no district left behind

Under Cuomo's heavy hand, talks resume on city teacher evals

The tense standoff between the city and the teachers union appears to be thawing in response to pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has stepped forward in recent days to demand resolution to the conflict.

A United Federation of Teachers spokesman confirmed today that “informal talks” with the city have started up after nearly a month away from the negotiating table. Talks broke down in late December over whether a third party should judge the appeals of poorly rated teachers. As a result, the state cut the city off from $58 million in federal funds for struggling schools.

Last week, Cuomo issued an ultimatum to local school districts to settle their teacher evaluation issues within 30 days. “If they can’t do that then we’ll do it for them,” he said at the time.

Today, UFT President Michael Mulgrew — who along with other top city education officials met with Cuomo in Albany on Monday — lauded the governor’s “intervention.”

“We are happy that the governor’s intervention over teacher evaluations has led to communication between New York City and the UFT,” Mulgrew said in a statement.

The Department of Education declined to comment and union officials were mum on additional details, including whether the negotiations would affect the status of 33 schools that the city planning to close through a federal improvement model called turnaround. An agreement could potentially take the turnaround plan off the table and allow these schools to stay open and revert back to their previous improvement models, “restart” and “transformation.”

Cuomo ratcheted up his criticism of teachers unions two weeks ago after the federal government warned New York State that it was at risk of losing millions in Race to the Top dollars.

The state education department and NYSUT also have yet to come to terms on a statewide system, even though last week the two sides seemed ready to announce a settlement. A settlement is unlikely to happen until at least next week, a source said today.

In fact, a final statewide settlement might not come until New York City settles its own issues of the third-party mediator. Cuomo’s heavy-handed presence in the dispute, which has been recognized as uniquely stubborn, is a sign that he wants to see all districts ready to implement teacher evaluations by the end of the 30-day deadline.

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.