pre-K. “Libraries have come through for this administration in a very big way,” Van Bramer said.</p> <p dir="ltr">For example, Marx pointed out at the hearing, the mayor and the Council have set an ambitious target of having every child reading on grade level by the end of second grade, though currently, 70 percent of the city’s third graders cannot read at grade level. The added funding distributed to the New York Public Library last year “provided us with the opportunity to expand our early literacy programming across the system, increasing overall attendance by 16 percent,” Marx said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though libraries did not receive the full $65 million in restored funds that they pushed for last year, all three libraries have made “measurable gains,” and have “nevertheless found a way to deliver six-day service and increase our programming,” Walcott said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year’s added funding allowed the city’s public library systems to offer<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6008-assessing-city-library-expansion-after-budget-boost" target="_blank"> six-day service</a> once again, for the first time in nearly a decade. As of November, 2015, all 217 libraries across the city are open for at least<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6008-assessing-city-library-expansion-after-budget-boost" target="_blank"> six days a week</a>, with 15 branches open seven days a week.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Six day service is a floor, not a ceiling,” Van Bramer said. The three library presidents and the scores of library-lovers that showed up both outside City Hall for a press conference, and inside City Hall for the hearing, want the city to restore the remaining $22 million in funding in order to improve and expand programs that the libraries offer, particularly early literacy services, and increase to seven-day service.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Libraries are on the front lines of tackling inequality,” Marx said, touching on the main throughline of de Blasio’s agenda. “No institution does more for New Yorkers; from helping to bridge the digital divide to offering new immigrants a chance to learn English, libraries offer essential services for high-need communities, at all stages of life across this city.”</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6008-assessing-city-library-expansion-after-budget-boost" target="_blank">Assessing City Library Expansion After Budget Boost</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">

***
by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/van_bramer_libraries_rally_.jpg" alt="van bramer libraries rally " height="400" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Member Van Bramer leads a library funding rally (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Funding for New York City’s three public library systems is still $22 million short of the $65 million in city funding libraries received before the recession, despite increased demand for the services libraries provide, the presidents of the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library said at a March 23 City Council preliminary budget hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">Hundreds of orange-clad librarians and library advocates filled the Council chambers at City Hall to support the three library heads in calling for the entire $43 million in funding that was restored in last year’s budget to be baselined by Mayor de Blasio, and for the additional $22 million in funding that was cut from libraries in 2008 to be restored.</p> <p dir="ltr">A greater investment in libraries is necessary, the three library presidents argue, to expand access to vital programs libraries provide, such as English Speakers of Other Languages <a href="http://www.nypl.org/events/classes/esol" target="_blank">classes</a>, early literacy programs, after school programs, adult-learning classes, and job training. Not to mention more basic library services providing books, space, and internet.</p> <p dir="ltr">With last year’s added funding, the Queens Library system “increased its ESOL seats by 6.6 percent,” said Dennis Walcott, the new president of the Queens Public Library and former schools chancellor. “However, we still turned away more than 1,100 students due to the lack of capacity. The 2016 investment was historic, but too many needs remain unmet.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Though the Mayor and the City Council restored $43 million in funding in last year’s budget, Mayor de Blasio has baselined $21 million in his preliminary fiscal year 2017 budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This year, we have taken the unprecedented step in the preliminary FY 2017 budget of baselining the additional mayoral operating funds provided last year,” Amy Spitalnick, a spokesperson for the mayor, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">The $21 million that de Blasio has baselined is the share of the funding that the administration contributed last year, and the remaining $22 million that has not been baselined was the Council’s share of the funding, yet it seems the three library heads and Council members want the mayor to baseline the entire $43 million.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have been fighting for several years, as all of you know, to restore the funding that was cut from the libraries beginning in 2008,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who chaired the hearing, in his opening remarks. “We have continued to urge the administration to baseline all of that funding, and were very pleased when the mayor baselined roughly half of that in the preliminary budget. But it is equally important that the remainder be baselined in the executive budget.”</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio unveiled an $82 billion preliminary FY17 budget in late January. His executive budget will be released in late April or early May and after the Council has presented its official preliminary budget response. In a year with little drama around the budget, funding for libraries and summer school programming appear to be among the few discrepancies between the administration and the Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is unusual for the administration’s presence to be somewhat absent at a City Council budget hearing, and though Tom Finklepearl, commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs, testified, funding for libraries went unmentioned throughout his time in front of the Council members presiding over the hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the presidents of the three library systems; Council members; representatives from DC37, the union that largely staffs libraries; and the many librarians and library advocates present at the hearing were all strongly in favor of completely restoring funding and baselining that money, no one from the de Blasio administration discussed the issue on the record. In part, this is the result of the fact that the libraries have their own boards of directors and operate in somewhat gray area. It was not immediately clear why Finklepearl was not asked to explain the administration’s stance on library funding.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio did include library systems in the 10-year capital plan for the first time ever last year, dedicating more than $300 million to the three systems. Yet, the three library presidents argue that the capital investment falls more than $250 million short of what is needed to address critical maintenance needs of the city’s libraries, many of which are over half a century old.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Infrastructure problems have a direct, negative impact on our staff’s programming,” said Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, which serves Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island. “At 115th [Street] Library in Harlem, for example, a coveted basement programming space was rendered unusable by serious leaks in a nearly 100-year-old underground pipe. The leaks destroyed the floor, and the outdated pipe and boiler need to be replaced.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“I fear for the soul of a city that allows libraries to deteriorate so quickly,” said Linda Johnson, president of the Brooklyn Public Library, adding that unplanned branch closures caused by the sudden need for repairs are an all-too-frequent occurrence for Brooklyn’s branches. Johnson says the administration must “baseline the increased operating support from last year and provide sufficient capital funding for libraries to appropriately address emergency needs.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Libraries provide an array of services that help to achieve the goals of both the mayor and the City Council, including providing IDNYC enrollment and universal pre-K. “Libraries have come through for this administration in a very big way,” Van Bramer said.</p> <p dir="ltr">For example, Marx pointed out at the hearing, the mayor and the Council have set an ambitious target of having every child reading on grade level by the end of second grade, though currently, 70 percent of the city’s third graders cannot read at grade level. The added funding distributed to the New York Public Library last year “provided us with the opportunity to expand our early literacy programming across the system, increasing overall attendance by 16 percent,” Marx said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though libraries did not receive the full $65 million in restored funds that they pushed for last year, all three libraries have made “measurable gains,” and have “nevertheless found a way to deliver six-day service and increase our programming,” Walcott said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year’s added funding allowed the city’s public library systems to offer<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6008-assessing-city-library-expansion-after-budget-boost" target="_blank"> six-day service</a> once again, for the first time in nearly a decade. As of November, 2015, all 217 libraries across the city are open for at least<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6008-assessing-city-library-expansion-after-budget-boost" target="_blank"> six days a week</a>, with 15 branches open seven days a week.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Six day service is a floor, not a ceiling,” Van Bramer said. The three library presidents and the scores of library-lovers that showed up both outside City Hall for a press conference, and inside City Hall for the hearing, want the city to restore the remaining $22 million in funding in order to improve and expand programs that the libraries offer, particularly early literacy services, and increase to seven-day service.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Libraries are on the front lines of tackling inequality,” Marx said, touching on the main throughline of de Blasio’s agenda. “No institution does more for New Yorkers; from helping to bridge the digital divide to offering new immigrants a chance to learn English, libraries offer essential services for high-need communities, at all stages of life across this city.”</p> <p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6008-assessing-city-library-expansion-after-budget-boost" target="_blank">Assessing City Library Expansion After Budget Boost</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr">

