kindergartners on campus

New elementary school planned as part of NYU expansion

A longed-for new elementary school for Greenwich Village families may open in an unexpected location — a new building on a greatly expanded New York University campus.

NYU has committed to building a new 600-seat public elementary school as part of its plan to add 6 million square feet of space to its campus, the university announced today. The school offers a bright bargaining chip to NYU in its battle to expand its campus by 40 percent without alienating the neighboring community. Parents in the Village have complained about overstuffed classrooms and long wait-lists for neighborhood kindergarten seats.

But Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who has been a fierce critic of how the city has handled Manhattan’s school crowding problems, said he is confident that the plan is more than just an attractive ploy.

“The school is now off the table,” Stringer said. “It’s happening.”

Still, many of the details — including where exactly the school will be located, when construction will start or even if the university’s broader plan will be approved — remain up in the air.

Lynne Brown, senior vice president of NYU, said the university plans to include the elementary school building in one of the three superblocks NYU wants to build between Washington Square Park and Houston Street, but the exact location has yet to be determined. NYU will select the site with the input of the School Construction Authority and members of the Greenwich Village neighborhood, she said.

Another crucial detail that wasn’t immediately clear is whether the city or the university will own the school building. In some cases where the Department of Education has partnered with a university for school building space, the university has asked the school to leave when it needs the classroom space. (That was the case with University Heights High School, which must leave its space at the Bronx Community College after this year to accommodate a spike in the college’s enrollment.)

Some members of a neighborhood task force on the expansion questioned the university’s preliminary site for the school. “We’d welcome the school,” said Terri Clude, a member of Stringer’s task force and a resident of a building that will face one of the new superblocks. “We’re not really sure the superblocks are the right place.”

As the superblocks are currently imagined, Clude said, they include tower buildings for university classroom and dormitory space surrounded by open park-like grounds. To add the school building, the university will probably reduce the amount of open space in a neighborhood Clude said is nearly as pressed for park space as it is for kindergarten seats.

“Our children need places to run around, to learn how to ride a bicycle,” she said. “Do you trade that because you also need a place to go to school?”

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.