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September 20, 2013
NYC sitting out national move to tie charter, district admissions
Superintendent Seth Andrew at a 2012 Democracy Prep admissions lottery event. When the city announced last week that a kindergarten admissions website would link to the charter school application, it took a small first step toward unifying charter and district school applications. But there appears to be little local enthusiasm for a fully unified enrollment process—something that many of the nation's other large school districts are working toward with urgency. In Denver, parents can apply to every charter and district school through one form and a single process. In New Orleans, the same is possible, with the exception of some of the city's highest-performing charter schools. Newark is well on its way, as is Chicago, and similar discussions are taking place in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. But while there hasn't been any significant movement on that front yet in New York, city officials have indicated it's a long term goal. "Eventually, we plan to streamline the application process to allow parents to apply to many types of public school programs in one place – be they district, charter, gifted and talented, or otherwise," department spokesman Devon Puglia said. Pushing for an integrated enrollment system could help cement charter schools' place in the city's school system at a time of political uncertainty for the charter sector. But city charter school advocates have indicated that they are focused on other issues.
August 13, 2013
Hidary, vying to be an education mayor, lacks a college degree
He shares the mayor's background as a tech entrepreneur, but there are some differences between candidate Jack Hidary and Michael Bloomberg. For starters, Hidary does not have a college degree. A self-made entrepreneur, Hidary attended Columbia University and studied philosophy and neuroscience but left school to complete a fellowship in clinical neuroscience at the National Institutes of Health. He never graduated from Columbia or anywhere else, according to a spokesman for his campaign. The businessman also told GothamSchools that he would charge charter schools fees to use space in district school buildings, a move that would reverse Bloomberg's policy of letting the schools operate rent-free in public space. Charter advocates say that to charge rent would cripple charter schools' ability to serve students, but critics say space-sharing causes overcrowding and tension inside school buildings. "Charter co-location should continue as long as a reasonable cost is charged to such charters for co-location fees," Hidary said. "These fees can be phased in over the next few years to address any budget issues between public schools and charter schools." Hidary, who has raised more than $430,000 since entering the mayoral race in June, recently completed a GothamSchools questionnaire about how he would run the city's schools with answers that ranged from vague to decisive.
October 24, 2012
Interactive map offers illustration of college-readiness disparities
If a picture is worth a thousand words, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform is betting that an interactive map is worth about 5,000. The institute released a 10-page report arguing that demography is still destiny for New York City schoolchildren, at least in terms of whether they are prepared for college.
October 11, 2012
Comparison of new and old state tests hint at challenge to come
This math problem is of the type that students in third grade should expect to see on this year's Common Core-aligned state tests, according to state education officials. Educators have gotten a few hints into what new, more challenging state exams could look like this spring. To help them prepare more, city officials are encouraging them to review old exams and new sample questions side by side to see exactly what has changed. While teachers waited for the state to release examples of how they are re-imagining the yearly exams to line up with new, Common Core curriculum standards, city officials offered their own comparison guide. The guide took the form of a slideshow, with examples of Common Core-aligned math and English tasks developed by city officials, and an explanation of how they compared to old lessons. And when the state's only batch of sample test questions came out in late June, city officials prepared another comparison, but with official questions and 2010 exam questions. They presented the comparison to principals in June at an annual conference for school leaders, and then gave it to reporters earlier this month. The comparisons, officials said, show that students can expect to read more challenging texts and see more multi-step math problems and word problems that reflect real-world scenarios. They include a set of algebra problems for third- and sixth-graders from 2010, followed by comprable problems from a 2013 sample test. One new question, for example, asks sixth-graders to consider a clothing store offering a 30 percent discount on its wares. In three parts, students must not only find the reduced price of several items, but also figure out what an item would cost with an additional discount, or without a discount at all. The comparison question from 2010 is a word problem with just one step, asking students to divide two numbers.
March 16, 2012
Common Core's impact grows clearer with sample test items
City and state officials have promised that new curriculum standards, known as the Common Core, would de-emphasize rote learning in favor of critical thinking. But exactly what that would look like wasn't clear when the Common Core first entered the conversation. Now the picture is growing clearer. Earlier this winter, Department of Education officials testifying before members of the City Council during a hearing on college readiness aired a slideshow presentation that showed how the same skills are tested now and how they would be tested once the Common Core is fully rolled out. For example, the high school English Regents exam currently asks students to answer a series of multiple-choice questions that require them to locate pieces of information in texts. On a Common Core-aligned test, they would have to read several different passages and write an essay analyzing their arguments, bringing in information from other sources to bolster the analysis. The Common Core would reshape math tests, too. A sample fifth-grade question asks students to read a paragraph and draw out the relevant information to adjudicate a dispute about three friends' pizza consumption. In contrast, a current exam question simply asks students to add fractions that represent the sizes of two people's meals. The state is scheduled to roll out Common Core-aligned tests in grades 3 through 8 next year.