***
by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Will the Democrats' Fresh Entitlements Lift Poor Families? 2016-03-03T17:03:42+00:00 2016-03-03T17:03:42+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6205:will-the-democrats-fresh-entitlements-lift-poor-families Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/24575725553_51f608584a_z.jpg" alt="de blasio upk" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>De Blasio on a school visit (photo: Ed Reed, Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Circle time at preschool teaches much about civility and unity, how best to contribute to a pint-size society.</p> <p>So when little Lela whispered from the corner, "I'm ready to come back," teacher Katie Wassel in Washington Heights figured lesson learned, the 4-year-old rejoined a tight crescent of fidgeting peers seated on a colorful rug. You can't elbow your neighbor at circle time.</p> <p>Hillary Clinton draws a wide and inclusive circle all her own, pitching fresh entitlements to ease the financial angst of families – parental leave, universal pre-kindergarten, tuition-free community college – and nudged leftward by young voters, many women, Senator Bernie Sanders, and diehards who continue to 'Feel the Bern.'</p> <p>Fiscal conservatives warn of ballooning costs for existing social guarantees. But a thornier question confronts Democrats: Might they inadvertently worsen inequality, rather than close disparities between poor and well-heeled families?</p> <p>Take Mayor Bill de Blasio – poster boy for novel entitlements – and his well-meaning spread of free pre-K for all families, no matter how rich or poor.</p> <p>His original yarn was a tale of two disparate cities. "The best and the brightest are born in every neighborhood," he declared after winning election, seeking to narrow early gaps in children's learning. A half-century of research findings does show that quality preschool can lift impoverished children.</p> <p>But Mr. de Blasio pushed for a universal benefit, crawling out on a thin policy limb, ignoring three national studies, including my own with Stanford economist Susanna Loeb, that discern just minuscule and <a href="http://cepatest.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/How%20Much%20Too%20Much.pdf" target="_blank">fading effects</a> of pre-K for children from better-off families.</p> <p>Why? Because most middle-class parents – two-thirds of whom nationwide already enjoy access to pre-K – offer important nurturance <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cfa.asp" target="_blank">at home</a> as well. And if the mayor's pre-K proves to elevate all kids, how would this narrow gaps in children's early growth?</p> <p>The mayor's fuzzy logic reveals a deeper dilemma for Mrs. Clinton and Democratic candidates: How to rekindle opportunity for the middle class, while delivering on their perennial promise to lift the poor.</p> <p>White Americans have seen their earnings slip by 3 percent since the late 1990s, falling to $60,300 in mean wages last year. But total income <a href="https://www.cbo.gov/publication/50318" target="_blank">ticked upward</a>, thanks to middle-class tax cuts and rising aid for health care, says the Congressional Budget Office. In stark contrast, nearly 24 million children under age six live below or near the poverty line. Affordable pre-K remains <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cfa.asp" target="_blank">out of reach</a> for half these families.</p> <p>More than 103,000 four-year-olds populate New York City and are eligible for preschool. Mr. de Blasio has added more than 38,000 full-day pre-K seats citywide, totaling more than 68,500, many in depressed parts of the city. But over 30,000 potential preschoolers <a href="https://gse.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/docs/NYC%20Brief%204-%20July%202015%20150701_b%20-%20FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">remain outside</a> any public program, two-fifths being raised in the city's poorest neighborhoods.</p> <p>Entitlement hawks also teach us that one size can't fit all, especially when serving the nation's kaleidoscopic variety of families. At first Mr. de Blasio aimed to mainly enlarge the count of preschool seats in city schools, pleasing the teachers union but stirring protests from the city's 1,900 private, mostly nonprofit pre-K's, which have resisted cookie-cutter programs for over a century.</p> <p>Take parents who prefer half-day pre-K, allowing quality time at home for parent and child, but who now lose their subsidy, given the mayor's insistence on full days inside classrooms. Jewish educators seek more instructional time to advance religious teaching. Charter schools last month appealed Albany's <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/%20http:/www.nytimes.com/2016/02/27/nyregion/success-academy-loses-in-pre-k-battle-with-de-blasio-administration.html?_r=0" target="_blank">siding with the mayor</a> that he, not charter authorizers, can regulate independent pre-K programs.</p> <p>New York's experiment also reveals the risk of obsessing on what's new and shiny when regimented entitlements arrive. The mayor largely ignored existing supply, incenting middle-class parents to migrate into tuition-free preschools. This emptied up to 14,900 children from older programs, rather than widening access - what economists dub <a href="https://gse.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/docs/NYC%20Pre-k%20Brief%20150305_print.pdf" target="_blank">a substitution effect</a>. "We lost two full classrooms of 4-year-olds," said Don Williams, manager of a Midtown pre-K.</p> <p>President Obama and Republican governors, like Michigan's Rick Snyder, dodge the risks of unbridled entitlements, opting to expand pre-K access for poor youngsters, while easing middle-class costs via tax credits. A rising count of companies, from Netflix to Goldman Sachs, help shoulder the burden of essential human supports: from paid leave for parents nurturing a newborn to insuring security in old age.</p> <p>Instead, untethered entitlements go awry when benefits tilt toward better-heeled players, say how price supports for farmers became welfare for the well-off, or when taxpayers underwrite pre-K or high-priced universities for parents who can afford to pay.</p> <p>The campaign season may prompt serious debate over the future of entitlements, along with how to bolster working families. But as Mrs. Clinton and leading Democrats embrace new social guarantees, pursuing middle-class voters, they should be honest about who they aim to buoy and who they would leave behind.</p> <p>***<br />Bruce Fuller, professor of education and public policy at Berkeley, is author of <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/O/bo19896811.html" target="_blank">Organizing Locally</a> (University of Chicago Press).</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/24575725553_51f608584a_z.jpg" alt="de blasio upk" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>De Blasio on a school visit (photo: Ed Reed, Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Circle time at preschool teaches much about civility and unity, how best to contribute to a pint-size society.</p> <p>So when little Lela whispered from the corner, "I'm ready to come back," teacher Katie Wassel in Washington Heights figured lesson learned, the 4-year-old rejoined a tight crescent of fidgeting peers seated on a colorful rug. You can't elbow your neighbor at circle time.</p> <p>Hillary Clinton draws a wide and inclusive circle all her own, pitching fresh entitlements to ease the financial angst of families – parental leave, universal pre-kindergarten, tuition-free community college – and nudged leftward by young voters, many women, Senator Bernie Sanders, and diehards who continue to 'Feel the Bern.'</p> <p>Fiscal conservatives warn of ballooning costs for existing social guarantees. But a thornier question confronts Democrats: Might they inadvertently worsen inequality, rather than close disparities between poor and well-heeled families?</p> <p>Take Mayor Bill de Blasio – poster boy for novel entitlements – and his well-meaning spread of free pre-K for all families, no matter how rich or poor.</p> <p>His original yarn was a tale of two disparate cities. "The best and the brightest are born in every neighborhood," he declared after winning election, seeking to narrow early gaps in children's learning. A half-century of research findings does show that quality preschool can lift impoverished children.</p> <p>But Mr. de Blasio pushed for a universal benefit, crawling out on a thin policy limb, ignoring three national studies, including my own with Stanford economist Susanna Loeb, that discern just minuscule and <a href="http://cepatest.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/How%20Much%20Too%20Much.pdf" target="_blank">fading effects</a> of pre-K for children from better-off families.