Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our Co-Location Moratorium Letter to the Chancellor

On Nov. 18, along with many parent leaders and other advocates, we sent the letter below to the Chancellor, urging a moratorium on any more co-locations until all NYC children could be ensured of their constitutional right to a sound basic education, including smaller classes.  WNYC reported on our letter here.

It was reported yesterday that the DOE has turned down three new charters asking for co-located space, one in District 6 in Upper Manhattan, correctly stating there is no room in their schools, and the other two in Brooklyn, and is negotiating with them on leasing private space. 

Under the new state law, NYC has to provide free space for all new and expanding charters going forward, or pay them up to $2600 per student for leased space. After NYC reaches $40M in total rental costs, state will pick up 60%.

Under the existing charter cap, NYC already has 197 charters, 31 more have been approved to open over the next two years,  and 28 remain under the cap.

Governor Cuomo & Regents Chancellor Tisch favor expanding cap & will likely push for this in Legislature this year. We will be drafting a resolution, urging the Legislature to oppose any lifting of the charter cap, and asking the state to cover entire cost of charter rent in NYC.  Email us at if you’d like a copy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Our suggestions to the Blue Book working group; please write your own letter by November 26!

Please write your own letter to DOE's Blue Book working group about how to revise the much-criticized school utilization formula.  Their email is below and  the deadline for submitting comments is next Wednesday, November 26.  They plan to present their initial recommendations to the public in December.  Feel free to include any of the points below; most importantly please mention the need for the Blue Book to be aligned with smaller class sizes, or else NYC children will continue to suffer yet more overcrowding, more co-locations and larger classes in the years to come. 

November 19, 2014

Dear members of the Blue Book Task force:
Thank you for reaching out for suggestions on how to improve the school utilization formula. I urge you to reform the formula so that it takes into account of the following critical factors:
1. The need for smaller classes.  The formula should be aligned to smaller classes in all grades, with the goal of achieving the targets in the DOE’s Contract for Excellence plan of no more than 20 students per class in K-3, 23 students per class in grades 4-8, and 25 students per class in core high school classes.  Right now, the target figures in the utilization formula are much larger in grades 4-12 (28-30) and also larger than current class size averages in 4-12 grades, which are about 26.7-26.8.  They will thus tend to force class sizes upward.  In fact, there is a clause in the C4E law passed in 2007 that requires that NYC align its capital plan to smaller classes – which has yet to occur. 
2. The formula should include space for preK.  This year, there are more than 53,000 preK seats; with 20,000 more seats to be added next year.  According to news reports, 60% of the preK programs this year are in district school buildings.  Without an allowance in the Blue Book formula for preK, the city may be subtracting the space needed to reduce class size, or other critical space needed for a quality education, as noted below.  Our analysis revealed that there are at least 11,839 preK seats sited in buildings this year that were over 100% utilization last year, according to the 2013-2014 Blue Book.
3. The formula should include sufficient cluster and specialty rooms so that all children have the ability to take art, music, and science in appropriate sized classrooms. 
4. Subtract the number of specialty classrooms necessary for a well-rounded education in middle schools, for the purpose of calculating utilization rate, as was done in the 2002-3 formula.  Now, if a middle school specialty room or library is converted into a classroom because of overcrowding, the formula falsely portrays the school has having more space rather than less.
5. In order to maximize classroom occupancy (the current efficiency ratio assumes 90% in middle schools) ensure that teachers have an alternative space to do their prep work and store their papers.
6. Properly capture the need for dedicated rooms to provide services to struggling students and those with disabilities.  The formula now is inadequate and depends on an abstract figure, rather than the actual number of struggling students or students with disabilities enrolled in the school.
7.  Though students housed in trailers or TCUs are now assigned to the main building for the purposes of calculating the utilization rate, those students housed in temp buildings are not.  Neither are students in annexes or mini-schools, even though they often use common spaces in the main building, such as libraries, cafeterias and gyms.  According to our analysis, nearly half of schools with TCUs, annexes, transportables or temp buildings were wrongly reported as underutilized in earlier Blue Books.  The overcrowding caused by assigning all these additional students to shared spaces must be captured in the utilization figure. 

