human capital

A surge of Teach For America teachers to charter schools


Teach for America, the program that places new teachers in hard-to-staff public schools, is planning to send nearly a third of its new New York City teachers to charter schools this fall, up from just 3% in 2005, internal TFA projections show.

The shift to charter schools insulates the latest batch of Teach For America teachers from a new-teacher hiring freeze the city announced earlier this month. Charter schools are publicly funded but privately operated, so they aren’t subject to the freeze and can hire any certified teacher, whether she is already in the Department of Education system or not.

The move follows a downsizing in Teach For America’s pool to about 300 from 500 teachers last year. The city’s dismal budget picture led to the retraction.

Kerci Marcello Stroud, a TFA spokeswoman, called the shift toward placing more teachers in charter schools “a natural progression.” As the number of charter schools has grown, so has the number of TFA teachers encouraged to work in them, she said.

The shift also means that far fewer Teach For America teachers are being placed at schools run by the Department of Education. TFA plans to place 230 teachers in DOE schools this fall, less than half as many as in 2008.

TFA placed teachers in charter schools for the first time in 2005, when 17 out of 505 teachers went to schools not operated by the city Department of Education.

The other program that places new and mostly untrained teachers into the public school system, Teaching Fellows, is still pumping a larger number of people into the schools, but its projected number — about 700 — is also down since last year, by half. Teaching Fellows does not allow its teachers to find jobs in charter schools.

“Teaching Fellows is designed to send teachers to DOE schools, and that’s a pattern that will continue even in this new environment,” said Ann Forte, a DOE spokeswoman.

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.