</p> <p>Why? Because most middle-class parents – two-thirds of whom nationwide already enjoy access to pre-K – offer important nurturance <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cfa.asp" target="_blank">at home</a> as well. And if the mayor's pre-K proves to elevate all kids, how would this narrow gaps in children's early growth?</p> <p>The mayor's fuzzy logic reveals a deeper dilemma for Mrs. Clinton and Democratic candidates: How to rekindle opportunity for the middle class, while delivering on their perennial promise to lift the poor.</p> <p>White Americans have seen their earnings slip by 3 percent since the late 1990s, falling to $60,300 in mean wages last year. But total income <a href="https://www.cbo.gov/publication/50318" target="_blank">ticked upward</a>, thanks to middle-class tax cuts and rising aid for health care, says the Congressional Budget Office. In stark contrast, nearly 24 million children under age six live below or near the poverty line. Affordable pre-K remains <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cfa.asp" target="_blank">out of reach</a> for half these families.</p> <p>More than 103,000 four-year-olds populate New York City and are eligible for preschool. Mr. de Blasio has added more than 38,000 full-day pre-K seats citywide, totaling more than 68,500, many in depressed parts of the city. But over 30,000 potential preschoolers <a href="https://gse.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/docs/NYC%20Brief%204-%20July%202015%20150701_b%20-%20FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">remain outside</a> any public program, two-fifths being raised in the city's poorest neighborhoods.</p> <p>Entitlement hawks also teach us that one size can't fit all, especially when serving the nation's kaleidoscopic variety of families. At first Mr. de Blasio aimed to mainly enlarge the count of preschool seats in city schools, pleasing the teachers union but stirring protests from the city's 1,900 private, mostly nonprofit pre-K's, which have resisted cookie-cutter programs for over a century.</p> <p>Take parents who prefer half-day pre-K, allowing quality time at home for parent and child, but who now lose their subsidy, given the mayor's insistence on full days inside classrooms. Jewish educators seek more instructional time to advance religious teaching. Charter schools last month appealed Albany's <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/%20http:/www.nytimes.com/2016/02/27/nyregion/success-academy-loses-in-pre-k-battle-with-de-blasio-administration.html?_r=0" target="_blank">siding with the mayor</a> that he, not charter authorizers, can regulate independent pre-K programs.</p> <p>New York's experiment also reveals the risk of obsessing on what's new and shiny when regimented entitlements arrive. The mayor largely ignored existing supply, incenting middle-class parents to migrate into tuition-free preschools. This emptied up to 14,900 children from older programs, rather than widening access - what economists dub <a href="https://gse.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/docs/NYC%20Pre-k%20Brief%20150305_print.pdf" target="_blank">a substitution effect</a>. "We lost two full classrooms of 4-year-olds," said Don Williams, manager of a Midtown pre-K.</p> <p>President Obama and Republican governors, like Michigan's Rick Snyder, dodge the risks of unbridled entitlements, opting to expand pre-K access for poor youngsters, while easing middle-class costs via tax credits. A rising count of companies, from Netflix to Goldman Sachs, help shoulder the burden of essential human supports: from paid leave for parents nurturing a newborn to insuring security in old age.</p> <p>Instead, untethered entitlements go awry when benefits tilt toward better-heeled players, say how price supports for farmers became welfare for the well-off, or when taxpayers underwrite pre-K or high-priced universities for parents who can afford to pay.</p> <p>The campaign season may prompt serious debate over the future of entitlements, along with how to bolster working families. But as Mrs. Clinton and leading Democrats embrace new social guarantees, pursuing middle-class voters, they should be honest about who they aim to buoy and who they would leave behind.</p> <p>***<br />Bruce Fuller, professor of education and public policy at Berkeley, is author of <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/O/bo19896811.html" target="_blank">Organizing Locally</a> (University of Chicago Press).</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> Report Shows Need for Elementary After-School Expansion 2015-09-27T05:00:00+00:00 2015-09-27T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5910:report-shows-need-for-elementary-after-school-expansion Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/bdb_students_presser.jpg" alt="bdb students presser" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; students (photo: Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The expansion of public educational programs to enhance the traditional school system and combat rising inequality has been a signature of the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>Much like his universal pre-kindergarten program, de Blasio's vast expansion of middle school after-school offerings allows more structured opportunity for young people as well as more assurance and opportunity for parents.</p> <p>Yet, while <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" target="_blank">over 65,000 four-year-olds are now enrolled in pre-K</a> and more than 100,000 middle schoolers in after-school programs, there remains a glaring gap in the availability of after-school offerings for elementary school students. A recent survey by the Campaign for Children, a coalition of 150 educational advocate groups, shows the need in stark figures.</p> <p>A report based on the survey, an advance copy of which was shared with Gotham Gazette, shows that 88 percent of the 83 elementary school programs surveyed have waitlists, with an average waitlist of 38 percent of capacity. Some lists reach as high 357 spots while others cap waitlists at 30 or 50 due to very low drop out rates.</p> <p>"The City's significant investment in programs for middle school students has been a major success," said Stephanie Gendell, Associate Executive Director for Policy and Government Relations at Citizens' Committee for Children and a member of the Campaign for Children. "But given the high percentage of programs reporting waitlists, after-school should be extended to the families of children at all grade levels, all year long."</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio acknowledges the importance of extended-day programming and has touted his expansion of middle-school after-school.</p> <p>"After-school is such a huge difference-maker," de Blasio said during a press conference to announce increased funding for additional middle school after-school programs. "It extends the learning day, provides an enrichment that is not there without it, keeps kids safe and sound, helps kids to the right path, including a lot of young people at the middle school level, where we're focused, who might be tempted by some of the negative dynamics around them."</p> <p>When told of the Campaign for Children survey, a representative of the de Blasio administration stressed its commitment to expanding after-school offerings. "Providing as many young people as possible with free, safe and high-quality afterschool programs is one of this administration's top priorities," said Mark Zustovich, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development.</p> <p>"This year, the City's unprecedented expansion of middle school programming means that 106,000 students in sixth through eighth grades will be served during a very critical time in their development," Zustovich said.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration has indicated no elementary after-school expansion plans as of yet.</p> <p>The after-school system is comprised of three components. COMPASS, or Comprehensive After-School System of New York, which has been the major focus of de Blasio's expansion and offers expanded educational opportunities in arts and sciences as well as activities to keep children engaged and active. Beacon Community Centers use schools as hubs for community-based programing like physical and mental health services, English as a second language (ESL) classes, and traditional after-school activities. And, Cornerstone Community Centers operate out of NYCHA facilities and are focused on families within the surrounding housing complexes.</p> <p>Demand for after-school enrollment far outweighs supply. Yamayra Lopez, a 40-year-old insurance broker in the Bronx and mother of two, said enrolling her daughter in an elementary level after-school program was a stressful endeavor to say the least.</p> <p>"In order to make sure she had a spot, I had to leave work early to meet deadlines and hand in paperwork," she said. "There were hundreds of people waiting in a line that stretched around the block. A lot of parents were left out."</p> <p>According to <a href="http://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/journals/article/index.xml?journalid=48&amp;articleid=232&amp;sectionid=1518" target="_blank">a report</a>&nbsp;out of Princeton University, after-school programs that provide additional educational instruction and social interaction "not only support healthy, positive development during [ages 6 through 14], they will also put in place the kind of safety net needed to support healthy, positive passage through early and middle adolescence."</p> <p>Aside from the intellectual and social benefits for students in after-school programs, they also provide financial relief for low-income families. Parents are able to work or work more hours, and to save on childcare costs.</p> <p>The Campaign for Children surveyed 2,500 parents who currently enroll their children in after-school programs – 268 from the Bronx, 453 from Brooklyn, 279 from Manhattan, 428 from Queens and 48 from Staten Island.