Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Gov. Cuomo: please call off the SHSAT, absolutely critical especially during a pandemic.


The letter below was sent to Gov. Cuomo on Monday via his webform; feel free to send your own thoughts on the matter.  

November 23, 2020

Dear Governor Cuomo, 

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, write to request the issuance of an Executive Order to suspend the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) for the specialized high schools in New York City. 

The Hecht-Calandra Act requires that admissions to the specialized high schools be solely and exclusively determined by scores on the SHSAT, which is administered by the NYC Department of Education usually in late October/ early November every year.  Nearly 30,000 students take the SHSAT for approximately 5,000 seats across 8 specialized high schools. The test is administered on campus at these schools.  Obviously this year with the pandemic and particularly now with the increasing infection rates, in-person testing is infeasible and the DOE has not announced how it plans to administer the test. 

The Mayor hinted at offering the SHSAT online at the weekly radio address last week. However, not every student has access to an adequate device or reliable internet connectivity, making the online option discriminatory. In addition to the inequitable access to the digital platform, many of our students are traumatized by the pandemic, having lost loved ones to the disease, facing a new economic reality resulting from parental job loss, or living with the anxiety of a parent who is an essential worker. These traumas disproportionately affect historically marginalized students.

Because the Mayor does not have the power to change the admissions to the specialized high schools, we call upon you to issue an Executive Order suspending the SHSAT this year and allowing the Chancellor of the NYC DOE to develop an alternative method of admissions to the specialized high schools. And given that our estimate of the costs for test administration is approximately $3 Million per year, suspending the SHSAT is also prudent in the face of the fiscal crisis.  We believe this is the only equitable path forward.  

Sincerely, 

Organizations

Alliance for Quality Education

Class Size Matters

Coalition for Asian American Children & Families (CACF)

Community Education Council District 14

Community Education Council District 16

Community Inclusion & Development Alliance

Education Council Consortium

EduColor

El Puente

Families for Real Equity in Education (FREE)

IntegrateNYC

Masa

MORE-UFT (Movement of Rank and File Educators)

NYC Kids PAC

NYC Opt Opt

S.E.E.D.S., Inc. <www.seedswork.org>

Teens Take Charge

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

DOE delays Panel vote on contract with new busing organization acquiring Reliant company

DOE has made another incongruous and costly busing decision to create a new non-profit that will acquire the Reliant company that apparently owes millions in unpaid pension and health insurance costs.  This debt according to the NY Post may be as large as $148 million.  The contract was about to be voted on tonight at the PEP but was postponed because of Panel members' unresolved questions.

As I said to the NY Post, "Without knowing the cost of the company and what kind of debt the city may be assuming, it is impossible to tell whether this is a good deal or not. In any case, for the DOE to take on more financial risks and obligations at this time seems irresponsible, given the economic crisis we face.”

DOE officials have so far refused to release the proposed contract with this new non-profit so the public can learn what financial obligations the city may incur, or the consultant's report from the TransPar Group that helped create this organization.  They should do so as soon as possible; and also release full data as to how much debt and liability they are foisting on city taxpayers in the process, and explain in detail what the benefits to the DOE or NYC students may be.  Otherwise we can only speculate that it may be related to the large donations of $100,000 bgiven to Mayor de Blasio's political PAC by Reliant's owner.

 

DOE to delay the release of any class size data due Nov. 15 until Dec. 31, and any disaggregated data until Feb.15

See the letter from Karen Goldmark below of DOE responding to the letter from CM Mark Treyger, saying they will not release any class size data until December 31, based on the size of classes on November 13, rather than the legal deadline established by city law of November 15.  It also appears from the letter that they do not intend to report any disaggregated data till February 15-- still based on the size of classes as of November 13  (!).

It is very difficult to understand why this should take so long, especially as at the Mayor's press conference on Oct. 26, the Chancellor said that schools have been reporting attendance data and thus class size in "literally three buckets of attendance every single day": in-person classes, remote blended learning classes, and full-time remote classes. 

One suspects that DOE officials just don’t want people to know how large the online classes actually are, as reported by parents and the media here, here and here.