Reforming the Instructional Footprint

The instructional footprint must also be improved, as the DOE uses this highly flawed instrument to determine where there may be space for co-locations.  Here are some suggestions on how to do this:
1. Re-install class size targets into the Footprint.  There are no longer ANY class size targets in the Footprint, which will lead to continued class size increases unless this is remedied.  The original Footprint from 2008 assumed class sizes of 20 students per class in K-3 and 25 in grades 4-5, and none in any other grade.  In 2009, class size targets were raised to 28 in grades 4-5 and in 2011, all class size targets were eliminated except in the case of Alternative learning centers, transfer HS, full time GED programs and YABC programs. Why these changes were made, and why the DOE held that these were the only schools that should be provided with smaller classes was unexplained.  Instead the class size targets should be re-instituted and aligned with those in the Blue Book, as suggested above (i.e. class sizes of 20 in grades K-3, 23 in grades 4-8 and 25 in high school.)
2. Restore the definition of a full size classroom for grades 1-12 to at least 600 sq. ft.  In 2010, the Footprint reduced this to 500 square feet – even though in the building code requires 20 sq. feet per child in these grades; meaning only a maximum of 25 students could be in a minimum size room without risking their safety.  (For comparison, Georgia mandates at least 660-750 square feet for a minimum size classroom, Texas calls for 700- 800 square feet, and California at least 960 square feet or 30 sq. ft. per student.)
3. Special education students should be provided with even more space, according to the NYSED guidelines of 75 sq. feet per child.  Instead, the DOE Footprint specifies only 240-499 square feet for special education classrooms; if the city adhered to the state guidelines, this would allow for only three to seven students per class. 
4. Increase the number of cluster rooms which now are very minimal in the Footprint, especially for large high schools, calling for only two specialty rooms and one science lab, no matter how many students are enrolled in the school.
5. Ensure that the Footprint allows sufficient space for dedicated support services, resource rooms, administrative services, intervention rooms, and SETSS rooms.
I would be happy to answer any questions that you might have; more information about these issues is also available in our report, Space Crunch, available here:


Leonie Haimson
Executive Director
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Class size averages drop slightly this fall in grades K-3 and 4th-8th, but grow in high school; would take 24-38 years to reach C4E goals

For immediate release: November 18, 2014

For more information contact:
Leonie Haimson, 917-435-9329,  
Josey Bartlett, (718) 803-6373 x 202,

Class size averages drop slightly this fall in grades K-3 and 4th-8th, but grow in HS
At least 367,794 students remain in classes of 30 or more

Late Friday, the DOE released class size averages by school, district, borough and citywide.  The data is posted here:

The good news is that for the first time since 2008, average class sizes decreased over the grade spans of K-3rd  and 4th-8th   grades. 

The bad news is that at this gradual rate of decline, it would take 24 years in grades K-3 and 38 years in 4th-8th grades to reach the Contracts for Excellence goals the city promised the state  to achieve over five years. 
In addition, 30,444 Kindergarten students --43%  -- are in classes of 25 or more ( 25 is the union contractual limit in that grade).
Average class sizes fell to 24.7 in grades K-3, 26.7 in grades 4th-8th, but increased slightly in high school this year to 26.8.

Yet these class size averages  of 25- 27 are deceptive, as hundreds of thousands of  students remain crammed into classes of 30 or more.   

In fact,  there are more students in classes of 30 or more this year (a minimum of 367,794 students, compared to 347,418 last year at this time.)

“The preliminary class size data shows that too many New York City students remain in overly large classes,” said City Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “Many classes contain 30 or more students, which makes teaching extremely difficult, particularly given the higher expectations required under the Common Core.  The Department of Education must make class size reduction a high priority in order to give city students a quality education.  Our kids deserve better.”

