City's most senior educator to retire at end of January

After nearly 40 years working in New York City schools, Deputy Chancellor Eric Nadelstern is retiring.

As a top aide to former Chancellor Joel Klein, Nadelstern was the architect of many of the city’s key initiatives, including the move to give principals greater freedom to run their schools as long as the schools met the city’s performance standards.

Nadelstern is the Department of Education’s most senior educator in an administration that has often been criticized for being filled with officials who lack experience in schools. He began teaching in 1972 at Dewitt Clinton High School, the high school from which he graduated, and has since worked at almost every level of the city’s education system.

Speculation that Nadelstern might leave the DOE has been mounting since Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he was replacing Klein with Hearst publishing executive Cathie Black. Nadelstern had been often suggested as a potential successor to Klein, and many observers thought he would be an obvious choice for the new Chief Academic Officer position created to secure Black’s appointment. That position went to a younger Klein deputy, Shael Polakow-Suransky.

It’s unclear why Nadelstern is leaving mid-year. In December, Nadelstern told a group of school network leaders that he planned to stay “at least through June,” which prompted speculation that he would leave at the end of the school year.


Division of School Support and Instruction Will Merge with the Division of Performance and Accountability and Report to Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky

Schools Chancellor Cathie Black today announced the retirement of Eric Nadelstern, Deputy Chancellor for the Division of School Support and Instruction, who has served the City’s public school children for the past 39 years. During his tenure at the Department, Mr. Nadelstern was the architect of multiple initiatives that have won national acclaim, including creating an innovative public secondary school for English Language Learners that has been widely replicated throughout the city and around the country.

Mr. Nadelstern went on to spearhead the City’s efforts to phase out low-performing high schools and replace them with new, small schools, which have achieved tremendous results with the same student populations. In addition, he oversaw the creation of Empowerment Schools, a citywide district reform initiative serving 500 schools that accepted increased accountability in return for major decision-making authority, and served as the model for the current culture of empowerment that principals experience today.

Mr. Nadelstern began his career as a teacher at Dewitt Clinton High School in 1972, before moving on to positions including Staff Developer for English as a Second Language programs, Assistant Principal, Founding Principal of the International High School at LaGuardia Community College, Deputy Superintendent for New and Small Bronx High Schools, Chief Academic Officer for New Schools, and Chief Executive Officer for Empowerment Schools. For the last two years, in his role as Chief Schools Officer and Deputy Chancellor for the Division of School Support & Instruction, he has led the Department’s efforts to support schools in achieving excellence.

“Eric has had a long and distinguished career during which he was profoundly committed to supporting schools and advocating for the children of this City,” Chancellor Black said. “I and so many of his colleagues are deeply grateful to Eric for his many years of service and wish him the best in his retirement and future endeavors.”

“I have truly loved every position I have had the opportunity to hold during the last 39 years,” Eric Nadelstern said. “Whether as a teacher, a principal, or a Deputy Chancellor, it has simply been an honor and a privilege to serve the children and families of New York. I look forward to continuing to contribute to this important work in new ways.”

“I know I speak for many when I say Eric’s extraordinary leadership, expertise, and wisdom have deeply shaped my work as an educator and a leader and enabled true breakthrough gains for thousands of our students,” Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said. “I hope to build upon the foundation he has laid in order to support our schools as we work towards ensuring each of our students graduates with the skills and knowledge to succeed in college and the workplace.

Mr. Nadelstern’s retirement will be effective January 28. The Division of School Support and Instruction will merge with the Division of Performance and Accountability into the Division of Academics, Performance and Support and will report to Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky.

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.