Teachers lose clout without suspension

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reads The Very Hungry Caterpillar as he and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña visit a pre-K class. Photo: Associated Press

In 32 years teaching in New York City, Arthur Goldstein has had only one student suspended, he writes in the New York Daily News. But suspension was part of his discipline “toolkit.” Now, new rules give teachers fewer tools to maintain a learning environment.

“In Mayor de Blasio’s New York, when a kid curses you out in a crowded hallway, all you can do is call the kid’s parents,” Goldstein writes.

A colleague of mine, a rather large man, saw a boy and a girl getting passionate and physical in the hallway. He asked them to go to class.

The boy instructed my colleague to perform a vulgar act that may or may not be possible. My colleague was able to handle it in a professional manner, but found the consequences for the kid’s act to be mild indeed.

Why? Because principals must now get explicit approval from the central Department of Education for suspensions involving student insubordination.

Chancellor Carmen Fariña wrote the new rules to “lessen suspensions that disproportionately remove black and Latino kids from school,” he writes. Suspensions are down by a third compared to last year.

Fewer kids are missing class, Goldstein writes. But teachers have less power to control their classrooms.

Social services alone won’t improve learning

Cincinnati has piloted community schools, which “wrap health, dental, therapeutic, and family support services around existing schools” to “improve students’ learning and life prospects,” writes Paul Hill of University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education. The idea has spread to New York City and Philadelphia.

However, social services along won’t improve student outcomes, he warns. Students from poor families need a high-quality academic education in addition to social supports.

Oyler School in Cincinnati offers a full range of support services -- at a high cost.

Oyler School in Cincinnati offers a full range of support services, but costs are high and the effect on achievement is not clear.

Oyler School, Cincinnati’s model community school, provides an array of health services, including vision and dental care and mental health counseling.

However,  “the links between even intensive services and student learning are weak and tough to find,” Hill writes. “In Cincinnati, the strongest link between wrap-around services and outcomes like normal progress in school comes from attendance gains: on-site health services mean a parent or guardian no longer needs to take children out of school to wait all day to be seen at an emergency ward.”

“Careful studies” have found that students’ learning growth in the Harlem Children’s Zone “is a result of improvements in the schools,” rather than improved social and health services, he writes.

“Despite enormous support from Cincinnati hospitals and businesses, only Oyler has the full menu of services,” Hill notes. Community schools are expensive.

20,000 NYC students apply to Success charters

More than 20,000 New York City students have applied for 3,228 available spots at Success Academy charter schools, reports the New York Post.

Admission is by lottery.

The network is opening five more elementary schools and two new middle schools this fall. Success will use a $25 million donation to fund expansion.

Test scores are very high for Success charter students, who are predominantly black and Latino. The schools have been criticized for tough discipline policies. Apparently, many parents don’t care.

Big districts hire more cops than counselors

School security officers outnumber counselors in some of the nation’s largest school districts, including New York City, Chicago, Miami-Dade County and Houston, reports Matt Barnum for The 74.

Some cities, such as New York City, hire high numbers of both security staff and counselors, the analysis found.

Others, such as  Houston and Los Angeles, don’t have many guards or counselors. Both school districts have their own police force.

Most school security officers have little training in dealing with troubled and special-needs students, reports The 74.

NYC charters retain more students

Attrition rates are lower at New York City charter schools than at district-run public schools, according to a WNYC analysis of district data.

Citywide, 10.6 percent of charter school students transferred out in 2013-14, compared to 13 percent of traditional public school students, reports Beth Fertig and Jenny Ye.

Only one student left KIPP's Washington Heights Middle School last year, an attrition rate of less than 1 percent.

Only one student left KIPP’s Washington Heights Middle School in 2013-14, an attrition rate of less than 1 percent.

Other studies show “charters lose a smaller share of special-needs students than district schools, she writes.

KIPP’s “no excuses” schools lost students at one-quarter the rate of district schools. The Icahn network, which is more “huggy,” had one-third the attrition rate.

Success Academy, which has very high test scores, has been accused of pushing out unwanted students. The New York Times reported on a “got to go” list of difficult students kept by the principal of a Success school in Brooklyn,

Yet, “most of Success’s 18 schools in the 2013-14 school year had attrition rates that were lower than those of their local districts,” report Fertig and Ye. Only two schools were slightly higher.  Overall, the attrition rate for Success Academy schools was 57 percent of the rate at district schools.

Two stand-alone charters posted high attrition rates, WNYC found. Both have closed.

Alexander Russo wonders why the story has received little attention.

To lure gentrifiers, NY school picks students


Parents and community members learned about plans for The Dock Street School last month. Photo: Patrick Wall, Chalkbeat

A low-performing, low-enrollment Brooklyn middle school will get a new building, a new name, a science-and-arts focus — and a student body selected for good grades, test scores and attendance. Middle-class parents said they won’t consider an open-enrollment school, reports Chalkbeat.

