Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Join us Tuesday to urge the Mayor to involve parents in the selection of a new Chancellor!

On Tuesday, January 23 at 10 AM, on the steps of Tweed, the co-Chairs of the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council, representing all the PTAs and PAs in NYC public schools, and the co-Chairs of the Education Council Consortium, representing the elected and appointed members of the Citywide and Community Education Councils, along with other parent leaders and advocates, will urge Mayor de Blasio to involve parents in the search and selection of a new Chancellor, as he promised to do during his first mayoral campaign.

A flyer to distribute or post in your schools is here.

When: Tues. Jan. 23, at 10 AM

Where: Steps of Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers St. in downtown Manhattan.

CPAC and the CECs will also release letters, demanding that the live up to his pledge to collaborate and respect parent input when it comes to the education of NYC children and the future of our schools. Please come and show your support!

Please also remember to sign up for our Parent Action Conference on Saturday, January 27, ten days from today, where we will collaborate on an action agenda for the rest of the school year; more info here.

Please spread the word and hope to see you Tuesday at Tweed!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Five questions to SUNY about proposed enrollment revisions at Success Academy charter schools



 I will post any response I receive from Mr. Rossi.

January 15, 2018

Ralph Rossi, General Counsel
SUNY Charter Institute
By email to: Ralph.rossi@suny.edu
 
Dear Mr. Rossi:

Proposed revisions in the enrollment of many charter schools are under consideration by the SUNY board.[1]  I cannot ascertain if the SUNY board has voted on these revisions already, but I have questions about those proposed by the Success Academy Network:

1.       1. Success Academy is the only Charter Management Organization requesting SUNY authorization to revise current enrollments at 12 schools, revisions that have presumably already occurred. Can you explain how requests for authorization to revise current school enrollments are legal?

2    2. Five of these Success Academy charter schools are proposing expansions in their enrollments for this year and next.  There is also a net increase across all twelve Success Academy schools of 444 students proposed for next year.  According to the mandated process described on the SUNY charter institute website, SUNY requires that “A material charter revision to modify enrollment to more than what was provided for in the charter agreement (charter paragraph 2.2 (a)) would require the school to submit…[an] Explanation of how the plan fits the facility or facilities plan of the school.” [2]
          
Can you supply the explanations provided by Success Academy of how these expansions fit the facilities plans for these five schools and across the Network as a whole?

     3. Success Academy Cobble Hill is one of the five Success Academy schools requesting an expansion of its enrollment.  Yet the average utilization of D15 schools, according to the DOE Blue Book report for 2016-2017, is already at 114%, and 70% of K-8 schools in the district are already overcrowded. About 79% of K8 students in the district, nearly 20,000, are crammed in overcrowded schools, and 92 cluster rooms missing from these schools. according to DOE’s latest utilization report.[3] Meanwhile the student population in the district is still growing fast. Housing starts data posted in March of last year 2017 multiplied by the City Planning ratio would project that more than 4,700 additional K-8 seats will be needed in D15 by 2019.[4]

The NYC five-year capital plan has only funded about half of the D15 seats necessary, according to the DOE estimates.[5]  Yet the NYC DOE’s Office of District Planning has confirmed to the President of the Community Education Council D15 that only 61% of currently enrolled SACH students live in the district.  Does SUNY take this information into account before approving the school’s expansion, and if not, why not?

             4.  I note that Success Academy Cobble Hill as well as four other SAC schools, including SAC Crown Heights, SAC Fort Greene, SAC Harlem 2, and SAC Harlem 5 all violated federal student privacy law, according to SUNY 2016 site visit reports.[6] In each of these Renewal Reports, the same observation is made:

The Institute and school worked cooperatively to correct minor infractions at the site visit regarding Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) wherein the intent of the school was laudable but technically a violation, and the New York Freedom of Information Law(“FOIL”) wherein the list of records was incomplete. 

Can you explain what these FERPA violations involved, and why you consider them “minor infractions”?  As you may or may not be aware, the Success Academy is currently under investigation by the US Department of Education for serious FERPA violations in at least one another case.[7] 


      5.  In looking more closely at the Renewal report of Success Academy Cobble Hill, I see the following charts, which appear to show that only a small percentage of students with disabilities and English Language Learners at the school were tested on the state exams in 2017, compared to the overall number of students with these classifications. [8] 


Can you explain why such a small number of students at these schools in these categories were tested?

