after hours

New details on after-school expansion include higher per-student costs

The city finally got specific about its plans to expand after-school programs for middle schoolers today.

A report released by the mayor’s office provides the first glimpse into how the city wants to spend $190 million more on after-school programs, and its per-student cost estimates indicate that the plan has undergone significant shifts over the last few months. Those figures are likely to take center stage when Mayor Bill de Blasio heads to Albany tomorrow to lobby lawmakers to allow a tax increase to pay for his ambitious education initiatives.

“This is not a small undertaking, it’s not a pilot project, it’s not a boutique effort for only a few schools,” de Blasio said today. “This is system-wide change.”

The total funding estimate for de Blasio’s plan to expand pre-kindergarten and the after-school programs has remained steady since he was on the campaign trail: $530 million per year, or what he estimated that a tax increase on the city’s highest earners would raise. 

But some aspects of the after-school plan have clearly been in flux since January, when the mayor’s press secretary told NY1 that the program’s estimated cost was $1,600 per student. Today’s plan estimated the cost of each new after-school seat at $3,000.

“At $3,000 per program slot, more programs will be allowed to hire certified teachers to serve as educational specialists and to retain more highly educated and experienced activity specialists – such as professional artists and graduate students in science – who can be paired with youth workers to offer engaging, project-based learning activities,” the report says.

While the mayor’s pre-K was spelled out in a lengthy implementation plan and a follow-up “progress report” last week, the after-school plan has so far been thin on those kinds of details. The pre-K initiative will be even more costly and requires overcoming larger logistical hurdles in school buildings across the city.

But what the after-school plan will require—in addition to $190 million—is input and resources from middle schools themselves, according to the report. Principals will be required to contribute to the programs at their school through “in-kind donations” of curriculum materials and potentially teachers’ time.

“Working together, principals and middle school teachers will help after-school staff, including education specialists, to align programming with school-day instruction and assist participants with their transitions from one grade to the next and to high school,” the report says.

De Blasio’s plan calls for every middle school in the city to offer the after-school programs, more than doubling the number of schools offering those programs. Charter schools with middle schools will be eligible for additional after-school programming if they don’t already have extended-day programs.

Programs will be required to operate for nine hours each week for 36 weeks of the school year, and 60 percent of students’ time must be spent in structured activities like dance, sports, literacy or science-related activities, or community service projects. (The unstructured time can also include recreation and homework help.) That structure and cost per student aligns with the city’s Middle School Quality Initiative extended day program.

One challenge the middle-school program shares with the pre-K expansion will be evening out the quality among programs. The city’s after-school programs already vary widely in their funding and their use of certified teachers and subject-area experts.

The report notes that many high-quality after-school programs currently do their own fundraising to supplement city funds, and the $3,000 price tag will pay for a more equitable system with more certified teachers.

On Monday, de Blasio said programs will be evaluated by academic measures like improvements in students’ homework completion, class grades, and test scores, as well as non-academic measures like school attendance and students’ engagement in the activities.

The report also quantified how many after-school seats are already being funded by the city: just over 45,000 in 239 schools. The city’s plan will bring that total number of seats to over 95,000, with the $190 million covering the increase, not the entire cost of the city’s after-school programs.

We’ve embedded the whole report below.

Patrick Wall contributed reporting. 

newark notes

In Newark, a study about school changes rings true — and raises questions — for people who lived them

PHOTO: Naomi Nix
Park Elementary principal Sylvia Esteves.

A few years ago, Park Elementary School Principal Sylvia Esteves found herself fielding questions from angst-ridden parents and teachers.

Park was expecting an influx of new students because Newark’s new enrollment system allowed parents to choose a K-8 school for their child outside of their neighborhood. That enrollment overhaul was one of many reforms education leaders have made to Newark Public Schools since 2011 in an effort to expand school choice and raise student achievement.

“What’s it going to mean for overcrowding? Will our classes get so large that we won’t have the kind of success for our students that we want to have?” Esteves recalls educators and families asking.

Park’s enrollment did grow, by about 200 students, and class sizes swelled along with it, Esteves said. But for the last two years, the share of students passing state math and English tests has risen, too.

Esteves was one of several Newark principals, teachers, and parents who told Chalkbeat they are not surprised about the results of a recent study that found test scores dropped sharply in the years immediately following the changes but then bounced back. By 2016, it found Newark students were making greater gains on English tests than they were in 2011.

Funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and conducted by Harvard researchers, the study also found the reforms had no impact on student math scores.

And while many Newark families and school leaders agree with the study’s conclusion — that students are making more progress now — they had very different ideas about what may have caused the initial declines, and why English growth was more obvious than math.

Supported by $200 million in private philanthropy, former superintendent Cami Anderson and other New Jersey officials in 2011 sought to make significant changes to the education landscape in Newark, where one third of more than 50,000 students attend privately managed charter schools. Their headline-grabbing reforms included a new teachers union contract with merit-based bonuses; the universal enrollment system; closing some schools; expanding charter schools; hiring new principals; requiring some teachers to reapply for their jobs; and lengthening the day at some struggling schools.

Brad Haggerty, the district’s chief academic officer, said the initial drop in student performance coincided with the district’s introduction of a host of changes: new training materials, evaluations, and curricula aligned to the Common Core standards but not yet assessed by the state’s annual test. That was initially a lot for educators to handle at once, he said, but teacher have adjusted to the changes and new standards.

“Over time our teaching cadre, our faculty across the entire district got stronger,” said Haggerty, who arrived as a special assistant to the superintendent in 2011.

But some in Newark think the district’s changes have had longer-lasting negative consequences.

“We’ve had a lot of casualties. We lost great administrators, teachers,” said Bashir Akinyele, a Weequahic High School history teacher. “There have been some improvements but there were so many costs.”

Those costs included the loss of veteran teachers who were driven out by officials’ attempts to change teacher evaluations and make changes to schools’ personnel at the same time, according to Sheila Montague, a former school board candidate who spent two decades teaching in Newark Public Schools before losing her position during the changes.

“You started to see experienced, veteran teachers disappearing,” said Montague, who left the school system after being placed in the district’s pool of educators without a job in a school. “In many instances, there were substitute teachers in the room. Of course, the delivery of instruction wasn’t going to even be comparable.”

The district said it retains about 95 percent of its highly-rated teachers.

As for why the study found that Newark’s schools were seeing more success improving English skills than math, it’s a pattern that Esteves, the Park Elementary principal, says she saw firsthand.

While the share of students who passed the state English exam at Park rose 13 percentage points between the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, the share of students who were proficient in math only rose 3 percentage points in that time frame.

“[Math is] where we felt we were creeping up every year, but not having a really strong year,” she said. “I felt like there was something missing in what we were doing that could really propel the children forward.”

To improve Park students’ math skills, Esteves asked teachers to assign “math exemplars,” twice-a-month assignments that probed students’ understanding of concepts. Last year, Park’s passing rate on the state math test jumped 12 percentage points, to 48 percent.

While Newark students have made progress, families and school leaders said they want to the district to make even more gains.

Test scores in Newark “have improved, but they are still not where they are supposed to be,” said Demetrisha Barnes, whose niece attends KIPP Seek Academy. “Are they on grade level? No.”

Chalkbeat is expanding to Newark, and we’re looking for a reporter to lead our efforts there. Think it should be you? Apply here.  

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below: