charm offensive

Pass the sugar free syrup: Walcott makes waffles in Brooklyn

Dennis Walcott officially becomes the new schools chancellor on Monday, but today he had to be content with playing chef. Walcott stopped by a Brooklyn elementary school this morning to make good on a promise that his personal waffle recipe is the best in the world.

Lily Potter, the P.S. 10 third-grader who originally issued the challenge a year ago, said she felt Walcott had exceeded expectations.

“He said one of his hobbies is cooking and I said ‘Well, prove it,'” Potter recounted. “He’s a man of his word,” she said.

Walcott, who donned an apron that read “Kiss the cook from P.S. 10,” went about his task with utmost seriousness. He brought his own waffle iron and arrived an hour and a half early to prepare the batter. The event was one in a series of sugary photo opportunities he has participated in this week, beginning with a visit to P.S. 261 and then his alma mater, Francis Lewis High School.

A twist on typical Aunt Jemima fare, Walcott’s waffles substitute unsweetened soy milk for whole milk and olive oil for canola. He blends a ripe banana into the mix to make the waffles sweet without adding more sugar than is already in the Aunt Jemima batter package.

“Six out of five stars,” said Michael Vasquez, a fifth grader, upon sampling the incoming chancellor’s waffles. “David, you’re not having more?” he asked a classmate in disbelief.

But David Kim was enthusiastic as well. “I don’t usually eat waffles,” he allowed, “but this is the best one I ever ate.”

Walcott said that because he has a history of diabetes in his family, he tries to eat healthily. He gave up red meat ten years ago, avoids white sugar, doesn’t drink soda, and is almost never tempted by fried food. He also has a gluten allergy and so tries to stay away from wheat. He didn’t mention where he stands on salt — one of Mayor Bloomberg’s poorer and better-known eating habits (he puts salt on saltine crackers).

Walcott said he’d gone for a two mile run this morning and often gets to the gym on weekends.

“Are you training for a marathon?” a reporter asked.

“In my head,” Walcott said.

Walcott’s Waffles (which he multiplied by 16 to feed the class):

-1 cup unsweetened soy milk blended with a ripe banana for sweetness

-1 cup waffle mix

-1 egg white

-dash of olive oil

-sugar free syrup

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.