</p> <p>All told, 91 percent said they required after-school and summer programs to attend work or school, 64 percent said they relied on the programs to help feed their children, and 30 percent said they would either have to quit their job or leave their young child at home without supervision if they couldn't register.</p> <p>"I can't afford to leave work early to be with her everyday," Yamayra Lopez said of her daughter. "These programs were where she could build a foundation to transition into a well-adjusted person. She came out with a wealth of knowledge. I am eternally grateful."</p> <p>For families with elementary school students on waitlists, the city's further expansion of after-school programs can't come soon enough.</p> <p>***<br />by John Spina for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/jsspina24" target="_blank">@jsspina24</a><br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/bdb_students_presser.jpg" alt="bdb students presser" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio &amp; students (photo: Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The expansion of public educational programs to enhance the traditional school system and combat rising inequality has been a signature of the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>Much like his universal pre-kindergarten program, de Blasio's vast expansion of middle school after-school offerings allows more structured opportunity for young people as well as more assurance and opportunity for parents.</p> <p>Yet, while <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" target="_blank">over 65,000 four-year-olds are now enrolled in pre-K</a> and more than 100,000 middle schoolers in after-school programs, there remains a glaring gap in the availability of after-school offerings for elementary school students. A recent survey by the Campaign for Children, a coalition of 150 educational advocate groups, shows the need in stark figures.</p> <p>A report based on the survey, an advance copy of which was shared with Gotham Gazette, shows that 88 percent of the 83 elementary school programs surveyed have waitlists, with an average waitlist of 38 percent of capacity. Some lists reach as high 357 spots while others cap waitlists at 30 or 50 due to very low drop out rates.</p> <p>"The City's significant investment in programs for middle school students has been a major success," said Stephanie Gendell, Associate Executive Director for Policy and Government Relations at Citizens' Committee for Children and a member of the Campaign for Children. "But given the high percentage of programs reporting waitlists, after-school should be extended to the families of children at all grade levels, all year long."</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio acknowledges the importance of extended-day programming and has touted his expansion of middle-school after-school.</p> <p>"After-school is such a huge difference-maker," de Blasio said during a press conference to announce increased funding for additional middle school after-school programs. "It extends the learning day, provides an enrichment that is not there without it, keeps kids safe and sound, helps kids to the right path, including a lot of young people at the middle school level, where we're focused, who might be tempted by some of the negative dynamics around them."</p> <p>When told of the Campaign for Children survey, a representative of the de Blasio administration stressed its commitment to expanding after-school offerings. "Providing as many young people as possible with free, safe and high-quality afterschool programs is one of this administration's top priorities," said Mark Zustovich, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development.</p> <p>"This year, the City's unprecedented expansion of middle school programming means that 106,000 students in sixth through eighth grades will be served during a very critical time in their development," Zustovich said.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration has indicated no elementary after-school expansion plans as of yet.</p> <p>The after-school system is comprised of three components. COMPASS, or Comprehensive After-School System of New York, which has been the major focus of de Blasio's expansion and offers expanded educational opportunities in arts and sciences as well as activities to keep children engaged and active. Beacon Community Centers use schools as hubs for community-based programing like physical and mental health services, English as a second language (ESL) classes, and traditional after-school activities. And, Cornerstone Community Centers operate out of NYCHA facilities and are focused on families within the surrounding housing complexes.</p> <p>Demand for after-school enrollment far outweighs supply. Yamayra Lopez, a 40-year-old insurance broker in the Bronx and mother of two, said enrolling her daughter in an elementary level after-school program was a stressful endeavor to say the least.</p> <p>"In order to make sure she had a spot, I had to leave work early to meet deadlines and hand in paperwork," she said. "There were hundreds of people waiting in a line that stretched around the block. A lot of parents were left out."</p> <p>According to <a href="http://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/journals/article/index.xml?journalid=48&amp;articleid=232&amp;sectionid=1518" target="_blank">a report</a>&nbsp;out of Princeton University, after-school programs that provide additional educational instruction and social interaction "not only support healthy, positive development during [ages 6 through 14], they will also put in place the kind of safety net needed to support healthy, positive passage through early and middle adolescence."</p> <p>Aside from the intellectual and social benefits for students in after-school programs, they also provide financial relief for low-income families. Parents are able to work or work more hours, and to save on childcare costs.</p> <p>The Campaign for Children surveyed 2,500 parents who currently enroll their children in after-school programs – 268 from the Bronx, 453 from Brooklyn, 279 from Manhattan, 428 from Queens and 48 from Staten Island.</p> <p>All told, 91 percent said they required after-school and summer programs to attend work or school, 64 percent said they relied on the programs to help feed their children, and 30 percent said they would either have to quit their job or leave their young child at home without supervision if they couldn't register.</p> <p>"I can't afford to leave work early to be with her everyday," Yamayra Lopez said of her daughter. "These programs were where she could build a foundation to transition into a well-adjusted person. She came out with a wealth of knowledge. I am eternally grateful."</p> <p>For families with elementary school students on waitlists, the city's further expansion of after-school programs can't come soon enough.</p> <p>***<br />by John Spina for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/jsspina24" target="_blank">@jsspina24</a><br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> Pre-K Pillar in Place, De Blasio Must Build Rest of His Case for Mayoral Control 2015-09-10T10:59:59+00:00 2015-09-10T10:59:59+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5884:pre-k-pillar-in-place-de-blasio-must-build-rest-of-his-case-for-mayoral-control Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/bdb_parent_first_day_of_school.jpg" alt="bdb parent first day of school" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">De Blasio greets a parent on the first day of school (photo: @BilldeBlasio)</span></p> <hr /> <p>It was his number one campaign policy proposal and as mayor, he's delivering. Mayor Bill de Blasio went on a five-borough school tour Wednesday to celebrate the first day of the 2015-2016 academic year and the initial success of his universal pre-kindergarten program, now enrolling more than 65,500 children.</p> <p>If there is one thing that de Blasio promised on the 2013 campaign trail, it was "UPK," as it is often called, and in a short time he has devoted unseen resources to increase the number of New York City four-year-olds in school - up from about 20,000 full-day pre-K students in 2013-2014. The only thing that may come ahead of pre-K at City Hall is crime, and that's not such a sure assertion.</p> <p>How much the mayor's success on pre-K benefits city students, families, and de Blasio himself, is yet to be seen.</p> <p>UPK is one initiative that has won the oft-embattled mayor universal praise, even, at times, from some of his harshest critics. In fact, de Blasio indicated on Wednesday that UPK will be a key pillar in his argument for another extension of mayoral control of city schools when he must go defend his stewardship to Albany skeptics such as Governor Andrew Cuomo and state Senate Republican Majority Leader <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5847-what-is-flanagan-looking-for-from-de-blasio-on-mayoral-control" target="_blank">John Flanagan</a>.</p> <p>While de Blasio and members of his administration still need to prove pre-K is effective in helping children increase their learning and set on a path toward greater academic and professional success, the program is having immediate effects in terms of parents' savings on child care and opportunity to work or work more hours. To be sure, pre-K certainly cannot hurt young students from poor families in terms of their word acquisition and social-emotional development.</p> <p>Still, as far as UPK goes, there will be little other than the impressive rollout for de Blasio to discuss when he sits in front of the state Legislature to discuss mayoral control whenever Flanagan next beckons.</p> <p>There was <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5847-what-is-flanagan-looking-for-from-de-blasio-on-mayoral-control" target="_blank">much controversy</a> when, this spring, the state extended de Blasio's rule of city schools for just one year (as opposed to a longer extension or letting mayoral control expire and returning the city's education governance to a decentralized Board of Education). This included some he-said/he-said over whether Flanagan, who used to be chair of the Senate education committee, had requested de Blasio appear at a hearing and whether de Blasio had been willing to testify.