 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Questions raised by Sen. Hoylman and advocates about the privacy of student data


 Chalkbeat also reported on Sen. Hoylman's letter today. 

NY State Senator Brad Hoylman sent a letter yesterday to the Chancellor, asking questions about whether the personal student data that is being collected and processed by the many online programs acquired by the DOE is sufficiently protected from breach or abuse.

According to the UFT, “The DOE has informed schools that for SY 2020-21, they must have a shared, inclusive and digital curriculum in all core subject areas” in order to implement remote learning. 

We have now amassed a list of about one hundred of these digital programs, many of which were hurriedly acquired by DOE, along with links to their privacy grades from Commonsense Media, if available, along with some clarifying comments. These grades are based upon their publicly available privacy policies, some of which do not appear to comply with the state law because they use data for commercial or marketing purposes and/or have weak security  provisions. We gathered the list from the DOE and UFT websites, as well as our parent/teacher survey. 

Here’s a summary of what the NY State student privacy law and regulations require; more information is available on the NYSED website here. Though the law was originally passed in March of 2014, it took nearly six years for the state to issue and adopt regulations that became fully enforceable last January. Among other things, the regulations require all districts to post a Parent Bill of Rights [PBOR] for every contract with a vendor that has access to personal student information. 

The PBOR is supposed to detail how the personal student data will be used, how it will be protected, how parents can access the data to challenge its accuracy if necessary, and when it will be deleted, among other provisions. Because of the COVID crisis, the DOE received an extension till October 1, 2020 to also post a new, legally compliant data privacy policy. 

Here’s the DOE data privacy page and another DOE page, which, after urging from parents and teachers, has posted ONLY the PBORs for the three COVID testing companies, along with their contracts. 

None of the PBORs or contracts of the 100 online programs acquired by DOE have been posted; nor has the DOE's legally compliant data privacy policy.

In addition, the three contracts with the COVID testing companies do not clearly state when the personal data of students will be deleted, though this is required by Ed Law 2D regulations which mandate that contractors “describe whether, how and when data will be returned to the educational agency, transitioned to a successor contractor, at the educational agency’s option and direction, deleted or destroyed by the third-party contractor when the contract is terminated or expires.”

If you haven't yet, please respond to our survey here, to let us know what online programs or apps your children have been assigned, so we can check out their grades and privacy policies as well.  You can also check out our spreadsheet to see what privacy grade was received by the programs and apps assigned to your kids.

Much thanks to Sen. Hoylman for sending a letter to DOE about this; his letter is embedded below. 

 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

CM Treyger urges the DOE to report class sizes on Nov. 15 as legally required, disaggregated this year according to the type of class

Update 11/16/2020: DOE just responded to CM Treyger’s October 15 letter to say they will delay the release of class size data that was due November 15 until Dec. 31, and any disaggregated data until Feb. 15.  More on this here.

Last week, Council Education Chair Mark Treyger wrote a letter to Chancellor Carranza urging him to report on school-specific and citywide class size averages as the law requires on Nov. 15, and also to disagregate the data bgy type of instruction used: either in-person learning, remote classes for blended learning students, and remote classes for full-time remote students.   His letter is here and below and here is a Chalkbeat article about this issue.

Disaggregating the data is critical, because as the letter points out, in-person classes have been extremely small for the purpose of social distancing, while some online learning classes have been reported by parents to be as large as 60-100 students or more.  See recent articles in NY Post, WSJ and Gothamist about this issue.

Randi Levine at Advocates for Children also testified to the fact that children with IEPs requiring class sizes of no more than 12 students per class have experienced class sizes twice or three times as large.

Averaging across all three types of classes would tend to obscure just how large the online classes really are.  Though we have little research showing how to make remote learning more successful and engaging, some educators have noted thatlimiting class sizes may be even more important online than in the physical classroom...On Zoom, for example, it is helpful for a teacher to be able to see all of their students’ faces at once, instead of having to scroll through multiple screens.”

Two prominent researchers have written that it's important to "lower online-class sizes. Common sense suggests that smaller groups and lower student-adult ratios can help increase interactive opportunities.”