Hoping to hear from you soon, 

Leonie Haimson
Class Size Matters/Parent Coalition for Student Privacy
124 Waverly Pl. New York, NY 10011

Cc: Camille Casaretti, President, Community Education Council 15
Chancellor Betty Rosa, Regent Kathleen Cashin, Regent Luis Reyes
Joseph Belluck, chair of SUNY Charter Committee
Chancellor Carmen Farina
Laura Barbieri, Attorney, Advocates for Justice





[4] Housing start data: http://www.nycsca.org/Community/Capital-Plan-Reports-Data#Housing-Projections-70 combined with NYC Planning public school ratio.



[6] https://www.suny.edu/about/leadership/board-of-trustees/meetings/webcastdocs/III6_Success%20-%20Cobble%20Hill%20Renewal%20Report.pdf  (Report Date: October 11, 2016; Visit Date: September 14, 2016), p. 22.   See also https://www.suny.edu/about/leadership/board-of-trustees/meetings/webcastdocs/III8_Success%20-%20Fort%20Greene%20Renewal%20Report.pdf  (Report Date: October 11, 2016; Visit Date: September 14, 2016).  p. 22.   http://www.newyorkcharters.org/wp-content/uploads/Success-Academy-Crown-Heights-Renewal-Recommendation-Report-2016-17.pdf  (Report Date: October 11, 2016; Visit Date: September 15, 2016), p. 22.  http://www.newyorkcharters.org/wp-content/uploads/Success-Harlem-5-Renewal-2016.pdf (Report Date: October 11, 2016, Visit Date: September 16, 2016), p. 24.  http://www.newyorkcharters.org/wp-content/uploads/Success-Academy-Harlem-2-Renewal-Recommendation-Report-2016-17.pdf (Report Date: October 11, 2016; Visit Date: September 13, 2016), p. 22.


[7] Dale King, Director, Family Compliance Office, US Department of Education, Letter to Fatima Geidi, December 7, 2017.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Please sign up for our Jan. 27 Parent Action Conference now!

Happy New Year and I have exciting news to report!  Our annual Parent Action Conference (flyer here and below), co-sponsored by Class Size Matters, NYC Kids PAC and CEC2,  will be held Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 at the Peck Slip School in downtown Manhattan (Take the A,C, 2, 3, 4, 5, J, or Z trains to Fulton Street; map here.)

After a rousing call to action by Bronx principal Jamaal Bowman, morning workshops will address important topics including: Parent Organizing 101, Legal challenges to overcrowding and large classes, Advocating for your child with special needs, Opting out of testing, Integrating our schools, Preventing bullying, Fighting charter expansion, and Promoting Restorative Justice to end the School to Prison Pipeline.


In the afternoon, we will show the acclaimed documentary on school privatization,  "Backpack Full of Cash" narrated by Matt Damon.  After the film, we will hold a panel discussion with special guest NY Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa.  At some point during the day, we also plan to solicit the views of those attending the conference about what sort of Chancellor they would like to see to replace retiring Carmen Farina.

Please sign up now at Eventbrite.  We are asking for a donation of $10 to cover the cost of lunch and the film, but you can contribute any amount you like.  If you need a scholarship to attend, just email us at info@classsizematters.org.   Hope to see you there!  Leonie

PS  Check out this week's The Nation, in which the editors urge Mayor de Blasio to focus on integrating our public schools and reducing class size during his second term.



Friday, December 29, 2017

In which I explain how I unintentionally spread fake news about Bill Gates and now set the record straight


Yesterday, EdWeek's Politics K12 tweeted this:


I responded this way:
Since then the tweet has been retweeted more than one hundred times and liked another 140 plus times as of 4 PM today.

Unfortunately, too many people didn't read the tweet to which I was responding  and believed this to be actual news - that Bill Gates had actually seen the light.  Here are some responses:

Wow! Doesn’t surprise me in the least! Being a teacher myself for over 23 years- I could’ve set him straight long ago.

From another:

Random thought: I kinda want to note that realizing you were wrong about something isn’t easy, and if you have more money than sense you can surround yourself with sycophants to agree with you. I don’t want to take a patronizing victory lap when someone admits they were wrong.

Another: Better late than never! At least he learns from mistakes. 


If only that were true.

