good housekeeping

Spring is here and we're tidying up the comments section

Consider it a bit of spring cleaning. We’re bringing our comments section out of the dark ages today and introducing a new platform called Disqus, which we hope will make your conversations better and our lives a little easier.

You’ve probably used Disqus before on other sites (it’s free; it’s pleasant-looking; it’s popular), but here’s how it’s going to change things at GothamSchools.

  • Conversations: Instead of replying to someone else’s comment by adding your thoughts way down at the bottom of the thread, you’ll be able to respond directly below the comment. Your response will be indented, setting itself apart as an exchange that other readers can join, or can skim over before checking out others’ comments further down. The idea is to eliminate some of the confusion caused by people trying to talk to each other while other readers are jumping in and writing about different topics.
  • Your identity: If you want to post anonymously, you still can. We have never and will never share your email or IP address with anyone else. But if you’d like to create an account with Disqus or use your Facebook or Twitter accounts, you can now do that.
  • Liking and flagging: If you think another reader’s comment is spot-on, or is a nice addition to the discussion, you can now “like” it. We’re also moving to a system where we’re counting on our readers to help us moderate the comments. If you read a comment that you believe should be removed, click the flag icon and one of the site’s editors will be notified. Here are three questions we’d like you to think about before you flag a comment: Is it spam? Is it libelous? Is it off topic? If it falls into any of those categories, you should feel empowered to flag it! If not, please leave it be.
  • Sorting: GothamSchools’ comment threads have always shown the oldest comments first. But now, you can choose to organize them so that the newest ones, or the most “liked” ones, are the first ones you see.
  • The shrinking sidebar: While we’re getting used to Disqus, we’ve removed a few elements that have long been housed in the sidebar. “Chalk it up” is gone, as is the list of recent comments. They could return one day, once we’re sure how to make that happen.

We’re new to Disqus, and Disqus is new to us, so there are bound to be a few glitches as we settle in. If your comments aren’t appearing immediately, or you’re getting caught in our spam filters, hold tight and we’ll fix it as fast as we can.

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.