On Monday, at the Mayor's press conference, the Chancellor did say that schools have been reporting attendance data in "literally three buckets of attendance every single day": in-person classes, remote blended learning classes, and full-time remote classes.  So reporting the class size data in these three separate categories should not be difficult for them to do.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Parent leader Tory Frye on the Mayor's reversal that parents will be allowed to opt-into online learning for their children once -- and will have to decide by Nov. 15

UPDATE 10/29/20: CEC 6 passed a resolution last night, urging the Mayor and the Chancellor to allow parents the option of choosing in-person education for their children in January after the holidays and once in the spring, as previously promised.  The resolution is here and embedded below.

Yesterday, the Mayor announced that contrary to earlier statements, parents would only be allowed to opt into in-person learning for their kids a single time during the entire school year, and the choice will have to be made starting next week from Nov. 2-Nov. 15.  You can register your choice here.

The outrage among parents was immediate. A petition protesting this sudden announcement to reverse the earlier promise made to parents that there would be several times over the course of the school that parents could choose in-person learning is here.

On the one hand, one can sympathize with principals who have been saddled with the exceedingly difficult job of reprogramming classes and staffing dependent on how many kids attend schools in-person, further complicated by the DOE plan to provide three kinds of classes for students at each grade level and subject:  in-person classes kept small for social distancing, online classes for these students when they are home, and remote classes for full-time online students. 

Yet given the fact that infection rates are rising citywide, the holidays are looming with potential visits with vulnerable grandparents, and the hope and expectation that transmission rates may fall again in the spring, this seems like a particular unfair time to force parents to make any sort of year-long decision. 

Michael Mulgrew of the UFT wrote this: "City Hall's decision violates the plan New York City filed with the state, and it breaks faith with parents. Families were told they would have an opportunity each quarter to decide whether their child returned to the classroom or remained fully remote. Such a decision undermines parents' trust in the system."

Tory Frye of CEC6 and a public health expert wrote this to our NYC Education list

As a CEC6 member I’m hearing from numerous families who seriously resent and are upset and frightened by this sudden and forced “choice.“ Families and communities weren’t consulted; it’s being dropped on us without any consideration of our needs for flexibility and information. And there’s a lot to consider: timing of the flu season, family contact over the holidays, oh and the election! (We’ve got to make this decision during what may be post-election trauma, elation, and/or chaos? Thanks!)

There’s no evidence I’ve seen that the epidemiological experts/infection spread modelers think that a sudden and potentially massive influx of students in early December (just after Thanksgiving with the relatives!) is a good idea. (Please post if it exists!) In fact, the absence of public health experts leading these presentations and efforts throughout but particularly during these latest decisions is troubling. (Again please correct me if I’m wrong and missed it when they weighed in; I can’t watch every presser.)

And how will the in-school programming and buildings absorb a sudden increase if it materializes?  Are there enough teachers and staff? What about space for physical distancing? 

And what if a vaccine materializes in March? As unlikely as that is, would we get another chance then? What about a relief package from Congress? A lot of what ifs...

The other outrage of this decision is yet another promise made and broken. Do all remote-only families have technology and WiFi? Does every school have a nurse? Doubt it. And now four chances to opt in have dropped to one, just after a major American family holiday and before major world religious holidays. 

I truly hope they’ll walk this poorly conceived and communicated decision back. 

-Tory (CEC6)

Friday, October 23, 2020

Do you know where your child's personal data is? Please fill out our survey on your school's use of digital apps -


Class Size Matters, NY Allies for Public Education, and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy would like to know which online apps or programs are being employed by schools throughout New York state, and whether they are sufficiently protective of children's privacy. We are asking parents and teachers to take our survey here, to let us know what apps or programs your schools are using.

Since the pandemic hit, districts across New York State have purchased many commercially-produced online apps and digital programs to implement remote learning. Even before last spring, schools had been using a large number of programs, many of which collect and use personal student information. In NYC alone, more than 75 commercially available online programs have been acquired for teachers to assign to their students, and "The DOE has informed schools that for SY 2020-21, they must have a shared, inclusive and digital curriculum in all core subject areas," according to the UFT.

