blame game

School ends with city, union bickering over when it should begin

It appears that no matter is too small for the city’s teachers union and the Department of Education to bicker over, not even what day class should start.

Negotiations to change the first day of school have broken down because the union is insisting that all schools choose when to open and the city is demanding that all schools open at the same time. Rather than work out a deal to move the first day of school five days back, the two sides have taken to publicly sniping at each other.

In a letter the city sent to principals today, Chancellor Joel Klein blamed the union for refusing to agree to his preferred schedule. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew responded by holding a press conference where he blamed the Chancellor for being inflexible.

“Parents should be outraged that Chancellor Klein has refused to exert the authority he has to properly manage the school calendar,” Mulgrew said.

The city wants to move the start of school from Wednesday, September 8 to Monday, September 13, to make the first week of school a full one. Under the current schedule, students will report for one day of class on Wednesday. But because of Rosh Hashanah, a major Jewish holiday, they will not have their second day of school until the following Monday.

Klein’s proposal would push back the start of school and make up the missed day by turning Brooklyn-Queens Day, a midweek teacher training day in June, into an instructional day.

Mulgrew said that all schools should be able to choose whether to change the start date and, if they do, how to make up the lost classroom time.

“There are areas where schools want their kids in school on September 8,” he said. “So that’s why I do believe we give schools the authority and the autonomy to make the decision.”

A spokesman for the union said most of the demand for the September 8 start date had come from parents in low-income neighborhoods, but could not name any specific schools.

Department of Education press secretary David Cantor said allowing every school to select its own start date would complicate bus routes and food services. It would also cause problems for parents who have children in different schools.

“There’s nobody who has kids in different schools who would want the days to be different,” Cantor said, adding that the department has not heard from any parents who want school to open on September 8.

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.