Said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, “When he ran for mayor, Bill de Blasio promised to comply with the City’s original class size reduction plan submitted in 2007 and if necessary, raise funds to do so.  Smaller classes have also been the top priority of parents on the DOE’s own parent surveys for 8 years in a row.  It is time that the Mayor followed through on his campaign promises, and focused on this all-important goal to improve the opportunities of NYC children. “

For class size averages and trends for each school district, or the schools with the largest class sizes by district, please email


Monday, November 17, 2014

CM Rosenthal urges the Chancellor and the Panel for Education Policy to be more transparent in awarding contracts

Thanks to Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, who has written the Chancellor and the members of the Panel for Educational Policy, expressing her concern about the lack of transparency when it comes to the awarding of DOE contracts, with the back-up documentation or "RAs" not posted until the night before the Panel vote.  CM Rosenthal is the chair of the NYC Council Contracts Committee with a special interest in this issue.

Under Bloomberg, these documents were available at least a week before, so it's very sad that the DOE has gone backwards in this regard -- which contributed to the fiasco of the awarding of a no-bid renewal to Joel Rose for his School of One contract, for an online program he developed while at DOE.  The new contract for his School of One contract violated not only the conflict of interest law, but also the terms and the promises in the earlier contract of a perpetual free license for the program to the city's schools.   CM Rosenthal also expresses concern in her letter about a proposed contract for Questar -- which is supposed to produce a new Gifted and talented test for the city at a cost of $6 million, without any record I can find of having ever developed such an exam, or any exam for children as young as four years old. 

Without knowing anything about the specifics in these contracts, whether they were competitively bid and/or whether the companies getting these contracts have been investigated for irregularities in the past, it makes it impossible for the public to be fully informed and be able to comment on these contracts in advance of the vote. Let's hope the Chancellor and the Contract Department of DOE listens -- as well as the PEP members stand up for enhanced transparency, accountability and the public's right to know.

Monday, November 10, 2014

How the DOE ignoring class size puts kids at risk, according to education professionals and parents

Check out the oped in Schoolbook by Jacqueline Shannon and Mark Lauterbach, professors of education, urging the Chancellor and the Mayor to lower class size in the city's schools:  De Blasio Must put Reducing Class Sizes at Top of His Agenda.  As the authors point out, the trend towards larger class sizes every year for the past six will underminethe success of the Mayor's other education initiatives, including special education inclusion, expanding preK and creating community schools.  

They also show how the union contractual limits have not altered in forty years, despite the far more extensive research in recent years, including  studies summarized in this NEPC report, showing the multiple benefits of smaller classes in terms of academic and life outcomes: 

“Students who were originally assigned to small classes did better than their school-mates who were assigned to regular-sized classes across a variety of outcomes, including juvenile criminal behavior, teen pregnancy, high school graduation, college enrollment and completion, quality of college attended, savings behavior, marriage rates, residential location and homeownership.”

The Schoolbook oped also links to a letter to the Chancellor and the Mayor, signed by 73 professors of education, reflecting the strong consensus among experts in the field that the issue of class size is fundamental to the opportunity to succeed, particularly for at-risk students, "including those in children of color, those in poverty, English language learners, and students with special needs."  

The reality is that even in the city's most struggling schools, like Boys and Girls High School, where staff is being asked to re-apply to keep their positions, class sizes remain much too large -- with many classes at the union maximum of 34 students per class, according to the DOE's own class size reports from last fall. 

The chart at the right reveals that class sizes at the Boys and Girls were inordinately high, particularly in 9th grade classes, where it's most important to keep students on track.  Class sizes were lower in the upper grades, presumably because many of the school's students didn't get that far.  Many of the special ed classes even violated the 12/1/1  limits, according to the DOE reports (see the last column for the size of the largest classes in each of these categories.)

Moreover, lowering class size remains the top priority of parents to improve their schools, according to the DOE's own Learning Environment Survey.   And yet, there are only two parents on the committee to decide on staffing for Boys and Girls and Automotive HS, one to be chosen by the teachers union and the other by the principals union rather than other parents; and NO parent members on the committees to decide on the improvement strategies.

The DOE claims to be listening to parents more than the past administration; I'm not sure what that means if they continue to ignore their views on what their schools need to succeed.