Many of these digital apps collect and use personal student data in ways we do not understand. In some cases, the publicly available privacy policies of these vendors are NOT sufficiently protective and do not comply with the NY state student privacy law, Education Law 2D, which was passed in 2014.  

Among other things, this law and its regulations adopted in Jan. 2020 require that every contract with a vendor with access to personal student data must have a separate Parent Bill of Rights [PBOR], which specifies how the data will be protected and how parents can access the data and challenge it if necessary.

Each of these separate Parent Bill of Rights are supposed to be posted on the district website, along with other important information, including your district’s overall data privacy protection policy, and how you can contact the district data privacy officer in charge of ensuring these protections. Links to the Education Law 2D, the regulations, and a summary of some of the other most important provisions are here.

Please take a few minutes to fill out our online survey to let us know what online apps and/or digital programs are being used in your schools, and whether the district has provided the necessary information about the ways in which that data is being protected from breach and abuse.

Thanks!

Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters and Parent Coalition for Student Privacy

Lisa Rudley and Jeanette Deutermann, NY State Allies for Public Education

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Testimony on Attendance Reporting Bills

The NYC Council Education and Health Committees held oversight hearings on October 16 on the reopening of schools, as well as two proposed bills to require detailed attendance reporting: Int. 2058 and Int. 2104. Below is my testimony on the issue of class size and how to sharpen these bills to require more precise and disaggregated reporting on the three kinds of instruction students are receiving: in-person face-to-face learning, blended online learning, and full-time remote learning.

The most depressing statistic revealed at the hearings: 77,000 students still don’t have access to devices for remote learning.

The DOE also failed to provide any data on how many students are attending school in-person only to receive instruction on their computers, how many more teachers are needed to staff all three types of programs sufficiently, and/or how many houseless students have logged into any sort of online classes.

The most hopeful finding: Only 0.2% of students and staff randomly tested randomly so far in the public schools have been shown to be positive for COVID-19; more on this here. Dr. Jay Varma, the Senior Advisor for Public Health to the Mayor, also revealed at the hearings that their estimates of the actual current COVID-19 infection rate in NYC is between 0.1-0.7% --rather than the much higher positivity rate which according to the state is 1.3%, and according to the city is 2.17%, which instead reflects how many New Yorkers have tested positive at any one time.


Monday, October 19, 2020

Today's Contract Committee meeting - disappointing with few questions & confusing answers from DOE

Above is the video from today's Contract Committee of the Panel for Educational Policy. It was a short meeting, mostly composed of Charlotte Hamamgian, the DOE Executive Director of Contracts and Purchasing, reading aloud the list of summaries of all the different contracts, which together cost about  $400 million this month. Only two PEP members asked questions, Kathy Park Price with a quick follow-up from Isaac Carmignani; unclear how many others listened in or if there was a quorum.

It was extremely disconcerting how the most elementary questions about the busing contracts were responded to with confusing, inadequate and sometimes downright contradictory responses from the DOE officials in charge. including Lindsey Oates, the DOE CFO and Sean Fitzpatrick, the executive director of the city Department of Education's pupil transportation unit.

  • When Kathy asked about how much was paid to busing for the entire month of Sept. when schools were closed till Sept. 29, Lindsey Oates said 100% payments were made; adding that one or two days may have been at 85%.  Then Sean Fitzpatrick interjected to say that DOE paid Sept. 23 and 24 at the 85% rate, but after that at 100%. Isaac follow up to ask, so we didn't pay anything before then? and Sean said that was correct, appearing to contradict Lindsey Oates.  This left the actual amount of payments for Sept. as clear as mud. 
  • Kathy then asked what was paid during March & April when schools were closed, Oates said we paid them  at "85% rate for the spring," making it unclear if she was referring to those months or the entire spring.  It was previously reported that only 40% was paid during May and June, although the DOE originally planned to pay 85% for these months, after I and others asked why and the NYC Comptroller objected.
  •  Oates did explain that although more than 100 schools have been closed to in-person learning so far this fall, at least temporarily, this hasn't led to any busing savings, since the 43% clause is only triggered if the entire school system is shut down.  This means that even if more than half the schools are shut and no buses are used for those students, NYC still has to pay 100% of the full amount, or more than $1.1 billion a year -- for as long as every single school hasn't closed its doors.