I don't want to be the inadvertent purveyor of #fakenews in this year  -- in a year of so much of the same. 

So you heard it here first:  As far as I know, Bill Gates has NOT renounced his support of any of the above policies, including charter schools, online learning, Common Core standards or the data-mining of students. 

He did NOT say that he would push for meaningful research-based reforms in our public schools like small classes, or any of the other benefits provided him or his kids at their private schools

This is easily ascertained by looking at his foundation's recent K12 grants

See this one from April of 2017,  for example, in which he awarded $225 to the Seattle public schools "to ensure the K-12 team’s work in equity is grounded in the real experiences of teachers, we must engage them directly in our learning." Yes, you read it right, an entire $225 to ensure K12 equity in the Seattle public schools.  

Compare that to this grant in June: $10 million "to support implementation of the Summit Learning program in targeted geographies."  This will help them expand their online learning platform further into public schools, where it has  caused many students to become bored and disengaged, according to their parents, and to lose the control of their children's personal data to the CEO of the Summit charter chain, without their consent.

He may be getting older, as are the rest of us, but apparently no wiser. 


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Dispirit of the Season by Fred Smith

Fred Smith, our gloomy prognosticator
Here's Fred Smith's gloomy summary of our  education misleadership, currently and in the future.

Yet Chris Cerf is resigning as Newark Superintendent early -- in advance of their transition to a democratically-elected school board.  Detroit moved from state control to an elected school board last year.   

In contrast, our next Chancellor will be the choice of only one person, Mayor de Blasio, and Fred warns that like our current Chancellor, he or she may wear "progressive attire. But won’t do much to lower class size, lead or inspire."  

Only time will tell, but let's hope for the best!  - Leonie 


Dispirit of the Season
 
‘Tis now Christmas day and my heart is wheezing,
Bundled up in my bed, coughing and sneezing.
 
Santa stayed home on the eve befogged by the flu,
And Rudolph this year couldn’t lead his sled through.
 
And so my darlings, there’s not much to say
After last night descended and became the next day.
 
And Eva goes high-speed on with her wild shopping spree,
Buying pols as she needs them to get schools for free;
While Betsy converts the uneducated classes,
Vouching for private ways to teach the masses,
With both of them preaching in the same certain voice
Salvation as it is written in the Gospel of Choice.
 
As ever-sure Andrew decides on how he should go,
But always taking the time to stick deBlasio.
 
And the same is true for mayoral control Bill,
A no-contest election behind him with four years to fill.
He must pick a chancellor who wears progressive attire.
But won’t do much to lower class size, lead or inspire.
 
One thing, however, suspends their personal feud.
Both courageously agree that Trump’s a bad dude.
 
And the IDC and other deceivers are calling the tune
While the UFT helps the dish run away with the spoon.
 
Now I must cut this short.  I have fever and chills.
Sniffling about so many societal ills.
 
And so my dear friends, have a pitcher of beer
As we brace ourselves for the same old new year.
 
~fred  :(




Saturday, December 23, 2017

Why Success Academy-Cobble Hill shouldn't be allowed to expand: Comments to the SUNY Charter committee

There have been many charter school hearings on renewals and revisions to their charters including 11 for Success Academy charters, involving changing proposed enrollments and grade levels, sometimes in the middle of this school year. Six of them will occur on Jan. 3 and Jan 4. Parents are encouraged to attend these hearings and speak out, and/or send comments; more information at each of the links here. Below are my comments on one of these proposals.

Comments on the proposed revision of the charter

for Success Academy-Cobble Hill

by email to: charters@suny.edu
CC: Joseph Belluck, jbelluck@belluckfox.com
CEC15@schools.nyc.gov

December 22, 2017

Success Academy Cobble Hill has requested authorization from SUNY to revise its charter and allow its enrollment to 880 students and expand grade levels to 7th grade.[1]

During the 2016-2017 school year, 284 Baltic St., Building Number K293, the current building in which the school is located, was at 92% utilization. Total enrollment stood at 1,247 students, with a capacity for the building of 1,360. [2]