</p> <p>On Wednesday, de Blasio promised more on his education initiatives later this month, and touted several aspects of his work on the subject in addition to pre-K, such as his community schools initiative. The mayor was asked about extension of his control of the schools and responded defiantly to any notion that it might be stripped from him.</p> <p>Whether it was the effects of a humid day spent traversing the city, reading out loud to students, thanking teachers, and snapping selfies with grateful parents or the frustrating reality of the power dynamics at play, de Blasio sounded somewhat fatigued when asked about mayoral control during an afternoon press conference.</p> <p>"I think the facts really will speak for themselves," the mayor said at his last school stop, in Manhattan. "I think the success of pre-K last year, now amplified on a much greater level. I think the success we're seeing on test scores, the progress we're seeing on renewal schools, the impact of greater professional development, which I know is going to help us retain good teachers," de Blasio said, previewing the argument he will make to Flanagan, Cuomo, and others.</p> <p>The mayor continued, hitting on something that may help win over Cuomo: "We've obviously been assertive about helping teachers who shouldn't be in the profession to move along," de blasio said. "So I think that all those facts are going to add up. And I think, again, the people are going to demand that it be continued on a longer scale because it's part of what allows us to keep our school system improving."</p> <p>Whether those points, even explained in more detail, will make for <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5847-what-is-flanagan-looking-for-from-de-blasio-on-mayoral-control" target="_blank">a convincing case</a> in front of Senate Republicans and a governor whose education politics are far from de Blasio's is unclear.</p> <p>The test scores de Blasio refers to (for 3-8 grade students on Common Core-aligned state tests) did indeed show slight progress, but also a great deal of room for improvement to see New York students meeting the standards as measured by the tests. While only about 30% of students are proficient in reading and 35% proficient in math, the city's test scores do compare well with the rest of the state, especially the other largest cities.</p> <p>The "renewal schools" that de Blasio referenced are those in which the city has had to implement turnaround plans and are at risk of state takeover. Those 94 "persistently struggling" schools - along with de Blasio's opposition to charter schools, which are often juxtaposed with the city's most maligned schools - could be at the center of the discussion in Albany.</p> <p>"Renewal schools are a huge focus for us," de Blasio said on Wednesday, "and we're very, very excited about the progress that's already happening in renewal schools...let's be blunt, a lot of those schools were left without the support and resources they needed. A lot of those schools happened to be in disadvantaged communities. We're changing that. We're giving them the support so they succeed."</p> <p>In a press release, the de Blasio administration wrote that the 94 renewal schools are included in the 130-school community school initiative, which means that they have "wraparound services like counseling, free eyeglasses, and additional tutoring to eliminate barriers to learning for at-risk students." The renewals "all have extra academic support for struggling students, including an extra hour of time in class each day."</p> <p>De Blasio won't have impressive renewal school test scores to bring to Albany, so he'll have to sell his turnaround model using those services, attendance records, and other metrics. There may be no getting past his opposition to charter school growth, which continues to provide ammunition to Cuomo, who is much less friendly with the teachers unions than de Blasio and is backed by donors who heavily support charters.</p> <p>While de Blasio has made reforms to the city's education system since taking the helm some 20 months ago and may indeed feel good about the direction he has the schools headed, he knows that he will soon have to bring a scorecard to Albany - and then to New York City voters come 2017. De Blasio himself has said that the real accountability on mayoral control is that New Yorkers know who to hold responsible for the schools when they go to the polls.</p> <p>It appears fairly certain that de Blasio has at least impressed many parents of new pre-k students.</p> <p>In front of a Staten Island school the mayor promised "to talk a lot more in the coming days about the other elements that are going to allow us to transform this school system." He said that the month of September is an obvious one for a focus on education.</p> <p>"But pre-k is literally the foundation, for each child, for each family, and for the change of this school system as a whole," de Blasio said, consistently bringing his narrative back to his crowning achievement.</p> <p>On WPIX-11 Wednesday morning, the mayor said he'd be saying more on education next week. "We want to strengthen our schools across the system – not just pre-k. All the way up – we want to strengthen graduation rates, college readiness, and we're going to have a lot to put forward on that," de Blasio said. "But what's great about today is, this is really the foundation for the future not only for the individual children and their families, but this will make the whole school system stronger."</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/bdb_parent_first_day_of_school.jpg" alt="bdb parent first day of school" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">De Blasio greets a parent on the first day of school (photo: @BilldeBlasio)</span></p> <hr /> <p>It was his number one campaign policy proposal and as mayor, he's delivering. Mayor Bill de Blasio went on a five-borough school tour Wednesday to celebrate the first day of the 2015-2016 academic year and the initial success of his universal pre-kindergarten program, now enrolling more than 65,500 children.</p> <p>If there is one thing that de Blasio promised on the 2013 campaign trail, it was "UPK," as it is often called, and in a short time he has devoted unseen resources to increase the number of New York City four-year-olds in school - up from about 20,000 full-day pre-K students in 2013-2014. The only thing that may come ahead of pre-K at City Hall is crime, and that's not such a sure assertion.</p> <p>How much the mayor's success on pre-K benefits city students, families, and de Blasio himself, is yet to be seen.</p> <p>UPK is one initiative that has won the oft-embattled mayor universal praise, even, at times, from some of his harshest critics. In fact, de Blasio indicated on Wednesday that UPK will be a key pillar in his argument for another extension of mayoral control of city schools when he must go defend his stewardship to Albany skeptics such as Governor Andrew Cuomo and state Senate Republican Majority Leader <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5847-what-is-flanagan-looking-for-from-de-blasio-on-mayoral-control" target="_blank">John Flanagan</a>.</p> <p>While de Blasio and members of his administration still need to prove pre-K is effective in helping children increase their learning and set on a path toward greater academic and professional success, the program is having immediate effects in terms of parents' savings on child care and opportunity to work or work more hours. To be sure, pre-K certainly cannot hurt young students from poor families in terms of their word acquisition and social-emotional development.</p> <p>Still, as far as UPK goes, there will be little other than the impressive rollout for de Blasio to discuss when he sits in front of the state Legislature to discuss mayoral control whenever Flanagan next beckons.</p> <p>There was <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5847-what-is-flanagan-looking-for-from-de-blasio-on-mayoral-control" target="_blank">much controversy</a> when, this spring, the state extended de Blasio's rule of city schools for just one year (as opposed to a longer extension or letting mayoral control expire and returning the city's education governance to a decentralized Board of Education). This included some he-said/he-said over whether Flanagan, who used to be chair of the Senate education committee, had requested de Blasio appear at a hearing and whether de Blasio had been willing to testify.</p> <p>On Wednesday, de Blasio promised more on his education initiatives later this month, and touted several aspects of his work on the subject in addition to pre-K, such as his community schools initiative. The mayor was asked about extension of his control of the schools and responded defiantly to any notion that it might be stripped from him.</p> <p>Whether it was the effects of a humid day spent traversing the city, reading out loud to students, thanking teachers, and snapping selfies with grateful parents or the frustrating reality of the power dynamics at play, de Blasio sounded somewhat fatigued when asked about mayoral control during an afternoon press conference.</p> <p>"I think the facts really will speak for themselves," the mayor said at his last school stop, in Manhattan. "I think the success of pre-K last year, now amplified on a much greater level. I think the success we're seeing on test scores, the progress we're seeing on renewal schools, the impact of greater professional development, which I know is going to help us retain good teachers," de Blasio said, previewing the argument he will make to Flanagan, Cuomo, and others.</p> <p>The mayor continued, hitting on something that may help win over Cuomo: "We've obviously been assertive about helping teachers who shouldn't be in the profession to move along," de blasio said. "So I think that all those facts are going to add up. And I think, again, the people are going to demand that it be continued on a longer scale because it's part of what allows us to keep our school system improving."