Kathy also asked if parents are ever surveyed about their satisfaction with the performance of the bus companies.  The Charlotte Hamamgian said no, and claimed that the DOE had a "really rigorous performance evaluation process " for the bus companies, and that a lot of "due diligence" went into this. 

This claim was called into serious question last March by the NYC Comptroller here:

The Comptroller demanded answers about DOE’s persistent refusal to use rigorous and regular performance evaluations to ensure taxpayers are getting the services they pay for and that safety procedures are followed. Comptroller Stringer also raised alarms about DOE’s consistent failure to abide by even the most basic procurement protocols. In December, Comptroller Stringer returned $9.1 billion in school bus contract extensions after DOE failed to satisfactorily explain ballooning spending.

It would to nice to see a copy of the DOE's “rigorous” performance evaluations.

Kathy also asked why the DOE decided to extend the bus company contracts through 2025 at these terms. Sean Fitzpatrick said the the major benefits were to keep the busing contracts "solvent" and ensure the companies have personnel on hand. Yet these long-term extensions seem very unwise, especially  given huge uncertainties about future school closures and the current economic crisis which may cause even more radical budget cuts to schools; not to mention t that this administration will leave office in 2021.  Hamamgian said they would bring the DOE planned acquisition of Reliant bus company costing many more millions of dollars to the PEP at a future meeting.

There remain many more unanswered questions that I included in my memo to PEP members last week. Let's hope more questions are asked at the full PEP meeting on Wed. Oct 21 at 6 PM; more info including agenda here, with a link to the proposed contracts.  You can listen or sign up to speak starting at 5:30 PM here.

Questionable DOE contracts to be voted on Oct. 21 by the PEP, concerns about DOE lack of compliance with student privacy law & ongoing issues about PEP process & lack of training

 I sent this memo to the members of the Panel for Educational Policy last week; questions about their busing contracts, DOE's lack of compliance with the state student privacy law by failing to post their district data privacy policy and contracts with vendors that have access to personal student data, and problems related to PEP governance.   

Update on busing: After this memo was written, it was also revealed that the DOE is planning purchasing Reliant bus company, for an unknown amount, acquiring one thousand buses and thousands of new employees, with ongoing considerable costs to the DOE budget. As I said to the NY Post, this move raises all sorts of questions, including how can the city afford this in the face of huge budget shortfalls? And why are they adding more city employees while threatening to lay off thousands of others? 

Update on the Covid testing contracts:  As of Friday 10/16/20, DOE has now posted the three vendor Parent Bill of Rights agreements here,  after we and others urged them to do so.  We still have concerns about the provisions regarding deletion of the personal student data portions in their Parent Bill of Rights, which do not clearly state when the data is to be deleted and thus do not appear to comply with the state student privacy law Education Law 2D, or regs, which fully came into force January 2020.  There still are no contracts or PBOR posted on the DOE website for the 75+ ed tech companies that DOE has acquired and encouraged teachers to use, many of which also have access to personal student data.

The meeting of the PEP contract is Monday Oct. 19 at 11 AM today; you can see livestream here.  Meeting of the PEP is Wed. Oct 21 at 6 PM; more info including agenda here.  The agenda has a link to the proposed contracts.  You can listen or sign up to speak starting at 5:30 PM here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

"Talk out of School" on "integration fatigue" and what's happening in Finland's schools during the pandemic

Today, on my podcast "Talk out of School," I interviewed Prof. Noliwe Rooks and author William Doyle.

First, I recapped some of the latest news from NYC, including that despite last week's order from Governor Cuomo to close more than 300 public and private schools in COVID hotspots in Brooklyn and Queens, it has been reported that little enforcement has been done to close the Ultra-orthodox Yeshivas in these neighborhoods. 