If the school was to stay in this building, the proposed increase by Success Academy Cobble Hill would bring the school over capacity, subjecting students to overcrowding and likely causing class sizes to grow.
  • The Boerum Hill School for International Studies currently has 633 students enrolled, according to the school’s website.
  • The Digital Arts and Cinema Technology High School has a current enrollment of 206, according to the school’s website.
  • Digital Arts was recently “rebranded” from Global Studies – and any authorization allowing Success to expand would constrain the growth of this school– when the DOE looks at any school below 250 as potentially unsustainable and difficult to provide students with their fair share of coursework and resources.
  • We are unable to locate current enrollment data for K368 SPED, which itself was overcrowded in 2016-2017, according to the Blue Book, with 25 students and at a utilization rate of 156%.
  • However, supposing that enrollment at K368 SPED remained stable compared to last year (at 25 students) that would leave only room for 496 students for Success Academy Cobble Hill – not the 880 students they are asking to be authorized to serve next year.
Now it possible that Success Academy plans to move the school to another building, but I cannot find any information about this eventuality, despite the SUNY requirements that “A material charter revision to modify enrollment to more than what was provided for in the charter agreement (charter paragraph 2.2 (a)) would require the school to submit…Explanation of how the plan fits the facility or facilities plan of the school.”[3]

In any case, the average utilization of D15 schools, according to the 2015-2016 DOE Utilization report, was at 105%, and 61% of K-8 schools in the district overcrowded (at or above 100% target utilization). About 74% or nearly 20,000 K-8 students were in overcrowded schools, and 94 cluster rooms were missing from these schools. according to DOE’s utilization formula.[4]

Meanwhile the student population is growing fast. Housing starts data posted by DOE in March 2017 multiplied by the City Planning ratio, projects more than 4,700 additional K-8 seats will be needed in D15 by 2019.[5]

At the same time, the DOE five-year capital plan has only funded about 50 % of the D15 seats necessary, according to the DOE figures.[6] Our estimates are that the real need for seats in D15 is even greater, given current overcrowding and enrollment growth.

If it is true, as cited in the letter from the Community Education Council in District 15, that many of the students at the Success Academy Cobble Hill do not reside in the district, that means that any expansion of this school would increasingly crowd out districts students in the future, and thus should not be allowed.[7]

We also oppose allowing the expansion of any Success Academy charter school, given the huge number of civil rights violations and abuses that children enrolled in these schools and their families are subjected to, as well as repeated violations of student privacy rights.[8]

Finally, we have real doubts as to the legality of the request to authorize any change in a charter school’s enrollment in the middle of the current school year, as Success Academy – Cobble Hill is proposing, from 558 students in grades K-6, to 686 students in in 2017-2018.[9]

In short, I urge you to reject this proposal.

Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Leonie@classsizematters.org
917-435-9329

[1] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DEN1PI8ZWjNtvtnOJ3Yj_u0QUdmdKFA_/view

[2] NYC Dept. of Education, Enrollment, Capacity & Utilization Report, 2016 – 2017 School Year, at: Https://Dnnhh5cc1.Blob.Core.Windows.Net/Portals/0/Capital_Plan/Utilization_Reports/Blue%20book%202016-2017.Pdf?Sr=B&Si=Dnnfilemanagerpolicy&Sig=G7ezjxloaazfmxphd0cfojryifbrvwf8d5mf9ifcspa%3d

[3] http://www.newyorkcharters.org/revisions/

[4] https://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/District-15-updated.pptx

[5] Housing start data here: http://www.nycsca.org/Community/Capital-Plan-Reports-Data#Housing-Projections-70 City Planning public school ratio here: https://dnnhh5cc1.blob.core.windows.net/portals/0/Capital_Plan/Housing_Projections/NewHousingMultiplier.pdf?sr=b&si=DNNFileManagerPolicy&sig=P2ZgFKQmkXqjy%2BYz0G8WR5IXjzii3Z7IDJSSWJcm0e4%3D

[6] School Construction Authority Five-year Capital plan, p. 21 at https://dnnhh5cc1.blob.core.windows.net/portals/0/Capital_Plan/Capital_plans/11162017_15_19_CapitalPlan.pdf?sr=b&si=DNNFileManagerPolicy&sig=6ZUDr4YoMGig5oWw5%2F%2BCYdMy8CV09qjwltkO3KZ0QkU%3D , Nov. 2017.

[7] Community Education Council District 15, Letter to SUNY board, SUNY Charter School Institute and Chancellor Farina, dated Dec. 20, 2017.

