PHOTO: Scott ElliottMichelle Persaud of Murry Bergtraum High School of Business Careers is one of seven math and science teachers to win an annual award for their work.
A leading nonprofit thinks one of the city's very best science teachers works at one of the city's most struggling high schools, and it's putting its money where it's mouth is.
For the fourth straight year, the Fund for the City of New York and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation are giving city teachers awards for excellence in teaching science and mathematics. One of the seven winners is Michelle Persaud, whose school, Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers in Manhattan, received a "D" from the city last week.
The honorees were nominated by students, parents, colleagues, and administrators and then selected by a committee made up of representatives from local science museums and universities, based on their students’ achievement, their involvement in extracurricular activities, and their efforts to promote math and science inside and outside the classroom.
Schools with winning teachers each receive $2,500 to support their math and science programs. They are honoring their winning teachers in a series of assemblies today and Wednesday, and the teachers will receive their prizes — $5,000 to $7,500 each — at an award ceremony on Wednesday.
Here are this year’s recipients, along with a highlight about each that we pulled from longer biographies compiled by the Sloan Awards:
A student in Darby Masland's sixth grade class uses an iPad to look up the definition of illustrious for her classmates during unison reading. Unison reading is a core of the method that will inform a new Clinton Hill middle school.
In September, sixth graders at a new middle school in Clinton Hill will regularly stand at the front of the class to share a vocabulary word, or how to solve a math problem. And feedback from fellow students will be valued as much as feedback from their teachers.
In more than a dozen city schools, teachers are taking a literal backseat in their classroom as they adopt a student-driven teaching method called Learning Cultures. But Urban Assembly Unison School is the first to be built from bottom up around the method.
Unlike some of the schools that use Learning Cultures to help immigrant students learn English, Unison probably won't be serving a large population of English language learners. District 13, where the school will open, has relatively few ELLs.
But Learning Cultures is flexible enough to challenge and support any students, said Jennifer Ostrow, the co-founder and principal of the school. She said she heavily recruited ELLs from outside the district, but students who live in District 13, which has had a dearth of high-quality middle schools, got priority for admission. (The school is still accepting applicants, Ostrow said.)
"I am really excited to create what I think will be an excellent middle school and hope will be a valuable contribution to our community," Ostrow said.
When Principal Jonathan Foy wanted to improve college readiness for Eagle Academy's 500 male students, he added more advanced classes and staffed a college counseling office.
Atleast two Brooklyn schools have done the same, and more, in a similar quest to boost achievement: At the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice, boys can take field trips and converse with their male teachers after school through the "Young Men's Association."
And one of the educational capstones of Bedford Academy's curriclum is Perspectives in Leadership, an elective taught by the principal to help male students to think about their roles in the world.
The motivation behind each of these programs is similar, the high schools' principals say. It's the knowledge that only a small fraction of the city's black and Latino youth, particularly young men, are graduating from high school on time and ready for college.
The Brooklyn high schools are among the 80-some schools that city officials and prominent education researchers say are already making strides towards solving the decades-old problem which has received new attention with the advent of the new college readiness progress metric and the mayor's Young Men's Initiative.
Last week all three of them were awarded $10,000 by the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color, a national nonprofit, for their progress addressing the educational needs of young men of color. And two of them are among the 81 schools eligible to apply for the city's Expanded Success Initiative.
The principals told GothamSchools they think one key to tackling this problem is creating single-gender spaces where young men are asked to think critically about their actions and plan for their futures.
An impending crackdown on how students can make up failed classes has some schools scurrying to help students rack up missing credits this spring.
Many schools allow students who are missing credits—either because they failed a class, or because circumstances kept them from attending or completing required work—to receiving course credit for completing extra assignments through a practice known as "credit recovery." The practice, which accounted for about 1.7 percent of credits earned last year, offers students the chance to pick up narrowly missed credits without having to repeat classes, but it has also been criticized for devaluing academic credits because the make-up assignments are often less in-depth than those required in the regular classes.
Last month, following an audit that found errors and possible evidence of cheating at 60 high schools, the city announced that it would begin restricting credit recovery access to students, in part by capping the number of credits students may receive through credit recovery, limiting enrollment to students who attended at least two thirds of class they're making up, and allowing students to make up credits only in the months immediately after they fail a course.
The new policies take effect July 1 — giving schools a four-month window to help students rack up credits before the restrictions kick in. Teachers and students at many schools said last week that they hadn't heard about the looming policy changes. But some of those who did said the news had motivated a credit recovery spree among students missing credits—a response Department of Education officials say is inappropriate.
Students at a small school at the Lower East Side's Seward Park Campus, said administrators had individually told students who are missing credits that now is the time to finish credit recovery.
Community groups from Crown Heights, East Harlem, and the Ridgewood section of Queens are the latest to sign on with Learn NY, the group lobbying to preserve mayoral control.
The law that created mayoral control is set to expire at the end of June, and state legislators are currently grappling with whether to preserve, eliminate, or alter the school governance system. Learn NY is trying to amass a coalition to show legislators that many New Yorkers are happy with mayoral control as it currently exists.
Yesterday the group announced that the coalition now has 40 members, up from just over 30 a month ago. The new additions range in size from a single person, in the case of Demetrius Carolina, pastor of Staten Island's First Central Baptist Church, to all of Fordham University.
One of the organizations added to the list yesterday also runs one of the nine support networks that principals can hire to provide training for teachers. Fordham University's network currently works with 10 schools. Other coalition members, including Urban Assembly, Ghetto Film School, and the Young Women's Leadership Network, are lead partners for DOE schools created during Mayor Bloomberg's administration. In the past, Bloomberg has been criticized for citing as backers organizations to which he or the city gives financial support.
Learn NY has solicited backers in a "grassroots" fashion since launching late last year, by reaching out to community groups and trying to sell them on Learn NY's platform, spokeswoman Julie Wood told me.