</p> <p>Whether those points, even explained in more detail, will make for <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5847-what-is-flanagan-looking-for-from-de-blasio-on-mayoral-control" target="_blank">a convincing case</a> in front of Senate Republicans and a governor whose education politics are far from de Blasio's is unclear.</p> <p>The test scores de Blasio refers to (for 3-8 grade students on Common Core-aligned state tests) did indeed show slight progress, but also a great deal of room for improvement to see New York students meeting the standards as measured by the tests. While only about 30% of students are proficient in reading and 35% proficient in math, the city's test scores do compare well with the rest of the state, especially the other largest cities.</p> <p>The "renewal schools" that de Blasio referenced are those in which the city has had to implement turnaround plans and are at risk of state takeover. Those 94 "persistently struggling" schools - along with de Blasio's opposition to charter schools, which are often juxtaposed with the city's most maligned schools - could be at the center of the discussion in Albany.</p> <p>"Renewal schools are a huge focus for us," de Blasio said on Wednesday, "and we're very, very excited about the progress that's already happening in renewal schools...let's be blunt, a lot of those schools were left without the support and resources they needed. A lot of those schools happened to be in disadvantaged communities. We're changing that. We're giving them the support so they succeed."</p> <p>In a press release, the de Blasio administration wrote that the 94 renewal schools are included in the 130-school community school initiative, which means that they have "wraparound services like counseling, free eyeglasses, and additional tutoring to eliminate barriers to learning for at-risk students." The renewals "all have extra academic support for struggling students, including an extra hour of time in class each day."</p> <p>De Blasio won't have impressive renewal school test scores to bring to Albany, so he'll have to sell his turnaround model using those services, attendance records, and other metrics. There may be no getting past his opposition to charter school growth, which continues to provide ammunition to Cuomo, who is much less friendly with the teachers unions than de Blasio and is backed by donors who heavily support charters.</p> <p>While de Blasio has made reforms to the city's education system since taking the helm some 20 months ago and may indeed feel good about the direction he has the schools headed, he knows that he will soon have to bring a scorecard to Albany - and then to New York City voters come 2017. De Blasio himself has said that the real accountability on mayoral control is that New Yorkers know who to hold responsible for the schools when they go to the polls.</p> <p>It appears fairly certain that de Blasio has at least impressed many parents of new pre-k students.</p> <p>In front of a Staten Island school the mayor promised "to talk a lot more in the coming days about the other elements that are going to allow us to transform this school system." He said that the month of September is an obvious one for a focus on education.</p> <p>"But pre-k is literally the foundation, for each child, for each family, and for the change of this school system as a whole," de Blasio said, consistently bringing his narrative back to his crowning achievement.</p> <p>On WPIX-11 Wednesday morning, the mayor said he'd be saying more on education next week. "We want to strengthen our schools across the system – not just pre-k. All the way up – we want to strengthen graduation rates, college readiness, and we're going to have a lot to put forward on that," de Blasio said. "But what's great about today is, this is really the foundation for the future not only for the individual children and their families, but this will make the whole school system stronger."</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p> Breaking Down the City Budget 2015-07-08T22:11:22+00:00 2015-07-08T22:11:22+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5799:breaking-down-the-city-budget-de-blasio-nyc-council Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/18451433033_df46f9d0b9_z.jpg" alt="de blasio mark-viverito budget" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Mayor &amp; Speaker at budget announcement (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Wednesday, July 1, marked the beginning of the new fiscal year under a $78.6 billion <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/city-council-approves-nyc-78-6-billion-2016-budget-article-1.2273168">budget</a> agreed upon by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">When he unveiled his preliminary budget outline in February, de Blasio <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/no-increased-nypd-headcount-budget-article-1.2214098?cid=bitly">hailed</a> the plan as “scrupulously fiscally responsible.” The 2016 budget continues a trend of increased spending: from 2010 to 2014, the budget increased at an average of around 4 percent per year. The first budget of the de Blasio administration increased spending by 6.3 percent. Now, the second de Blasio budget has grown 5.2 percent from 2015.</p> <p dir="ltr">“[Fiscal 2015] was his first year and he was able to implement a lot of his new initiatives,” explained Rachel Bardin of Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan and nonprofit civic organization. The increased spending went toward funding programs like <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#/0">universal pre-K</a>, issuing <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/12/new-york-municipal-id_n_6455846.html">municipal IDs</a>, and homelessness prevention. Spending also increased as the mayor <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/02/8562562/three-more-unions-settle-city-hall">settled</a> contracts with labor unions - de Blasio inherited a situation where all of the city’s municipal unions were working under expired contracts.</p> <p dir="ltr">This year, the budget has grown again, raising several eyebrows. Part of this growth is due to an increase in personnel, including the hiring of an additional 1,297 police officers. An increased city headcount is expensive not only due to annual salaries, but also because of health care and pension costs. While de Blasio has expanded spending, he has also grown the savings funds the city keeps, able to do both because of the flush times the city is enjoying.</p> <p dir="ltr">The trend of growth in spending has prompted a cautious attitude in some, including city Comptroller Scott Stringer, who <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/06/8569743/stringer-urge-more-savings-de-blasio">called</a> on the de Blasio administration to find steeper agency savings and allocate more money toward budgetary reserves. Bardin, of CBC, warns of the implications of the uptick in spending if there is an economic downturn— the likelihood of which is “inevitable,” according to <a href="http://www.cbcny.org/content/cbc-statement-fy16-adopted-budget-new-york-city">a CBC statement</a>. De Blasio and his budget team agree. The mayor struck a very serious tone during his May executive budget presentation, warning that the economy will certainly not continue to grow as it has been.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have additional spending built into the budget and our revenues in the downturn wouldn’t be able to support that,” Bardin told Gotham Gazette. With insufficient funds to support the increased spending, a situation could occur in which the city must consider raising taxes, laying off employees, and ending or reducing programs.</p> <p dir="ltr">But Doug Turetsky, Chief of Staff for the Independent Budget Office, pushed back against the idea of an inevitable economic downturn and cited the unprecedented $1 billion the administration just put into the city’s <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-07/de-blasio-s-78-3-billion-budget-boosts-aid-for-nyc-homelessness">general reserve fund</a>. During the previous administration, the fund typically contained $300 million, Capital New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/06/8569743/stringer-urge-more-savings-de-blasio">reported</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Neither we nor the administration has forecasted a downturn,” Turetsky said. “We both forecast slower job growth than we’ve seen in the last couple of years but we still see a growing economy. It’s a risk because there hasn’t been this long of an expansion in forever. But there’s always risks in any forecast.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At a CBC event in May, New York City Budget Director Dean Fuleihan said that the city has set aside funds in three different reserves. “We have been extremely cautious and realistic in our projections,” he said. “Even though we are in a growing economy, we will continue to come back and do more and more on savings.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, the City Council has been trying to further increase transparency by calling for more <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/04/8566061/capital-data-why-council-mad-about-units-appropriation">units of appropriation</a> within the budget, that is more line items with specifics of which programs are being funded. Council Member Julissa Ferreras, who chairs the Council’s finance committee and helps lead budget negotiations with the mayor’s administration, has had several public exchanges with Fuleihan where she has insisted on greater transparency via units of appropriation. In announcing the final budget, Ferreras trumpeted increased specificity, but said there is more work to be done.</p> <p dir="ltr">While Bardin feels that the spending plan is largely transparent, she added, “There are certain items that are difficult to track within the budget.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In an effort at greater transparency, we break down the budget below. First, it is important to note that the “city budget” most refer to and that we have discussed thus far is the expense budget, for operational, programmatic, and personnel expenses, which for fiscal 2016 is $78.6 billion. This includes money to be spent by the City Council and by City Council members in their districts. There is also the city’s capital budget, money dedicated for construction and infrastructure spending. In this big bucket there is also spending by the Council and individual members.