space wars

City and union agree to fewer school colocations in September

Afraid of another lawsuit from the teachers union, city officials have decided to force fewer new schools to share space this year.

Originally, the Department of Education planned to begin closing 19 schools next September and open 16 schools — most of them brand new — in their buildings. But that plan was put on hold when the union successfully sued to stop the closures. With the court silent on whether new schools could still open, the city announced that it would proceed to open them.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said he was concerned that opening new schools while keeping the original schools in business would mean severe overcrowding in some buildings.

Now the two sides have reached an agreement that will change some of the planned colocations and, as part of the deal, the UFT has waived its right to sue over the colocations.

Under the agreement, five new schools that would have co-located with closing schools will open elsewhere, including one in the union’s office. The deal also gives the saved schools more support and possibly more staff, but not more money.

The Manhattan Academy for Arts & Language is going to open on the fifth floor of the union’s Lower Manhattan offices, which the city will rent.

The Academy for Health Careers, which was slated to open in the William H. Maxwell CTE High School, will now spend its first year in the Department of Education’s office in District 13 in Brooklyn. Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School will open in a new DOE building and two schools will open in leased space.

KAPPA International High School, which was supposed to move in with Christopher Columbus High School, will stay in its current building for another year. And one school will not open next year. P.S. 747, which would have co-located with P.S. 332, will now open in September 2011.

Nine schools that were marked for closure will still have new schools co-located with them next year.

Lennel George, the principal of Metropolitan Corporate Academy — one of the schools the city wanted to close — said the deal was good news.

“It would have been physically impossible to open another school here if we’re going to have an incoming class,” George said. “It’s a very very small building.”

MCA’s incoming class could be quite small — currently, there are only eight students on the rosters. The city expects that number to grow when students who change schools or move to the city are assigned to empty seats over the summer.

Folded into the city and union’s deal is an agreement to give the struggling 19 schools — the city has described them as “failing” — more support. This could include partnering with community based organizations, improving schools’ curricula, and bringing in excessed teachers to lower class sizes.

If schools choose to bring in excessed teachers, it could mean a strange game of musical chairs, as many of these schools are already losing teachers to budget cuts and lower enrollments.

Even with these additions, city officials have not gone back on plans to try and close the schools next year and no new funds will go to covering the new costs.

“We expect that school budgets will cover the costs of the additional supports,” said department spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld. “If there are issues about funding at a particular school, we will work with the school to find a solution.”

It appears the city and union did not consult principals before coming to an agreement. Reached by phone today, one principal said she hadn’t heard about the deal and another said he’d only learned via email minutes before.

  • 16 schools (10 new district schools, 4 new charter schools, 1 existing district and 1 existing charter) were originally proposed to locate in buildings that housed schools slated for phase-out.
  • 9 of these 16 schools (8 new schools, 1 existing charter) are going into the buildings for which they were originally approved. Please note that the names in parentheses are the building names, not the names of the school organizations proposed for phase-out.
    • Murray Hill Academy into M620 (Norman Thomas)
    • Renaissance Innovation Charter High School into M099 (IS 99)
    • Harlem Success Academy II into M030 (PS30)
    • Democracy Prep 2 into M092 (PS92)
    • Bronx Bridges High School into X450 (Adlai E. Stevenson Educational Campus)
    • Dr. Izquierdo Health and Science Charter School into X158 (IS158)
    • Rockaway HS for Environmental Sustainability into Q410 (Beach Channel High School)
    • Hillside Arts & Letters Academy into Q470 (Jamaica High School)
    • High school for Community Leadership into Q470 (Jamaica High School)
  • Based on community feedback, space assessments and enrollment projections, 5 of these 16 schools (all new) are going into alternative locations instead of their originally approved sites.
    • Academy for Health Careers is opening in the District 13 Offices at 355 Park Avenue
    • Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School is opening in a new DOE building
    • Manhattan Academy for Arts & Language is going into leased space in District 2, pending the signing of a lease
    • Brooklyn High School for Young Men is going into space in upper Manhattan. There are two options- Transportable classroom units at the GW Campus or leased space at 4111 Broadway.
    • Cambria Heights Academy is going into leased space in District 29, pending the signing of a lease.
  • PS 747 will postpone opening for one year
  • KAPPA International High School is remaining on the Roosevelt Campus, its current location, for the 2010-2011 school year.

Betsy DeVos

To promote virtual schools, Betsy DeVos cites a graduate who’s far from the norm

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spoke to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in June.

If Betsy Devos is paying any attention to unfolding critiques of virtual charter schools, she didn’t let it show last week when she spoke to free-market policy advocates in Bellevue, Washington.