Then I greeted back to the show Prof. Noliwe Rooks of Cornell University, whom I spoke to last week as well.  Prof. Rooks, the author of "Cutting School," explained how successful independent schools run by Black educators in the 1960s and 1970s had closed due to the expansion of well-connected charter chains. Prof. Rooks also described why many Black parents and other advocates were suffering from “integration fatigue,” and provided her thoughts about how should the planned reopening of city schools should have proceeded this fall, instead of what actually happened. 

William Doyle, whose book “Let the Children Play” is about to come out on paperback, then joined us. He is living in Finland this year, researching a book on that nation’s education system, and his 7th grade son is attending a public school in Helsinki. Doyle described how Finland is dealing with the pandemic and more specifically what's happening in the school his son attends. He also explained how Finland’s education system provided important lessons for the future direction of US public schools. You can find previous podcasts and//or subscribe here.&nbsp.

Links and Resources:

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Why Covid has spread in Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods and "Cutting School" -- how Black schools have been a focus of experimentation and profit

Today on my WBAI podcast "Talk out of School" I updated listeners on the additional school closures planned this week in NYC, first by Mayor de Blasio in nine zip codes in Brooklyn and Queens, and now in larger numbers in red and orange zones of high Covid positivity, determined by Governor Cuomo and his Covid task force.  

On the podcast, Naftuli Moster of Yaffed, who first appeared on the podcast in May, explained why many of the hot spots experiencing high rates of COVID positivity  in NYC are located primarily in areas with high concentrations of Ultra-Orthodox Jews. He said this was for two reasons: one, there is no science instruction at the Yeshivas, the schools that Ultra-Orthodox boys attend, and thus they don’t understand how viral transmission occurs. Two, the members of these insular communities have long flouted the law in areas of education and public health without any consequences, and in fact have received special favors and additional funding because of their political influence. Many have gotten used to violating rules set down by the city or state, in this case regarding the need to avoid mass gatherings, wear masks, and maintain social distancing. 

Naftuli suggested the best way the Governor and Mayor should address the refusal of many members of these communities to comply with the new restrictions would be by threatening their leaders with a loss of public funding, including discretionary child-care vouchers, funds which they have received at disproportionate levels in the past. 

Then I interviewed Noliwe Rooks, W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of Literature at Cornell, about her new book, Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education, which analyzes the history of education inequity in the U.S. and the way in which the schooling of Black students has been repeatedly used as an opportunity for experimentation and profit by education reformers and entrepreneurs. 

Instead of providing these students with the same opportunities wealthy white students receive, such as small classes, experienced teachers, and plenty of extracurricular activities, including art and music, as well as intensive support when they are struggling,  Prof. Rooks explained how their schools continue to be defunded and privatized, through the expansion of charters, vouchers and online learning.  You can subscribe and download other episodes of "Talk out of School" here.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Hearings tomorrow for Success Academy charter revisions & comments from District 2 CEC members demanding more transparency

UPDATE 10/6/20 - There was NO discussion or vote on the Success Academy revisions at the SUNY charter committee meeting today; one can only assume that they were accepted without any vote of the committee.  One might ask what is the point of public hearings and submitted testimony without any acknowledgement or even awareness of public input by SUNY Committee members.

Hearings on several matters including revisions to enrollment of 19 (!) Success Academy charter schools will be held by the SUNY charter committee tomorrow Tuesday Oct 6, 2020.  The meeting will start at 9 AM and will be webcast here.  The agenda is here and the proposed Success Academy revisions are included in a document entitled SUNY Charter Schools Institute Update.   

For more on these revisions, which include evidence of high attrition rates including elimination of all three originally planned Brooklyn HS , see the analysis by Brooke Parker here.  

Below is testimony submitted by six members of CEC2.

Testimony for the SUNY Charter Institute on 

Charter School Revision Application by Success Academies in 

Community School Districts 2, 3, 14 and 15

 

September 30, 2020

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony.  We submit the below testimony as individual members of the Community Education Council District 2 (CECD2). Due to the timing of the charter revision notice, which was released after the September monthly meeting, the CECD2 is unable to issue an official statement. Thus while the majority of members signed this testimony it does not represent the official position of the CECD2.  