February 29, 2012
Bloomberg says police and firemen, unlike teachers, are widgets
A frequent critique of the city’s release of value-added ratings for thousands of teachers last week has been that the city has never rated other…
November 30, 2011
School choice advocates rank city's enrollment policies as best
The same admissions processes that leave city parents scratching their heads or, worse, pulling their hair out have put New York City at the head of the pack in a new study ranking districts' school choice policies. The report, by the nonpartisan Brookings Institution, which has long pushed for expanded school choice, compares choice policies in place in 25 urban school districts and how families took advantage of them. New York City came in first, in part because students here are never assigned to schools based simply on where they live. Of the 25 districts, New York was the only one where students are assigned to schools based on applications that asked for families' preferences, not just their address. The city has a labyrinthine citywide high school matching process and district-based middle and elementary school admissions processes that many believe could be improved. In a district with more than 1,600 schools (the Brookings report tallies 1,474), the processes are seen as bringing order but also as sometimes pitting schools against each other and limiting options, particularly in high school, for students who aren't happy with what they've chosen. The Brookings report also gave New York credit for making data about school performance public and closing or restructuring low-performing schools. But its B grade would have been higher if it had more virtual school options and provided transportation when students enroll in schools outside their districts. To tie in with the report, former city schools chancellor Joel Klein, who bolstered and expanded the city's school choice policies, is speaking at Brookings' Washington, D.C., offices today.
November 2, 2011
Protesting parent: Stark resource gap divides my kids' schools
For Natoshia Wheeler, the argument that schools do better when they have more resources is proven every night in her living room. Wheeler has three children in Brownsville schools. Her youngest and oldest attend two low-performing schools that share a building, the General D. Chappie James Elementary and Middle School of Science, where she is PTA president. Her middle daughter attends I.S. 392, a selective middle school located just six blocks away. Recently Wheeler's middle daughter brought home a new laptop that her school provided, equipped with a tools for free online tutoring. The tools allowed her to complete complicated projects, such as building a model island with different biomes on it, that enthralled her siblings. But at the Chappie schools, Wheeler said after-school programs have been cut, the art teacher was let go, and students can't always bring books home to use while completing homework. What's more, she said, the three-year-old schools are only just finding their feet after replacing P.S./I.S. 183, a perennially failing that closed in 2008. Last year, on their first progress reports, both schools got D's. So when the elementary school got an F and the middle school got a D on their most recent progress reports, Wheeler said she was not shocked — but she was surprised that the city said it was considering shuttering the school. The city has not yet announced any closures but has named 20 elementary and middle schools that are eligible according to the Department of Education's guidelines.
June 23, 2011
For newly-freed charter schools, different paths to dismissal
The three schools released from the UFT and NAACP lawsuit this week followed different paths to legal freedom. The case for one of the schools relied on a broad base of community support, but a single man, Geoffrey Canada, made the case for the other two schools. Charter school advocates believe Canada's profile as a well-regarded, African-American education reformer made him an unpopular target for the NAACP. They say the decision to drop these schools from the lawsuit, which charges that the co-locations give preferential treatment to charter school students, weren't made on legal merits. "It makes it pretty clear that it’s not about equity. It's not about the children," said Rafiq Kalam Id-Din II, whose new school in Bedford-Stuyvesant is named in the suit. "This is about politics." Girls Preparatory Academy was unique from the other 17 schools named in the suit because its co-location plan had already received widespread community support. At the initial public hearing in February, both of the schools' leaders endorsed co-location, as did Lisa Donlan, the district's Community Education Council president and a frequent charter school critic. “There was not one person who opposed this co-location,” Donlan said.
December 2, 2008
All the state funds that the New York City schools don't get
We're late to consider Tom Suozzi's property tax commission report, released yesterday. Why would this blog care about a property tax commission report? Because it's actually all about the education, stupid. Property taxes are raised essentially for one reason: to close the gap between what schools need and what the state gives them. If you want to lower property taxes, you also have to lower the cost of school. Suozzi's report offers a list of recommendations for how to do that. In the process, the report also discloses a lot of interesting facts. For instance, check out the chart above.
November 26, 2008
What they talk about when they talk about expectations
Andy Rotherham at Eduwonk highlights two writing assignments, both given to seventh-graders, with widely different levels of difficulty. As Rotherham says, this is what wonks mean when they worry about an "expectations gap." I'm highlighting this because we would like to collect similar comparisons from New York City. What does student work look like at your school? What do the assignments look like? Send us your stuff so we can start comparing. We're happy to keep you and your students anonymous, as long as you give some identifying information (grade, district, public/private, charter/traditional public, large/small). The first seventh-grade assignment:
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