Brooklyn neighborhoods are gentrifying rapidly. Several elementary schools now draw white and middle-class students, but those students vanish in middle school. Most go to out-of-district public schools or to private schools.

Selectivity is the “secret sauce” of high-performing schools, charges NYC Educator.  “It’s, ‘We’ll take these kids, the ones who get high scores and everyone else can just go to hell’.”

Charters retain more hard-to-teach kids

While critics claim charters “push out” hard-to-teach students, urban charter schools are better at retaining students with disabilities and English Language Learners than district-run schools, concludes Marcus Winters.

Four years after entry into kindergarten, 65 percent of students with disabilities remained at their Denver charter school,  while district schools retained only 37 percent of special-ed students, writes Winters.

Victor Uriarte and his daughter Daniela, 11, celebrate the winning of the lottery of West Denver Prep. Photo: Hyoung Chang, Denver Post

Victor Uriarte and his daughter Daniela, 11, celebrate winning a seat at West Denver Prep, a high-performing charter network,  in a lottery. Photo: Hyoung Chang, Denver Post

Students learning English are more likely to remain at a charter than a district school. In New York City, 82 percent of ELLs who enrolled in charters for kindergarten remained in their schools four years later, compared with 70 percent in traditional public schools.

ELLs and students with disabilities made “substantial” learning gains in Boston charter schools compared to district schools, concludes a new MIT study.

Charters enroll fewer students with disabilities or an ELL designation. That’s because fewer apply, writes Winters. He advocates a common-enrollment system to make it easier for parents to apply.

Common enrollment nearly eliminated the gap in ELLS entering charters in Denver, his analysis found.

NYC schools skip Regents exam, raise grad rates 

Graduation rates have soared at New York City schools that don’t require students to take Regents exams, reports the New York Post.

Ten percent of the city’s high schools are allowed to use alternatives to the state exam. Many are “international” schools that cater to immigrants who aren’t fluent in English.

Science students at Pan American International High in Queens.

Science students at Pan American International High in Queens.

Students qualify for graduation by writing essays, doing oral presentations and other projects that are graded by their own teachers.

The graduation rate at Pan American International HS in Queens went from 50 percent in 2014 to 76 percent in 2015, “leap-frogging past even the citywide average of 70 percent,” reports the Post.

Lyons Community School in Brooklyn raised its graduation rate from 46 percent to 65 percent, “while the International Community HS in The Bronx and International HS at Union Square in Manhattan both produced 18 percent spikes.”

Will these students be prepared for success in college or the workforce? Will the district track them to find out?

Study: School closures helped students

Closing low-performing New York City high schools helped students, according to a NYU Research Alliance report. Most of the middle schoolers who would have gone to the closed schools ended up at smaller, higher-achieving schools. Fifty-five percent earned a diploma in four years, compared to a 40 percent graduation rate for the now-closed schools.

A 2013 MDRC study found students attending smaller high-schools were 10 percent more likely to graduate on time than students at other schools, notes WNYC.

From 2002 to 2008, the city closed 29 large, low-performing high schools and opened more than 200 new, small high schools.

Post-closure students did better, but not well, researchers said. Fewer than half earned a Regents diploma.

Is Success Academy too strict?

New York City’s Success Academy charters have very high test scores and very strict discipline policies, writes Vox’s Libby Nelson.

One principal drew up a “Got to Go” list with the names of 16 disruptive students, reports the New York Times. Nine left the school, in part due to frequent suspensions.

A different Success Academy school suspended kindergartners and first-graders 44 times in one year, with one child suspended 12 times, reports PBS’s NewsHour.

Students at a Success Academy school in Harlem work on a writing exercise. Credit: Nicole Bengiveno, New York Times

Students at a Success Academy school in Harlem work on a writing exercise. Credit: Nicole Bengiveno, New York Times

One parent complained of her son’s suspensions on camera. Eva Moskowitz, the charter network’s founder and CEO, published the student’s disciplinary record, which included punching and choking teachers and throwing a classmate into a wall.

Success Academy runs 34 New York City schools with 11,000 students, most of them black or Hispanic and poor, writes Nelson. “This year, 93 percent of Success Academy students tested as proficient in math in 2015, compared with just 35 percent of kids in New York as a whole; 68 percent tested as proficient in reading, compared with 30 percent citywide.”

Admirers point to a strong curriculum and intense teacher training.

Critics argue that the schools are narrowly focused on test preparation, including rewards for students who score well on practice tests and a combination of detention and study hall for those who do not.

Research suggests that pushing out low performers doesn’t explain Success Academy’s incredible success, writes Nelson. The scores are too high.

Strict discipline does matter. Suspending disruptive students allows Success to maintain safe, orderly classrooms. That’s a big draw for many parents and a huge “educational advantage” over district-run schools.

In affluent suburban schools, bright students “almost never share a classroom with challenging, high-needs kids,” writes Robert Pondiscio. Public school administrators “marginalize and punish kids who act out – even for infractions that are beneath notice at chaotic inner-city schools.”