Just days after Politico published a scathing story about virtual charters’ track record in Pennsylvania, DeVos, the U.S. education secretary, was touting their successes at the Washington Policy Center’s annual dinner.

DeVos’s speech was largely identical in its main points to one she gave at Harvard University last month. But she customized the stories of students who struggled in traditional schools with local examples, and in doing so provided an especially clear example of why she believes in virtual schools.

From the speech:

I also think of Sandeep Thomas. Sandeep grew up impoverished in Bangalore, India and experienced terrible trauma in his youth. He was adopted by a loving couple from New Jersey, but continued to suffer from the unspeakable horrors he witnessed in his early years. He was not able to focus in school, and it took him hours to complete even the simplest assignment.

This changed when his family moved to Washington, where Sandeep was able to enroll in a virtual public school. This option gave him the flexibility to learn in the quiet of his own home and pursue his learning at a pace that was right for him. He ended up graduating high school with a 3.7 GPA, along with having earned well over a year of college credit. Today, he’s working in finance and he is a vocal advocate for expanding options that allow students like him a chance to succeed.

But Thomas — who spoke at a conference of a group DeVos used to chair, Advocates for Children, in 2013 as part of ongoing work lobbying for virtual charters — is hardly representative of online school students.

In Pennsylvania, Politico reported last week, 30,000 students are enrolled in virtual charters with an average 48 percent graduation rate. In Indiana, an online charter school that had gotten a stunning six straight F grades from the state — one of just three schools in that positionis closing. And an Education Week investigation into Colorado’s largest virtual charter school found that not even a quarter of the 4,000 students even log on to do work every day.

The fact that in many states with online charters, large numbers of often needy students have enrolled without advancing has not held DeVos back from supporting the model. (A 2015 study found that students who enrolled in virtual charters in Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin did just as well as similar students who stayed in brick-and-mortar schools.) In fact, she appeared to ignore their track records during the confirmation process in January, citing graduation rates provided by a leading charter operator that were far higher — nearly 40 points in one case — than the rates recorded by the schools’ states.

She has long backed the schools, and her former organization has close ties to major virtual school operators, including K12, the one that generated the inflated graduation numbers. In her first week as education secretary, DeVos said, “I expect there will be more virtual schools.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the location of the dinner.

expansion plans

Here are the next districts where New York City will start offering preschool for 3-year-olds

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, left, and Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, visited a "Mommy and Me" class in District 27 in Queens, where the city is set to expand 3-K For All.

New York City officials on Tuesday announced which school districts are next in line for free pre-K for 3-year-olds, identifying East Harlem and the eastern neighborhoods of Queens for expansion of the program.

Building on its popular universal pre-K program for 4-year-olds, the city this year began serving even younger students with “3-K For All” in two high-needs school districts. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he wants to make 3-K available to every family who wants it by 2021.

“Our education system all over the country had it backwards for too long,” de Blasio said at a press conference. “We are recognizing we have to reach kids younger and more deeply if we’re going to be able to give them the foundation they need.”

But making preschool available to all of the city’s 3-year-olds will require an infusion of $700 million from the state or federal governments. In the meantime, de Blasio said the city can afford to expand to eight districts, at a cost of $180 million of city money a year.

Funding isn’t the only obstacle the city faces to make 3-K available universally. De Blasio warned that finding the room for an estimated 60,000 students will be a challenge. Space constraints were a major factor in picking the next districts for expansion, he said.

“I have to tell you, this will take a lot of work,” he said, calling it “even harder” than the breakneck rollout of pre-K for all 4-year-olds. “We’re building something brand new.”

De Blasio, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, has made expansion of early childhood education a cornerstone of his administration. The city kicked off its efforts this September in District 7 in the South Bronx, and District 23 in Brownsville, Brooklyn. More than 2,000 families applied for those seats, and 84 percent of those living in the pilot districts got an offer for enrollment, according to city figures.

According to the timeline released Thursday, the rollout will continue next school year in District 4 in Manhattan, which includes East Harlem; and District 27 in Queens, which includes Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Rockaways.

By the 2019 – 2020 school year, the city plans to launch 3-K in the Bronx’s District 9, which includes the Grand Concourse, Highbridge and Morrisania neighborhoods; and District 31, which spans all of Staten Island.

The 2020 – 2021 school year would see the addition of District 19 in Brooklyn, which includes East New York; and District 29 in Queens, which includes Cambria Heights, Hollis, Laurelton, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans.

With all those districts up and running, the city expects to serve 15,000 students.

Admission to the city’s pre-K programs is determined by lottery. Families don’t have to live in the district where 3-K is being offered to apply for a seat, though preference will be given to students who do. With every expansion, the city expects it will take two years for each district to have enough seats for every district family who wants one.