Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO)

 In Dec. 2012, during our semiannual trip to Kenya to visit my parents and sister (who live outside Nairobi), we visited Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), which we'd read about in Nick Kristof's columns (here and here), met its co-founder, Jessica Posner, and saw its many programs to help the people of Kibera, one of Africa's largest slums. Here's a picture of me with (from left to right) my wife, three daughters, sister and Jessica in front of SHOFCO's Kibera School for Girls (I've posted all 29 of my pictures from that day here):
 
 
My youngest daughter was so inspired that she asked everyone who came to her bat mitzvah last week to donate to SHOFCO in lieu of a gift to her – and thanks to everyone's generosity, she's raised more than $15,000! (see stayclassy.org/katharineforkibera)
 
I just finished reading the new book by SHOFCO's founders, Jessica and her husband, Kennedy Odede, Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum – and it's fabulous! Here's the cover:
 
 
It's a wonderful love story, but Kennedy's story in particular is an inspiring tale of the human spirit and overcoming almost unimaginable adversity. He grew up in Kibera under horrific circumstances: his father (who he later learned isn't his father) beat him and his mother mercilessly, such that at age 10 he had to flee and became a street child, stealing and begging to survive, seeing most of his friends die, being molested by a priest, etc. Then during the post-election violence in late 2007 and early 2008, many of Kennedy's friends were murdered and he narrowly escaped with his life a number of times before being forced to flee to Tanzania (attached is a chapter of the book about this terrifying time). Here's an excerpt:
 
As we drive back to the city, we see a line of four cars
stopped by the roadside. It is almost midnight. Men walk towards
us with flashlights. I look through the window. Someone
is plucked from the first car. The men are asking for everyone's
national identity cards. Reading someone's last name is an easy
way to determine the person's tribal affiliation.
 
"Please don't kill me!" someone is screaming.
 
They chop off his head. I'm speechless, stunned, Such an
atrocity is more than I can process. My breath comes quickly in
short panicked bursts.
 
Mbugua is closing his eyes as he can't believe what has just
happened. I'm trembling with fear.
 
Death is really following me. Twice now I missed death and
yet today it finds me again.
 
Mbugua can neither move the car forward or backward, as
we are surrounded. The second car in front of us is occupied by
Kikuyus as I hear them speaking Kikuyu. After showing IDs,
the Kikuyus are allowed to move on.
 
Now the men are on to the next car, a white Subaru. The passengers
are not responding in Kikuyu. I hear them being asked to
produce their identity cards.
 
"You guys think we cannot find you. You are killing our
people, now we are dealing with you," says one of the young men
in charge of stopping the traffic. He is wearing black sunglasses
in the darkness.
 
"One by one outside," he orders.
 
People are now wailing in the car in front of us. They are
being slashed with a machete. Each falls on the ground, lifeless—
their screams and pleas for mercy reverberate throughout the
night. We can't believe our eyes.
 
It's our turn now. I'm trembling and crying like a baby, while
Mbugua is still.
 
Mbugua knows he will be considered a traitor. As a Kikuyu,
he too could die for trying to shield me, a Luo. We are no longer
friends, no longer people— each a symbol of our tribe, of a
struggle that is not even ours.
 
Something possesses me and I start speaking Kikuyu to man
in the sunglasses.
 
"The Luos have killed my family, they burned our house,
and now we are escaping! They have burned everything, even
our IDs!" Tears run down my face.
 
Mbugua jumps in and says terrible things about the Luo.
 
The men look at us and feel sorry for us. The man with the
sunglasses tells us to go, to be careful on the road.
 
I can't believe it. I have tricked death once again.
 
Unable to return to Kenya, Jessica had the improbable and brilliant idea to find a full scholarship for Kennedy to attend college in the U.S. Despite Kennedy having almost no formal education, Wesleyan (which Jessica attended at the time; she graduated in 2009) stepped up and Kennedy graduated from there in 2012 (click here to see his welcome address at the commencement).
 
Kennedy and Jessica were married in June 2012 and returned to Kenya to run SHOFCO together. For more information about SHOFCO, see: www.shofco.org

Here's the description of Find Me Unafraid on Amazon:

Find Me Unafraid tells the uncommon love story between two uncommon people whose collaboration sparked a successful movement to transform the lives of vulnerable girls and the urban poor. With a Foreword by Nicholas Kristof.

This is the story of two young people from completely different worlds: Kennedy Odede from Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, and Jessica Posner from Denver, Colorado.  Kennedy foraged for food, lived on the street, and taught himself to read with old newspapers. When an American volunteer gave him the work of Mandela, Garvey, and King, teenaged Kennedy decided he was going to change his life and his community. He bought a soccer ball and started a youth empowerment group he called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). Then in 2007, Wesleyan undergraduate Jessica Posner spent a semester abroad in Kenya working with SHOFCO. Breaking all convention, she decided to live in Kibera with Kennedy, and they fell in love. Their connection persisted, and Jessica helped Kennedy to escape political violence and fulfill his lifelong dream of an education, at Wesleyan University.