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Expense Budget— $78.6B<br /></strong>The expense budget funds city government services. All city agencies, the City Council, and the borough presidents get their operational funding from the expense budget, as do the Comptroller and the Public Advocate; including funding for salaries and pensions of city employees and other operational costs of government offices such as rent, utilities, and office supplies.</p> <p dir="ltr">The budget includes $21.9 billion for the Department of Education, $5.1 billion for the NYPD, and $9.7 billion to the Department of Social Services. It includes $61 million for the City Council, $94 million for the Comptroller’s Office; and $3.4 million for the Public Advocate’s Office.</p> <p dir="ltr">This year’s expense budget includes $25 million for the Borough Presidents’ offices, appropriating $5.8 million to the Brooklyn borough president, $5.65 million to the Bronx borough president, $5.15 million to Queens, $4.7 million to Manhattan and allocated $4.3 million for the Staten Island borough president.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/63_oepy0qQnPbKck-EYqNUWsEzUX6X2jN_L5TzGhdL3_IzXT7RZawEUn4bzq9R8CAUeUMUQVJD6hheOUv-Lb2LnBRycVZQDJ6X75yh1De59GZV3wtbQfodoEiGTL_UtErS8OZMw" alt="meta-chart.jpeg" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="NaN" width="500" /></p> <p>The expense budget also funds the city’s debt service— money required to cover the repayment of interest and principal on a debt. The city’s 2015-2016 expense budget allocates $2.93 billion for debt service.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Schedule C- $52.6 million<br /></strong>City Council discretionary funds make up a relatively small portion of the expense budget, but are traditionally among the most scrutinized pieces of the budget, and released in a <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/budget/2016/skedcf.pdf">document</a> called “Schedule C.” Council members are allocated discretionary funds to give to nonprofit organizations that benefit their district and constituents.</p> <p dir="ltr">In May 2014, reforms were made in an attempt to make the distribution of these funds more equal and transparent— the allocation was previously controlled at the whims of the Speaker, who could use the discretionary funds to reward allies and punish enemies. Reforms ushered in under new Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other members brought a uniform system, with each Council member now receiving a base of $400,000, and an additional $25,000, $50,000, $75,000, or $100,000 based on the poverty level of their district. Council members receiving the maximum amount of $500,000 include Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Fernando Cabrera, Vanessa Gibson, and Ritchie Torres— all from the Bronx— as well as Mark-Viverito, who represents East Harlem and part of the Bronx.</p> <p dir="ltr">As Speaker, Mark-Viverito also has access to an additional $16 million, for allocating what is known as the ‘Speaker’s List,’ money to go to organizations and initiatives at the Speaker’s discretion and at the request of Council members.</p> <p dir="ltr">This year, the Speaker’s List heavily funds projects in Brooklyn, including allocating $340,000 to the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce; $255,000 to Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation; and $250,000 to El Puente Williamsburg, a community human rights organization. Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President, was also the only borough president who <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#.VZK3qe3BwXA">received additional funding</a>— $100,000— from the Council for employee compensation. Adams’ office also received $100,000 last year for “personal services enhancement,” along with that of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Though some have said Brooklyn has long been underfunded despite being the most populous borough, others point to political favors or special needs as the borough booms.</p> <p dir="ltr">Two organizations that see the most funding by the Council are Catholic Charities Community Services, which is set to receive $666,000 ($130,000 from the Speaker herself, using both funds allocated to her as a council member and the Speaker’s List) and the Hispanic Federation ($166,000 funded by the Speaker).</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Capital Budget: $13.9B<br /></strong>The capital budget is distinct from the expense budget, and used to finance large physical infrastructure projects. The infrastructure funded through the capital budget can be either for government use, such as government offices or for public use, such as roads, schools, and parks. For any project to be funded from the capital budget, it should cost at least $35,000 and be useable for at least five years, according to the IBO. Almost all capital funding goes through city agencies. The capital budget also includes discretionary funds for Council members and borough presidents.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, 24 Council Members chose to implement the 2014-2015 cycle of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5152-twenty-plus-council-members-implement-participatory-budgeting-nyc-fourth-year">participatory budgeting</a>, a process in which district constituents are allowed to propose projects and vote on how a portion of the capital funds their council member has control over should be used ($1-2 million per district).</p> <p dir="ltr">Additionally, the five borough presidents are given the <a href="http://manhattanbp.nyc.gov/html/budget/budget.shtml">power</a> by the City Charter to allot portions (this year 5 percent) of the city’s capital budget to fund construction projects or improvements to infrastructure. Those portions are then allocated to city agencies or nonprofit organizations. In late June, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer announced her office would allocate $30 million in capital grants to projects including playground and athletic field restorations at public parks and tech improvements at CUNY and SUNY campuses.</p> <p dir="ltr">Queens Borough President Melinda Katz announced that she would allocate $200,000 of her capital funds to purchase and install real-time bus countdown clocks at the borough’s busiest bus stops.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Capital grants give us the opportunity to both fix nagging problems and invest in our neighborhoods’ future,” Brewer said in a statement sent to press. “Whether we’re fixing the roof at a branch library, renovating a playground, or building out a new computer lab at a local school, these capital grants are going to strengthen our communities and improve people’s lives.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Catie Edmondson and Zehra Rehman, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/18451433033_df46f9d0b9_z.jpg" alt="de blasio mark-viverito budget" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Mayor &amp; Speaker at budget announcement (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Wednesday, July 1, marked the beginning of the new fiscal year under a $78.6 billion <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/city-council-approves-nyc-78-6-billion-2016-budget-article-1.2273168">budget</a> agreed upon by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council.</p> <p dir="ltr">When he unveiled his preliminary budget outline in February, de Blasio <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/no-increased-nypd-headcount-budget-article-1.2214098?cid=bitly">hailed</a> the plan as “scrupulously fiscally responsible.” The 2016 budget continues a trend of increased spending: from 2010 to 2014, the budget increased at an average of around 4 percent per year. The first budget of the de Blasio administration increased spending by 6.3 percent. Now, the second de Blasio budget has grown 5.2 percent from 2015.</p> <p dir="ltr">“[Fiscal 2015] was his first year and he was able to implement a lot of his new initiatives,” explained Rachel Bardin of Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan and nonprofit civic organization. The increased spending went toward funding programs like <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#/0">universal pre-K</a>, issuing <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/12/new-york-municipal-id_n_6455846.html">municipal IDs</a>, and homelessness prevention. Spending also increased as the mayor <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/02/8562562/three-more-unions-settle-city-hall">settled</a> contracts with labor unions - de Blasio inherited a situation where all of the city’s municipal unions were working under expired contracts.</p> <p dir="ltr">This year, the budget has grown again, raising several eyebrows. Part of this growth is due to an increase in personnel, including the hiring of an additional 1,297 police officers. An increased city headcount is expensive not only due to annual salaries, but also because of health care and pension costs. While de Blasio has expanded spending, he has also grown the savings funds the city keeps, able to do both because of the flush times the city is enjoying.</p> <p dir="ltr">The trend of growth in spending has prompted a cautious attitude in some, including city Comptroller Scott Stringer, who <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/06/8569743/stringer-urge-more-savings-de-blasio">called</a> on the de Blasio administration to find steeper agency savings and allocate more money toward budgetary reserves. Bardin, of CBC, warns of the implications of the uptick in spending if there is an economic downturn— the likelihood of which is “inevitable,” according to <a href="http://www.cbcny.org/content/cbc-statement-fy16-adopted-budget-new-york-city">a CBC statement</a>. De Blasio and his budget team agree. The mayor struck a very serious tone during his May executive budget presentation, warning that the economy will certainly not continue to grow as it has been.