wish list

On DonorsChoose, a look at what teachers say they lack

With their discretionary funds eliminated and their schools’ budgets deflated, city teachers are supplicating strangers to fill in the gaps.

There are 1,793 projects posted by city teachers – mostly from high poverty schools – on DonorsChoose, a website that allows teachers across the country to describe small-scale projects that need funding. The requests paint a depressing picture of what many classrooms are lacking.

There are the occasional requests for cutting edge technology, such as iPads, tablets and digital cameras. And many of the more ambitious projects range from the creative (violins, costumes, wireless microphones) to the healthy (soccer balls, juicers, pedometers) to the icky (fetal pigs, butterfly larvae, composting worms). But most teachers seem to be asking for classroom staples such as pens, paper, and glue.

Here’s what we saw when we checked out DonorsChoose today:

  • More than half of all NYC projects relate to literacy and language, a focus of the Department of Education’s this year. Many teachers, hoping to make their reading areas more appealing, are asking for beanbag chairs, rugs, library shelves and books. Ms. Coneys, from Thurgood Marshall Academy in Manhattan, is requesting a class set of “Things Fall Apart”  for her students. She writes: “School supplies have become less of a priority, and asking students to go out and buy a book they have never heard of is even more difficult. That being said, it’s apparent that my students have the desire to learn something new.”
  • Some basic requests highlight the irony of classrooms that have been gifted with Smart Boards and printers, but lack compatible computers and ink. “What good is having computers if we can’t print the work we just did? We have been blessed with lots of technology in our school, however we struggle to pay for ink cartridges,” Ms. Glembocki, of Brooklyn’s School for Math Science Design and Technology, wrote.
  • Threatened arts programs are reaching out for help sustaining their presence in their schools. Ms. Achu from Mott Hall Bridges Middle School in Brooklyn writes: “Art…it’s always the first cut, but the most needed. Our funding limitations didn’t allow us to offer art. We soon realized how necessary this outlet is for kids. Many times they bring the wear and tear from their home lives into a school subject such as art to express themselves in a positive manner.”
  • Teachers who want to push their students to the next level are asking for the means to do so. For example, Mr. Murphy’s students at Manhattan’s Frederick Douglass Academy has had a 92 percent pass rate on the AP European History exam but their review books are worn. “Challenges? How about massive budget cuts in an inner-city school that continues to pursue the thoroughly attainable dream of acceptance to a competitive College or University,” Mr. Murphy writes. “Our school is fighting that nearly impossible fight, and going into battle is all the more difficult without the proper weapons.”
  • And some teachers, are using their projects to make their students more comfortable during the school day. Ms. Metcalf from P.S. 70 Max Schoenfeld School in the Bronx is requesting healthy snacks for her students. She writes: “Do you know how hard it is to focus on tackling a word problem or writing an essay when you’re hungry? 97% of my students receive free lunch and do not have the means to bring a snack with them every day, and since we eat lunch at 1:50, they depend on healthy snacks to get through the day.”

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.