The alchemy of their remarkable union has drawn the support of community members and celebrities alike—The Clintons, Mia Farrow, and Nicholas Kristof are among their fans—and their work has changed the lives of many of Kibera's most vulnerable population: its girls. Jess and Kennedy founded Kibera's first tuition-free school for girls, a large, bright blue building, which stands as a bastion of hope in what once felt like a hopeless place. But Jessica and Kennedy are just getting started—they have expanded their model to connect essential services like health care, clean water, and economic empowerment programs. They've opened an identical project in Mathare, Kenya's second largest slum, and intend to expand their remarkably successful program for change.

Ultimately this is a love story about a fight against poverty and hopelessness, the transformation made possible by a true love, and the power of young people to have a deep impact on the world. 

If you'd like to meet them, they're on a book tour around the U.S. for the next three months, visiting NYC, Denver, SF, LA, Boston, DC, Pittsburgh, Houston and Chicago – see details below.
---------------------
Kennedy & Jessica's book tour dates:
 
New York, October 13-17
Denver,  October 18-20
San Francisco, October 21-23
Denver, October 24-26
Los Angeles, October 27-28
Boston, October 29-30
New York, October 31-November 2
Washington DC, November 3-5
Wesleyan (CT), November 6-7
New York, November 8-10
Pittsburg, November 11-12
Wesleyan (CT), November 13-14
New York, November 15-17
Boston, November 18
Houston, November 19
New York, November 20-22
Boston,  November 23
New York, December 1-12
Chicago, December 13-15
 
Tuesday October 13 -- NYC
 
7:00 p.m.
Barnes and Noble
2289 Broadway
NYC 10024
*event with Mia Farrow
 
Tuesday October 20 -- Denver
 
7:00 p.m.
Tattered Cover
2526 E Colfax Avenue
Denver CO 80206
 
Friday October 23 -- SF area
 
READING/SIGNING
7:00 p.m.
Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Blvd
Corte Madera CA 94925
 
Tuesday November 3 – Washington DC
 
6:30 p.m.
Busboys and Poets
625 Monroe Street NE
Washington DC 20017
 
Monday November 23 – Cambridge, MA
 

7:00 p.m.

The Harvard Bookstore

1256 Mass Ave.

Cambridge, MA 02138

-----------------------------------------

From Somaliland to Harvard

Abdisamad Adan, a Somali who has siblings who never attended school, defied the odds to end up at Harvard.

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From Somaliland to Harvard

After reading Nick Kristof's column (see below) a couple of weeks ago about the amazing story of Abdisamad Adan, the young man from Somaliland who's just started his freshman year at Harvard, I reached out both to Abdi (to offer him $100/month) as well as to Jonathan Starr, the former NYC hedge fund manager who founded and still runs the school Abdi attended in Somaliland, the Abaarso School of Science & Technology.
 
I had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan last week. He has quite a story – I've never heard of a hedge fund manager doing anything as unusual as this. He grew up with a Somali uncle and first cousins and in May 2008 went to visit Somaliland and decided to build a school there, starting it with $500,000 of his own money. The school opened in 2009 and has grown steadily to its current size of ~240 students (~40 students/grade from 7th through 12th grades). The school is in a walled compound, with armed guards, and all of the students and teachers (all foreigners, working for a pittance; many are Teach for America alums) live there.
 
The school runs on an extremely lean budget, which is mostly covered by the tuition students must pay of $1,800/year. Dozens of students have won millions of dollars of scholarships to attend top prep schools and colleges all over the world (mostly in the U.S.).
 
If you'd like to learn more, see the attached presentation, the school's web site (www.abaarsoschool.org) and/or email Jonathan at: jstarr@abaarsoschool.org

-------------------

From Somaliland to Harvard

Abdisamad Adan, a Somali who has siblings who never attended school, defied the odds to end up at Harvard.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Rebuttal to The Myth of the New Orleans School Makeover

New Orleans in the decade since Hurricane Katrina is the most striking example of success for we reformers, so it's not surprising that our enemies will try to tear down or dismiss these achievements – but it's irritating when the NYT offers its op ed page to such an ill-founded critique as this one:

WAS Hurricane Katrina "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans," as Education Secretary Arne Duncan once said? Nearly 10 years after the disaster, this has become a dominant narrative among a number of school reformers and education scholars.

Before the storm, the New Orleans public school system had suffered from white flight, neglect, mismanagement and corruption, which left the schools in a state of disrepair. The hurricane almost literally wiped out the schools: Only 16 of 128 buildings were relatively unscathed. As of 2013 the student population was still under 45,000, compared with 65,000 students before the storm. Following the storm, some 7,500 unionized teachers and other school employees were put on unpaid leave, and eventually dismissed.