We are against the proposals for charter school revisions submitted by Success Academies Harlem 1, Bed-Stuy 2, Cobble Hill and Wiliamsbsurg.

  1. Our comments from 2019 are still relevant

In a comment letter submitted by Shino Tanikawa and Ushma Neil on October 3rd, 2019, appended to this comment letter, we listed three reasons for opposing the revision proposal submitted by SA Union Square, Hell’s Kitchen, Harlem I & III and Upper West.  We understand the group of schools included in the current revision proposals are not the same but the substance of the 2019 comments remains very much relevant. 

1.a. Academic year and proposal timeline

Nowhere on the 2-page notice sent by the NYC Department of Education is there indication of the academic year for which the proposal is submitted.  We can only hope that this is for the academic year 2021-2022, since the current year is already underway, even if SA has announced 100% remote learning for all its students. 

Please ensure all future notices clearly state the timeline of the proposal and the academic year for which the proposal is submitted. 

1.b. Organizational & building capacity data

Below is the Enrollment, Capacity and Utilization Report data from December 2019, with grade spans served in each building added (we are making assumptions since grade span information is not in the Blue Book).  When submitting revision proposals, SA and the DOE should be required to provide this information.  While building utilization might be a separate process under the CR A-190, this information is crucial in understanding why these revision proposals are submitted and whether the proposed changes are feasible or sound.  

From the revision notice, we understand SA Bed-Stuy 2, Cobble Hill and Williamsburg will send their 9th graders to Harlem 1, presumably at Norman Thomas but it is not stated.  Harlem 1 is slated to add 118 students to Grade 9. It is unclear if the available seats at Norman Thomas (392 according to the Blue Book as of December 31, 2019) are sufficient to accommodate this and the future increases.  Bed-Stuy 2, Cobble Hill and Williamsburg will all serve K - 4 without the 9th grade under the proposal.  

CSD

Org ID

Org Name

Bldg ID

building name

Grades

Enrollment

Target Capacity

Target Utilization

# Seats

2

M351

SA - Harlem 1

M620

Norman Thomas HS

9 - 12

391

783

50%

392

3

M351

SA - Harlem 1

M088

I. 88

5 - 8

309

392

79%

83

3

M351

SA - Harlem 1

M149

PS149 (tandem M207) 

K - 4

393

315

125%

-78

3

M351

SA - Harlem 1

M207

PS 207 (tandem M149)

K - 4

115

299

38%

184

14

K125

SA - Bed-Stuy 2

K059

PS 59

K - 4, 9

346

312

111%

-34

14

K182

SA - Williamsburg

K050

JHS 50 

K - 4, 9

426

562

76%

136

15

K129

SA - Cobble Hill

K293

JHS 293 

K - 4, 9

329

467

70%

138

 

1.c. Enrollment data

The table below is what was provided in the revision notice.  While we appreciate the addition of this information, which was not provided in prior years, we request more granular data, broken down by grade.  In addition, please clarify if the “Authorized Grades & Enrollment” means the enrollment numbers are what was authorized under the charter application or if they are the actual enrollment numbers.  If the latter, please provide the academic year.  

 

Harlem 1

(D2, D3)

Bed-Stuy 2

(D14)

Cobble Hill

(D15)

Williamsburg

(D14)

Authorized Grades & Enrollment

Grades K-12

1,633 Students

Grades K-4, 9

453 Students

Grades K-4, 9

460 Students

Grades K-4, 9

483 Students

Proposed Authorized Grades &

Enrollment

Grades K-12

1,751 Students

 

+118 in Grade 9

Grades K-4

416 Students

 

-37 in Grade 9

Grades K-4

416 Students

 

-44 in Grade 9

Grades K-4

416 Students

 

-37 in Grade 9

 Please verify the numbers for Williamsburg. If the authorized (or actual) enrollment number is 483 and the proposed enrollment is 416, the difference is 67.  However, the table in the notice shows a decrease of only 37 students.  Where are the other 30 students being moved to? 

