Fact-checking Bloomberg's education campaign promises

Remember how, in 2001, when he was first running for mayor, Michael Bloomberg vowed to require all public school students to wear uniforms, to bring in private companies to take over long-failing schools, and to re-evaluate tenured teachers every two years?

These are among the fun facts included in a self-evaluation Bloomberg released today, running through all the promises he made in his 2001 and 2005 campaigns, and reporting that he’s followed through with most of them (97% in 2005, the report says).

The list of education promises Bloomberg terms stick-a-fork-in-it “Done” (as opposed to those he “reconsidered”) includes many that did obviously happen, but it also includes claims that could inspire challenge. Four promises that caught my eye:

  • Improve access to selective schools for students in under-served communities. (2005 campaign promise) The mayor’s report notes that the city now offers summer workshops for parents to encourage them to consider having their children take the entrance exam for selective high schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science. The city has also offered summer test-prep institutes for low-income students. Still, The New York Times reported last year that proportionately fewer racial minorities were taking the admissions exam, and a lower percentage were passing. There was little change when the paper reexamined the figures this year. Gifted and talented programs for primary school students, meanwhile, have also gotten less racially diverse under Bloomberg’s watch, The Times reported.
  • Give teachers more control over how they teach. (2001 promise) The report explains that this “done” stems from the new availability of “a series of tools for teachers that highlight students needs and provides teachers the information to focus on helping students master their subjects.” I assume that refers to projects like ARIS, the data warehouse, and the periodic assessments known as Acuity, meant to give teachers an ongoing portrait of what students do and don’t know throughout the school year. While some teachers embrace these tools, others say the tools limit the way they teach, forcing them to focus too much time on test preparation.
  • Assemble City-owned land for private development to build large-scale housing developments, schools and hospitals. (2001 promise) I reached out to the mayor’s office for explanation on what school projects have happened and haven’t heard back yet. Even assuming that several projects did occur, advocates for easing overcrowding by building new schools have nothing but criticism for the Bloomberg administration, which lowered investments in building new schools in its latest capital plan. New York Magazine recently chronicled the city’s failure to stay ahead of population growth in Manhattan.
  • Do not allow any students to graduate until they master the ability to read, write, use arithmetic and develop interpersonal skills. (2001) Bloomberg’s report cites the policy banning promotion to the third, fifth, seventh, and eighth grade if a student hasn’t passed certain standardized tests, plus Saturday school for struggling students, the middle school plan, and beefed up investments in vocational — now called “career and technical” — schools. Still, many students who graduate from city high schools and go onto college end up struggling. The Daily News reported last fall that about two-thirds of city grads who go on to CUNY need to take at least one remedial course. Chancellor Joel Klein has said the rate is falling, though he has not disclosed what the rate is. CUNY is now partnering with the Department of Education to study ways to make the transition to college smoother. There also questions about the way high schools assign diplomas, especially through a process known as “credit-recovery,” which Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch is in the process of re-examining.

The full list is available here, and I’ve compiled all education promises below the jump (divided up by the ones Bloomberg “reconsidered,” like the uniform idea, and the ones he calls complete).

Here are the education promises Bloomberg made and deemed either “Done” or “Done*” (meaning nearly done):

  • Expand small school initiative and open more than 100 small schools.
  • Create at least 15 new transfer schools small, academically-rigorous high schools for students who are over-age, under-credited and were not succeeding in their original high school.
  • Create at least five Young Adult Borough Centers (YABCs), evening programs that combine academic coursework, counseling, and post-secondary education and career development.
  • Create new types of GED programs in at least ten locations that offer GED preparation and testing directly linked to Learning-to-Work vocational preparation and eventually with community colleges and career and technical programs, such as those for dental or computer technicians.
  • Improve access to selective schools for students in under-served communities.
  • Expand the ParentCorps program.
  • Integrate and coordinate early child care and education system to foster the healthy development of all children, especially those children who are low-income and disadvantaged.
  • Eliminate the cap on the number of charter schools that can be created and double the number of charter schools opening in New York City from 50 to at least 100 by 2009.
  • Open at least seven new academically selective secondary schools across the city by 2009 to expand these options for academically gifted students and to provide greater access to students in communities traditionally under-represented in these schools.
  • Assemble City-owned land for private development to build large-scale housing developments, schools and hospitals. (2001 promise)
  • Do not allow any students to graduate until they master the ability to read, write, use arithmetic and develop interpersonal skills. (2001)
  • Ease the process of student enrollment for out of district schools. (2001)
  • Give teachers more control over how they teach. (2001)
  • Have school-based merit pay determined by performance. (2001)
  • Pursue all routes to recruit teachers, including loan forgiveness and housing allowances. (2001)
  • Increase the number of certified teachers by making it easier for certified teachers in other states to transfer their certification to New York. (2001)
  • Lobby the State to pass the “Dignity for All Students Act.” (2001)
  • Streamline the process for firing bad teachers. Do not warehouse them in District Offices for years. (2001)
  • Use peer review to decide qualifications. (2001)

Education promises listed as “launched”:

  • Create affordable quality daycare and pre-K for City employees.
  • Develop and implement performance standards for center-based care to ensure quality across the system.
  • Work with the State Legislature to pass legislation giving the Mayor the independent authority to create charter schools in New York City.
  • Extend childcare day to 6pm. Offer quality wrap around programs for children between the ages of birth-6 years old until 6pm.
  • Improve transition from child care and pre-K to elementary school.
  • Develop performance standards and implement a system using the and the 311 information line to share Pre-K childcare center performance information with parents.

Programs listed as “reconsidered (all introduced in 2001):

  • Immerse students who do not speak English in the language.
  • In the absence of improvement in schools that languish on the Schools Under Registration Review list, make privatization an option.
  • Introduce a customer service mentality into the education system. Require teachers, principals and other school professionals to visit the home of every student at least once a year, and call every term.
  • Provide loan guarantees to have the private sector borrow, build and lease to the City all schools and offices.
  • Require all students to wear uniforms.
  • Require teachers to report to principals when there has been no contact with parents or guardians.
  • Utilize summer school and year-round school to reduce overcrowding and offer students more opportunities to improve their academic standing.
  • Institute a parents’ voice mail system to provide grades, attendance, homework assignments, and special messages for their child from the teacher. (reconsidered 2009)
  • Pay teachers more for working in shortage areas. (reconsidered 2009)
  • Recognize and reward success by establishing charter districts that would have freedom from bureaucratic meddling. Eligible districts would have the authority to purchase services, with savings going to that district. (reconsidered 2009)
  • Reevaluate and re-qualify teachers every second year. (reconsidered 2009)
  • Support restoring the categories of sexual orientation, religion, disability and gender to the Dept. of Education’s multicultural curriculum. (reconsidered 2009, not done 2005)

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.