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have additional spending built into the budget and our revenues in the downturn wouldn’t be able to support that,” Bardin told Gotham Gazette. With insufficient funds to support the increased spending, a situation could occur in which the city must consider raising taxes, laying off employees, and ending or reducing programs.</p> <p dir="ltr">But Doug Turetsky, Chief of Staff for the Independent Budget Office, pushed back against the idea of an inevitable economic downturn and cited the unprecedented $1 billion the administration just put into the city’s <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-07/de-blasio-s-78-3-billion-budget-boosts-aid-for-nyc-homelessness">general reserve fund</a>. During the previous administration, the fund typically contained $300 million, Capital New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/06/8569743/stringer-urge-more-savings-de-blasio">reported</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Neither we nor the administration has forecasted a downturn,” Turetsky said. “We both forecast slower job growth than we’ve seen in the last couple of years but we still see a growing economy. It’s a risk because there hasn’t been this long of an expansion in forever. But there’s always risks in any forecast.”</p> <p dir="ltr">At a CBC event in May, New York City Budget Director Dean Fuleihan said that the city has set aside funds in three different reserves. “We have been extremely cautious and realistic in our projections,” he said. “Even though we are in a growing economy, we will continue to come back and do more and more on savings.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, the City Council has been trying to further increase transparency by calling for more <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2015/04/8566061/capital-data-why-council-mad-about-units-appropriation">units of appropriation</a> within the budget, that is more line items with specifics of which programs are being funded. Council Member Julissa Ferreras, who chairs the Council’s finance committee and helps lead budget negotiations with the mayor’s administration, has had several public exchanges with Fuleihan where she has insisted on greater transparency via units of appropriation. In announcing the final budget, Ferreras trumpeted increased specificity, but said there is more work to be done.</p> <p dir="ltr">While Bardin feels that the spending plan is largely transparent, she added, “There are certain items that are difficult to track within the budget.”</p> <p dir="ltr">In an effort at greater transparency, we break down the budget below. First, it is important to note that the “city budget” most refer to and that we have discussed thus far is the expense budget, for operational, programmatic, and personnel expenses, which for fiscal 2016 is $78.6 billion. This includes money to be spent by the City Council and by City Council members in their districts. There is also the city’s capital budget, money dedicated for construction and infrastructure spending. In this big bucket there is also spending by the Council and individual members.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Expense Budget— $78.6B<br /></strong>The expense budget funds city government services. All city agencies, the City Council, and the borough presidents get their operational funding from the expense budget, as do the Comptroller and the Public Advocate; including funding for salaries and pensions of city employees and other operational costs of government offices such as rent, utilities, and office supplies.</p> <p dir="ltr">The budget includes $21.9 billion for the Department of Education, $5.1 billion for the NYPD, and $9.7 billion to the Department of Social Services. It includes $61 million for the City Council, $94 million for the Comptroller’s Office; and $3.4 million for the Public Advocate’s Office.</p> <p dir="ltr">This year’s expense budget includes $25 million for the Borough Presidents’ offices, appropriating $5.8 million to the Brooklyn borough president, $5.65 million to the Bronx borough president, $5.15 million to Queens, $4.7 million to Manhattan and allocated $4.3 million for the Staten Island borough president.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/63_oepy0qQnPbKck-EYqNUWsEzUX6X2jN_L5TzGhdL3_IzXT7RZawEUn4bzq9R8CAUeUMUQVJD6hheOUv-Lb2LnBRycVZQDJ6X75yh1De59GZV3wtbQfodoEiGTL_UtErS8OZMw" alt="meta-chart.jpeg" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="NaN" width="500" /></p> <p>The expense budget also funds the city’s debt service— money required to cover the repayment of interest and principal on a debt. The city’s 2015-2016 expense budget allocates $2.93 billion for debt service.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Schedule C- $52.6 million<br /></strong>City Council discretionary funds make up a relatively small portion of the expense budget, but are traditionally among the most scrutinized pieces of the budget, and released in a <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/budget/2016/skedcf.pdf">document</a> called “Schedule C.” Council members are allocated discretionary funds to give to nonprofit organizations that benefit their district and constituents.</p> <p dir="ltr">In May 2014, reforms were made in an attempt to make the distribution of these funds more equal and transparent— the allocation was previously controlled at the whims of the Speaker, who could use the discretionary funds to reward allies and punish enemies. Reforms ushered in under new Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other members brought a uniform system, with each Council member now receiving a base of $400,000, and an additional $25,000, $50,000, $75,000, or $100,000 based on the poverty level of their district. Council members receiving the maximum amount of $500,000 include Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Fernando Cabrera, Vanessa Gibson, and Ritchie Torres— all from the Bronx— as well as Mark-Viverito, who represents East Harlem and part of the Bronx.</p> <p dir="ltr">As Speaker, Mark-Viverito also has access to an additional $16 million, for allocating what is known as the ‘Speaker’s List,’ money to go to organizations and initiatives at the Speaker’s discretion and at the request of Council members.</p> <p dir="ltr">This year, the Speaker’s List heavily funds projects in Brooklyn, including allocating $340,000 to the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce; $255,000 to Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation; and $250,000 to El Puente Williamsburg, a community human rights organization. Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President, was also the only borough president who <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/#.VZK3qe3BwXA">received additional funding</a>— $100,000— from the Council for employee compensation. Adams’ office also received $100,000 last year for “personal services enhancement,” along with that of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Though some have said Brooklyn has long been underfunded despite being the most populous borough, others point to political favors or special needs as the borough booms.</p> <p dir="ltr">Two organizations that see the most funding by the Council are Catholic Charities Community Services, which is set to receive $666,000 ($130,000 from the Speaker herself, using both funds allocated to her as a council member and the Speaker’s List) and the Hispanic Federation ($166,000 funded by the Speaker).</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Capital Budget: $13.9B<br /></strong>The capital budget is distinct from the expense budget, and used to finance large physical infrastructure projects. The infrastructure funded through the capital budget can be either for government use, such as government offices or for public use, such as roads, schools, and parks. For any project to be funded from the capital budget, it should cost at least $35,000 and be useable for at least five years, according to the IBO. Almost all capital funding goes through city agencies. The capital budget also includes discretionary funds for Council members and borough presidents.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, 24 Council Members chose to implement the 2014-2015 cycle of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5152-twenty-plus-council-members-implement-participatory-budgeting-nyc-fourth-year">participatory budgeting</a>, a process in which district constituents are allowed to propose projects and vote on how a portion of the capital funds their council member has control over should be used ($1-2 million per district).</p> <p dir="ltr">Additionally, the five borough presidents are given the <a href="http://manhattanbp.nyc.gov/html/budget/budget.shtml">power</a> by the City Charter to allot portions (this year 5 percent) of the city’s capital budget to fund construction projects or improvements to infrastructure. Those portions are then allocated to city agencies or nonprofit organizations. In late June, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer announced her office would allocate $30 million in capital grants to projects including playground and athletic field restorations at public parks and tech improvements at CUNY and SUNY campuses.</p> <p dir="ltr">Queens Borough President Melinda Katz announced that she would allocate $200,000 of her capital funds to purchase and install real-time bus countdown clocks at the borough’s busiest bus stops.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Capital grants give us the opportunity to both fix nagging problems and invest in our neighborhoods’ future,” Brewer said in a statement sent to press. “Whether we’re fixing the roof at a branch library, renovating a playground, or building out a new computer lab at a local school, these capital grants are going to strengthen our communities and improve people’s lives.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Catie Edmondson and Zehra Rehman, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p>