The table below is from the SA Harlem 1 Accountability Report for 2018-2019 school year, which includes enrollment figures for all SA schools.  While this table is for 2018-2019, the difference in enrollment figures seem quite large (the last column).  Please provide us with a similar table with up-to-date enrollment figures and make clear the difference between authorized enrollment and actual enrollment.  We request the authorized enrollment (or projected enrollment) as separate figures so that we know whether enrollment targets are being met. 

Schools

Grades

K

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Total

Prop

Bed Stuy 2

K - 4, 9

51

72

70

79

46

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

318

453

Cobble Hill

K - 4, 9

54

56

69

72

59

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

310

460

Harlem 1

K - 12

89

87

94

83

100

88

80

63

50

258

171

134

26

1323

1633

Williamsburg

K - 4, 9

79

74

84

64

71

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

372

483

We need accurate enrollment data - both projected and actual - to understand these revision proposals better.  Lacking these data, we cannot evaluate the merits of the revision proposals. 

 

2.                   Welfare of students enrolled in SA Bed-Stuy 2, Cobble Hill and Williamsburg

We were presented with a similar proposal in 2019 whereby students from some SA schools were moved to other SA schools.  WIthout knowing the effective date of the current proposal and assuming that there are 9th grade students in SA Bed-Stuy 2, Cobble Hill and Williamsburg this academic year, were these students and their families notified that they will be attending school in Union Square? Is there guarantee that Norman Thomas Educational Campus will be able to accommodate this cohort of students through graduation?  Will this move present any hardship to any students?  If so, how will SA address grievances from families?  Will the teachers also move with the students?  

It appears this game of musical chairs has become an annual exercise for SA and we are concerned about the impact of the haphazard nature of these revision proposals on the students.  The concern is now amplified by the pandemic, which has placed additional challenges and stress on all our students. 

We recommend that the SUNY Charter Institute work with SA to develop a master plan for all its schools across the city so that these piecemeal proposals become unnecessary.  Such a plan should critically evaluate the enrollment trends and grade configuration and physical capacity of each school as well as collectively across all schools. The revision process distracts from more important issues for our students (such as whether SA is serving its fair share of students with disabilities and Multilingual Learners, or whether SA is engaged in questionable discipline practices).  

3.                   School level accountability

Considering the history of SA, we are concerned that this co-mingling of cohorts of students makes it impossible to assess individual SA schools’ performance.  Any longitudinal analyses of a given cohort will be extremely difficult when a cohort of students starts in one SA school but graduates from another.

An analysis by an education advocate has shown that attrition in SA schools can be significant.  The Class of 2020 had 350 students in second grade in 2010 but 114 Seniors in 2020.  This analysis was conducted across all SA schools because of the expansion of one SA school into several schools. Expansions and transferring students from one SA school to another make it difficult to determine the cause for this seemingly high attrition as well as attributing student performance and achievement to any one SA school.  Yet, each SA school is chartered separately with charter renewals and revisions subject to approval by the SUNY Charter Institute. How are we to know whether a given SA school is performing well when students move around?  

For these reasons, we oppose the revision proposal. We further call upon the SUNY Charter Institute to immediately conduct a thorough review and evaluation of the entire suite of Success Academy schools to ensure there is a long term, sustainable plan for all of the SA schools.  Additionally we recommend the SUNY Charter Institute consider treating all SA schools as one school with multiple sites under one charter.  When individual SA schools are allowed to shift students among themselves, such maneuvers render individual SA charters meaningless.  Finally we urge the SUNY Charter Institute to reconsider the entire charter process for charter schools seeking or already sited in DOE facilities.  We are not able to evaluate any charter proposals without knowing whether physical facilities are able to accommodate such proposals.  Having two separate yet interdependent processes - charter approval and co-location/building utilization approval - thus does not allow sound decision making.  In the end we must remember it is the students and their families who pay the price for this flawed process.  As advocates, we are willing to work with the SUNY Charter Institute and the state legislature to create a better process. 

Respectfully submitted, 

Shino Tanikawa, Manhattan Borough Appointee

Robin Broshi

Eric Goldberg

Emily Hellstrom

Edward Irizarry

Ushma Neil, Manhattan Borough Appointee