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
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
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
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: http://tinyurl.com/m632rg6
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011