election 2013

Maybe-candidate Weiner's education priorities are a throwback

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 7.14.56 PMThe city’s schools are different now from how they were in 2009, the last time Anthony Weiner considered a mayoral run. Two chancellors have left, and two have arrived; budgets are tighter after successive years of cuts; and students and teachers are being asked to meet higher standards.

But for Weiner, the disgraced politician who is weighing a comeback mayoral candidacy, not much has changed. In a policy brief he released early this week as part of a media campaign to test the electoral waters, he lists school discipline as the city’s top education priority — just as he did in a similar document in 2009.

Weiner has drawn criticism for re-releasing the document, called “Keys to the City,” without a thorough revision. But the education section of the new version is more detailed than the 2009 version. Weiner lists 11 educational priorities, starting with “streamline the process of removing troublesome kids from the classroom” and ending with a proposal to give New Yorkers who complete a year of service a free year’s tuition at the City University of New York.

Ensuring school safety was also Weiner’s top priority in his 2005 mayoral run. Other education promises he made then, such as increasing teacher salaries, adopting a new curriculum, and scaling back the city’s Leadership Academy to train new principals, have since happened during the Bloomberg administration.

The new policy list does include a few adjustments to reflect contemporary issues. He now wants schools to “put a Kindle in every backpack,” and he also sides against the Bloomberg administration on the issue of whether religious groups should be able to use school buildings in the evenings and on weekends.

Some of Weiner’s suggested policies are similar to proposals other mayoral candidates have put forth. Comptroller John Liu wants to give a CUNY tuition break to all top high school graduates. And City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, in a major education policy address in January, said she wants to buy 1 million tablets for city students.

In general, Weiner did not make education a major issue during his campaigns for mayor and Congress, focusing instead on health care and other policies. (In 2005, he withdrew before a runoff primary after coming in second to the man who ultimately lost to Bloomberg. In 2008, he was elected to Congress but resigned in 2011 amid a sexting scandal.)

Instead, his strongest ties to the city’s schools seem to be personal. He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School and has promised to send his (at the time, hypothetical) children to public schools.

His mother was also a longtime teacher at Brooklyn’s Midwood High School — mayoral candidate Bill Thompson’s alma mater — who retired with concerns about the Bloomberg administration’s education policies, according to a 2005 New York Observer profile.

Weiner’s full list of education priorities is below:

  1. Streamline the process of removing troublesome kids from the classroom
  2. Pay master teachers more for taking tough assignments
  3. Create a Master Teacher Academy
  4. Eliminate paid parent coordinators
  5. Make Catholic school preservation a Tweed mission
  6. Help private schools access security grants
  7. Reinvent teacher contracts for the new workforce realities
  8. Put a Kindle in every backpack
  9. Use federal standards for New York’s kids
  10. Let empty schools bustle after hours — even for churches
  11. Expand civic service with Gotham Corps

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.