The Big Fix

City receives $19.8 mill. for 11 schools it hopes to "transform"

The city will receive nearly $20 million in federal funds for the 11 city schools it hopes to “transform” with longer school days and experiments in teacher training.

The city has been expecting this money since April, when the federal government gave New York State $300 million to turn around the state’s “persistently lowest achieving” schools. A total of 34 of the schools on the state’s list are in New York City, and more city schools are expected to be added to the list when the state updates it in the coming weeks.

The Department of Education was eligible for $2 million for each of the schools on the state’s list, but this year the city chose to only apply for funds for 11 of them.

For these schools, the city chose the “transformation” model of school improvement, the least severe of four federally-approved strategies. The model relies on changing the schools’ leadership, bringing in extra support services and experimenting with longer school days and new teacher training.

The city is currently mulling its options for the remaining 23 schools. Many of them are on the city’s list of schools it is considering closing. City officials have already decided not to close three of the schools — Washington Irving, Boys and Girls High School, and P.S. 65 — but have not yet announced how they intend to use the federal funds those schools are eligible to receive.

The 11 transformation schools each received shares of the total grant according to their student enrollment. The smallest, Unity Center for Urban Technologies, is receiving just over $757,000; the three largest schools are each receiving $1.8 million. The two transformation schools GothamSchools and WNYC are following this year both fell somewhere in between: Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School will get $957,000 and William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School will receive $1.3 million.

Not all of the grant money will go directly into schools’ budgets; just over $6 million will be given to the DOE’s central administration. Some of that money will go to hire six “School Implementation Managers,” each of whom will work directly with two of the transformation schools. The city also plans to hire seven administrative positions to build a central team dedicated to the schools, including a Director of Turnaround and Transformation Schools

And some of the money being sent to central will go towards contracting for services that will eventually be used in the schools, a DOE spokesman said.

The city’s nearly 850-page application detailing how it plans to spend the money can be downloaded here.




New York State Commissioner of Education David Steiner today announced that the New York City Department of Education will receive $19,800,003 for the 2010-2011 school year to help turn around 11 of its Persistently Lowest Achieving schools through the federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. These funds are part of over $308 million that was made available to New York State this spring through the United States Department of Education’s (USED) School Improvement Grant Fund under Section 1003(g) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), from money set aside in the 2009 budget and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Commissioner Steiner said, “We are building upon the State’s current initiatives to intervene in low performing schools and improve student outcomes.   New federal funding allows us to work with the New York City Department of Education to go beyond incremental improvements to create truly excellent models of education, particularly in those schools where students need our help the most.  We applaud Chancellor Joel Klein and his team for developing an excellent plan that incorporates proven strategies to turnaround these schools.  The State Education Department will actively support the transformation process in these 11 schools.”

In February, the Education Department identified 57 Persistently Lowest Achieving schools, in seven school districts across the state.  In June, these districts were invited to apply for School Improvement Grants under Section 1003(g), in order to support implementation of one of four intervention models prescribed by the USDE. To receive funding for the 2010-2011 school year, districts with identified schools must implement one of the following prescribed intervention models:

  • RESTART MODEL: Convert a school or close it and re-open it as a charter school or under an education management organization.
  • TURNAROUND MODEL: Replace the principal, screen existing school staff, and rehire no more than half the teachers; adopt a new governance structure; and improve the school through curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time, and other strategies.
  • TRANSFORMATION MODEL: Replace the principal and improve the school through comprehensive curriculum reform, professional development, extending learning time and, by the end of the 2010-11 school year, amend any existing collective bargaining agreement as necessary to require that teachers (or building principals where applicable) assigned to these schools be evaluated in the 2011-12 school year and thereafter in accordance with recently enacted legislation pertaining to principal and teacher evaluation.
  • SCHOOL CLOSURE: Close the school and send the students to higher-achieving schools in the district.

The New York City Department of Education will receive funding in the following amounts to implement an intervention model in these schools:

School Name Grant Award for 2010-2011 Model
Unity Center for Urban Technologies Transformation $757,113
Chelsea Career and Technology Education High School Transformation $959,246
Bread and Roses Integrated Arts High School Transformation $850,510
Automotive High School Transformation $1,173,716
School for Global Studies Transformation $890,934
Cobble Hill School of American Studies Transformation $994,888
Franklin D. Roosevelt High School Transformation $1,800,000
William E. Grady Vocational High School Transformation $1,365,810
Queens Vocational-Technical High School Transformation $1,300,508
Flushing High School Transformation $1,800,000
Long Island City High School Transformation $1,800,000
Central Office $6,107,378

Based on satisfactory implementation of the approved plans for these schools, the New York City Department of Education is eligible to receive two additional years of School Improvement Grant funding for model implementation in these schools.