[8] https://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2015/10/ferpa-complaint-from-fatima-geidi-to.html and http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2015/10/success_academies_eva_moskowitz_published_a_student_s_disciplinary_record.html

See also the recent violation of FERPA in the school’s response to a lawsuit about a child’s illegal suspension here: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/sucess-academy-student-family-sues-lengthy-suspension-article-1.3698772 See also the various lawsuits and civil rights complaints against this charter chain noted here: https://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2017/09/why-emily-kim-former-attorney-for.html

[9] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DEN1PI8ZWjNtvtnOJ3Yj_u0QUdmdKFA_/view See also CEC2 letter about this issue in regards the request to revise enrollment figures in the middle of the current school year, at Success Academy- Union Square and Success Academy- Hells Kitchen at http://files.constantcontact.com/9348a5e4301/af78ba42-c0ed-4b48-8184-857f80ef142c.pdf

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

DOE announces more Renewal school closings without ever having giving them a real chance to succeed

Chancellor Fariña announced yesterday that the closure or merger of 15 more Renewal schools, to add to the 18 that were previously closed or merged.  

This means 33 Renewal schools of the original 94 have failed to improve sufficiently since the program began in 2014.  Forty six of the Renewal schools will remain in the program for another year.  The list of schools, including an additional five to be closed that were never in the Renewal program, is here.

This record of failure is no surprise to many of us who have criticized the DOE's plans for the Renewal schools since the program began in 2014. Despite the city's promise to the state to focus their efforts on reducing class size in these struggling schools, only three of the Renewal schools capped class sizes last year at the appropriate levels designated in the city's original Contract for Excellence plan  -- no more than 20 students per class in grades K-3, 23 in grades 4-8 and 25 in high school.

Moreover, 70 percent of the Renewal schools continued to have maximum class sizes of 30 or more, and about half did not reduce class size by even one student per class. The DOE's failure to take any demonstrable steps to reduce class sizes in the Renewal schools was cited in our class size complaint filed in July with the State Education Department, demanding that the CFE law be enforced. 

The obliviousness of the administration on this issue was revealed during City Council hearings on the Renewal program in May 2015.  Julissa Ferreras, chair of the Finance Committee, asked Chancellor Fariña, "Can we talk about class size in these schools? Because it seems to me that you know while we are implementing a lot of resources and support...what is the average class size?"

Fariña responded that class sizes weren't too large in elementary schools, and in any case, the more important steps she had taken was to hire more "specialists" in these schools.  When Ferreras asked how large the classes were in middle and high schools, Fariña said the following:

"The middle schools overall I would have to say is about 29 and in the high schools it depends on the subject areas... I would say most of these schools unfortunately because they are renewal schools do not have large class sizes because enrollment hasn't been as high as it should be."  (pp. 33-35 of the transcript here.)


Renewal middle and high schools unfortunately do not have large class sizes?  Moreover, 29 students per class is clearly excessive for a struggling middle school faced with possible closure - especially when the state public school average is about twenty in these grades.

Instead of capping class sizes in these schools, the DOE spent about $40 million per year on consultants and bureaucrats to oversee the Renewal program, many of them with records marked by scandal and incompetence, as well as millions more on wrap-around services to create "community schools." Though perhaps of value in themselves, these services do little to improve students' opportunity to learn or teachers ability to teach.  As Eliza Shapiro of Politico writes:

Over three years and half a billion dollars later, it seems clear that the de Blasio administration has not yet cracked the code on how to substantially improve underperforming schools...That’s why advocates for community schools have long fretted that de Blasio’s insistence on linking his school turnaround plan with community schools could compromise their mission. Community schools were never intended to be part of a school improvement plan; the model creates the conditions for learning, but it is not designed to actually improve academics. With the Renewal program’s fate in question, it’s unclear if other cities will take on the community school model if it increasingly looks like an extremely expensive political gamble.

The contrast with an earlier NYC school reform effort is stark.  When Rudy Crew headed DOE, he created a special program called the Chancellor's district for  the city's lowest-performing schools. He consulted the research and used common sense by capping class sizes in these schools at no more than 20 students per class in K-3 and 25 in the higher grades, as well as taking other measures.  The program was widely hailed as a success, but when Joel Klein took over as Chancellor, he disbanded the district.  Lessons learned?  Apparently none to this day-- to the tragic detriment of NYC children.