training day

Moskowitz offers training for district school principals, and city offers praise

Eva Moskowitz speaks last year at a seminar hosted by Success Academy that was open to other charter and district school leaders. Moskowitz is hosting a similar event next month and directly appealing for New York City principals to attend.

Eva Moskowitz earned rare praise from the de Blasio administration on Tuesday after she invited city principals to a training day sponsored by her charter school network next month.

Moskowitz, who founded Success Academy Charter Schools in 2006, is offering to host classroom visits and professional development sessions on Oct. 30 for leaders of the city’s district elementary schools. She’s even emailed Chancellor Carmen Fariña and other top education officials directly to help get the word out.

“This is great to see,” said Devora Kaye, a spokesperson for Fariña, in response to the announcement.

The offer to share resources and details about Success’ curriculum, management, and programs aligns with what Mayor Bill de Blasio and Fariña have said they want from the city’s charter schools. Fariña in particular has encouraged teachers and principals to visit each other’s schools in a structured way, saying the practice is a key driver of improvement.

“We celebrate when schools answer the chancellor’s call for greater collaboration,” Kaye said.

The praise is notable given de Blasio’s frosty relationship with Moskowitz, a political rival with mayoral ambitions and starkly different ideas about how to improve public education. And it’s unclear if Fariña intends to help market the event to district principals. Only five months ago, Moskowitz helped organize attack ads against the mayor after he blocked three of her schools from co-locating in district school buildings.

For those who want charter schools to serve as laboratories of new ideas and then to share them with district schools—a central premise of the charter movement when city teachers union president Albert Shanker first embraced it in 1988—the development was seen as a “good first step.”

“But it’s only a first step,” said David Bloomfield, a professor of educational leadership at Brooklyn College. “My hope would be that this initiates an ongoing collaboration of Success and other charters” and district schools, he said.

Success, the city’s largest charter school network, is currently applying to expand from 32 to 46 schools over the next two years. The schools are in high demand from parents and rank as or among the city’s top-performing schools each year on state tests.

Success schools last year attracted 300 visitors from people who wanted to know more about the network’s which opened with its first school in 2006, Success spokesperson Ann Powell said.

But the schools are also controversial among teachers and principals who work in district schools, who argue that the charter sector’s growth hurts the traditional public school system, which loses resources as more students attend charter schools. Teachers and education activists have been airing their criticisms of Success by circulating petitions against Success’ application to expand and at public hearings where the applications are being reviewed.

The October training event is open to 60 people, and that a few principals have already signed up, Powell said, and the network has focused its outreach on schools co-located with Success Academy schools.

The event will include classroom observations in the morning focused on the network’s “Think Literacy” curriculum and approach to math instruction, followed by meetings in the afternoon at Columbia University. Moskowitz will moderate an afternoon session called “The Essential Role of the Principal” to “discuss the critical role of the principals as an instructional leader,” according to an outline of the day that Success posted online for those who are interested in registering.

Last year, Success held a similar event mostly for other charter school leaders, including KIPP’s Dave Levin, Achievement First’s Dacia Toll, and Uncommon’s Schools’ Brett Pieser. A group of educators from the Houston Independent School District also attended.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”