The NYCDOE did not submit a SIG application under Section 1003(g) for 23 of their Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools.  NYCDOE will be invited to submit an application for a 2010-11 planning grant of up to $300,000 per school under Section 1003(a)r for these schools, which will receive Joint Intervention Team visits this fall. With this support, these schools will be better positioned to implement an intervention model, and NYCDOE is expected to submit applications for the 2011-12 school year to implement one of the four models in the majority of these schools.

The $19,800,003 made available to the New York City Department of Education was awarded based on a comprehensive review of their School Improvement Grant application, which included implementation plans for each school identified as Persistently Lowest Achieving, and required districts to demonstrate evidence that they had the capacity to support implementation of the models in these schools.  New York City’s application can be found here.

pre-k for all

New York City will add dual language options in pre-K to attract parents and encourage diversity

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
Schools Chancellor Carmen FariƱa, back right, visits a Mandarin pre-K dual language program at P.S. 20 Anna Silver on the Lower East Side.

Education Department officials on Wednesday announced the addition of 33 dual language pre-K programs in the 2018-19 school year, more than doubling the bilingual opportunities available for New York City’s youngest learners.

The expansion continues an aggressive push under the current administration, which has added 150 new bilingual programs to date. Popular with parents — there were 2,900 applications for about 600 pre-K dual language seats last year — the programs can also be effective in boosting the performance of students who are learning English as a new language.

Another possible benefit: creating more diverse pre-K classrooms, which research has shown are starkly segregated in New York City.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said the new programs reflect the city’s commitment to serving all students, even as a national debate rages over immigration reform.

“It’s important to understand that immigrants or people who speak a second language are an asset,” Fariña said. She called bilingual education “a gift that I think all schools should have.”

Included in the expansion are the city’s first dual language pre-K programs in Bengali and Russian, which will open in Jamaica, Queens, and the Upper West Side, Manhattan, respectively. The other additions will build on programs in Spanish, Mandarin and Italian. Every borough is represented in the expansion, with 11 new programs in Manhattan, nine in Brooklyn, six in Queens, five in the Bronx, and two on Staten Island.

In the dual-language model, students split their time between instruction in English and another language. At P.S. 20 Anna Silver, where the recent expansion was announced, pre-K students start the morning in English and transition to Mandarin after nap time. Experts say the model works best when the class includes an equal mix of students who are proficient in each language so they can learn from each other as well as the teacher, though it can often be difficult to strike that balance.

Officials and some advocates view dual-language programs as a tool for integration by drawing middle-class families eager to have their children speak two languages into neighborhood schools that they otherwise may not have considered. Research has shown that New York City’s pre-K classrooms tend to be more segregated than kindergarten. In one in six pre-K classrooms, more than 90 percent of students are from a single racial or ethnic background. That’s compared with one in eight kindergarten classrooms, according to a 2016 report by The Century Foundation.

Sharon Stapel, a mother from Brooklyn, said she knew early on that she wanted her daughter to learn another language and strike relationships across cultures. So she travels to the Lower East Side with her four-year-old, Finch, to attend the Mandarin dual-language pre-K program at P.S. 20 Anna Silver. On Wednesday, the city announced it will add a Spanish dual language program at the school.

“We really see it as how you build community with your neighbors and your friends,” Stapel said. “It was also an opportunity for Finch to become involved and engage in the cultures and in the differences that she could see in the classrooms — and really celebrate that difference.”

Citywide, about 13 percent of students are learning English as a new language. That number does not include pre-K since the state does not have a way to identify students’ language status before kindergarten. However, based on census data, it is estimated that 30 percent of three- and four-year-olds in New York are English learners.

Dual-language programs can benefit students who are still learning English — more so than English-only instruction. Nationally and in New York City, students who are learning English are less likely to pass standardized tests and graduate from high school. In one study, students who enrolled in dual-language courses in kindergarten gained the equivalent of one year of reading instruction by eighth grade, compared with their peers who received English-only instruction.

The city has been under pressure to improve outcomes for English learners. Under the previous administration, New York City was placed on a state “corrective action plan” that required the education department to open 125 new bilingual programs by 2013. Though the city fell short of that goal, the current administration has agreed to place every English learner in a bilingual program by the 2018-19 school year.

Among the greatest barriers to achieving that is finding qualified teachers, Fariña said. In some cases, it can be hard to find teachers who are fluent in the target language. In others, teachers who are native in a foreign language may only be certified in their home country, and it can be hard to transfer that certification to New York.

In order to open an Urdu program recently, Fariña said, the teacher, who holds a degree from another country, went through Teaching Fellows, an alternative certification program that usually caters to career-changers or recent college grads.

“I think the biggest challenge we have right now is ensuring our teacher preparation courses are keeping up with our need and demand for teachers who can teach another language,” she said.

college plans

As Washington decides their fate, ‘Dreamers’ preparing for college are stuck in limbo

PHOTO: Joe Amon/The Denver Post
Randi Smith, a psychology teacher at Metro State University, marched to support Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals during a citywide walkout in downtown Denver, CO.

While many high schoolers spend spring of their senior year coasting through classes and waiting to hear back from colleges, undocumented students who hope to attend college spend their time calling lawyers, consulting school counselors, and scouring the internet in search of ways to pay for school without the help of federal financial aid or student loans — assuming they even get in.

That process, anxiety-provoking even in a normal year, has become incalculably more chaotic this admissions season — even traumatic — as these young undocumented immigrants watch President Trump and lawmakers wrangle over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program that has until now allowed them to remain in the country without having to fear deportation.

As the policy battle nears a climax, these students aren’t just breathlessly waiting to learn whether they’ll be accepted into college — they’re waiting to see whether they have a future in this country.

“It’s different for me. It’s definitely more stressful and there are times when you want to give up,” said an undocumented student at KIPP NYC College Prep High School, who is graduating this year and applying to colleges. She requested anonymity because of her legal status. “But then I remind myself that regardless of what’s going on, I’m still going to do what I’ve set myself to do.”

High school counselors are also feeling the strain. They already faced the difficult task of helping undocumented students compete for private scholarships, and finding schools that will support those students once they’re on campus. Now those counselors also must monitor each twist and turn of the immigration debate in Washington, while, somehow, trying to keep their undocumented students focused on college.

One of those counselors is John Kearney, who works at Guadalupe Centers Alta Vista High School, a charter school in Kansas City, Missouri. Dozens of his soon-to-graduate students are beneficiaries of DACA, a program created under former President Obama that allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children to avoid deportation and work here legally. Lately, they have been asking him why they should even consider college when their fate in the U.S. is so uncertain.

“The big question is, ‘Why? Why go to college, and then I can’t even work, then why?’” said Kearney, who also helped start a nonprofit that provides scholarships to undocumented students. “It’s a really tough question.”

As of Friday, President Trump and lawmakers were still locked in heated negotiations over DACA, which Trump said this fall that he would eliminate unless Congress enshrined it in law. Without an agreement, it is set to expire March 5, just as graduating seniors firm up their college plans. If that happens, young immigrants, often called Dreamers, could lose the few crucial protections they have. For many, their DACA status has already lapsed.

Even with DACA’s protections, Dreamers face massive hurdles to enroll in college: They don’t qualify for federal aid or loans, and, in some states, are barred from receiving financial aid or even attending public universities. Out of the estimated 65,000 undocumented students who graduate from high school every year, only 5-10 percent enroll in college.

Following Trump’s announcement in September, counselors have also had to race against the clock counting down to DACA’s expiration: That meant juggling college application deadlines with the October cutoff for students to apply for renewed DACA status.

The KIPP charter school network received a donation this year to help students pay for the renewal fee, which has been a godsend for many students — including the young woman who is graduating from KIPP NYC College Prep High School.

As soon as she learned the school would pay the fee for her, she immediately called her father, who is also undocumented and repairs beauty-salon equipment for a living.

“My dad was definitely trying to round up the money before the deadline, so it was a blessing that the school was able to find a donor,” she said. “I told him not to worry about it and it was a relief — like a weight off his shoulders.”

If the girl was trying to relieve her father’s stress, her college counselor, Rob Santos, was trying to do the same for her. Even as she balanced college-application essays, transcripts, and the rest, she was also coming to realize how quickly her life would change if DACA is not extended.

“There was definitely extra emotional support that I’ve had to provide this year,” Santos said. “I definitely had my DACA student in my office, and tears were happening.”

Santos keeps a running list of the colleges that accept students who don’t have permanent legal status and the few scholarships available to them. Many of those scholarships require undocumented students to have DACA status. If the program ends, it’s unclear whether students will still be eligible.

Still, Santos said his dreamer student rarely talks about the political furor surrounding her future in the U.S. as she awaits her college-acceptance letter. Instead, she’s more likely to discuss her hope of one day studying business and fashion.

“Our DACA students are resilient. They’re optimistic,” Santos said. “But they’re also realistic for what could actually happen.”