…But the New Orleans miracle is not all it seems. Louisiana state standards are among the lowest in the nation. The new research also says little about high school performance. And the average composite ACT score for the Recovery School District was just 16.4 in 2014, well below the minimum score required for admission to a four-year public university in Louisiana.

There is also growing evidence that the reforms have come at the expense of the city's most disadvantaged children, who often disappear from school entirely and, thus, are no longer included in the data.

…For outsiders, the biggest lesson of New Orleans is this: It is wiser to invest in improving existing education systems than to start from scratch. Privatization may improve outcomes for some students, but it has hurt the most disadvantaged pupils.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/23/opinion/sunday/the-myth-of-the-new-orleans-school-makeover.html

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Disaster for black children that ensued when Pinellas County, FL abandoned desegregation efforts

Here's an article in the Tampa Bay Times about the disaster for black children that ensued when Pinellas County, FL abandoned desegregation efforts:

In just eight years, Pinellas County School Board members turned five schools in the county's black neighborhoods into some of the worst in Florida.

First they abandoned integration, leaving the schools overwhelmingly poor and black.

Then they broke promises of more money and resources.

Then — as black children started failing at outrageous rates, as overstressed teachers walked off the job, as middle class families fled en masse — the board stood by and did nothing.

Today thousands of children are paying the price, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found.

They are trapped at Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose — five neighborhood elementary schools that the board has transformed into failure factories.

Every year, they turn out a staggering number of children who don't know the basics.

Eight in 10 fail reading, according to state standardized test scores. Nine in 10 fail math.

Ranked by the state Department of Education, Melrose is the worst elementary school in Florida. Fairmount Park is No. 2. Maximo is No. 10. Lakewood is No. 12. Campbell Park is No. 15.

All of the schools operate within six square miles in one of Florida's most affluent counties.

All of them were much better off a decade ago.

Times reporters spent a year reviewing tens of thousands of pages of district documents, analyzing millions of computer records and interviewing parents of more than 100 current and former students. Then they crisscrossed the state to see how other school districts compared.

Among the findings:

·         Ninety-five percent of black students tested at the schools are failing reading or math, making the black neighborhoods in southern Pinellas County the most concentrated site of academic failure in all of Florida.

·         Teacher turnover is a chronic problem, leaving some children to cycle through a dozen instructors in a single year. In 2014, more than half of the teachers in these schools asked for a transfer out.

·         At least three walked off the job without notice.

·         All of this is a recent phenomenon. By December 2007, when the board ended integration, black students at the schools had posted gains on standardized tests in three of the four previous years. None of the schools was ranked lower than a C. Today, all the schools have F ratings. 

·         After reshaping the schools, the district funded four of them erratically. Some years they got less money per student than other schools, including those in more affluent parts of the county. In 2009, the year after resegregation, at least 50 elementary schools got more money per student than Campbell Park.

·         Other districts with higher passing rates are doing far more to aid black students, including creating special offices to target minority achievement, tracking black students' progress in real time and offering big bonuses to attract quality teachers to high-minority schools. Pinellas does none of those things.

The problems don't end in the five south St. Petersburg schools. Overall, black children in Pinellas County are failing at higher rates than black children in virtually any other school district in Florida.

In 2014, they were a third more likely to fail math than black children in Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange and Palm Beach counties. They were 23 percent more likely to fail math than black children in Hillsborough.

Fifty-seven of 67 school districts in Florida recorded better reading scores, putting Pinellas in the same league as the poorest, most rural counties in the state.

In an interview with the Times, Superintendent Mike Grego acknowledged the school district's role in creating problems at the schools.

"You can't undo the past. You have to take the district from where it's at," Grego said. "I'm going on record saying we're going to fix this. And we're going to educate our students as if each one of them was our own kid."

-----------------------

 

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones covered civil rights and fair housing for ProPublica. Previously, she covered governmental issues, the census, and race and ethnicity at The Oregonian.

------------------

One fateful decision. Years of neglect. 
Five once-average schools remade into the worst in Florida.

Failure factories

Aug. 14, 2015 By CARA FITZPATRICK, LISA GARTNER and MICHAEL LaFORGIA 
Photographs by DIRK SHADD 
Tampa Bay Times

In just eight years, Pinellas County School Board members turned five schools in the county's black neighborhoods into some of the worst in Florida.

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Nearly one in three black students attends a school on Tuscaloosa that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened

Here's another story by Nikole Hannah-Jones in ProPublica about the resegregation of Tuscaloosa's schools:

In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.

The reason for the decline of Central's homecoming parade is no secret. In 2000, another federal judge released Tuscaloosa City Schools from the court-ordered desegregation mandate that had governed it for a single generation. Central had successfully achieved integration, the district had argued—it could be trusted to manage that success going forward.

Freed from court oversight, Tuscaloosa's schools have seemed to move backwards in time. The citywide integrated high school is gone, replaced by three smaller schools. Central retains the name of the old powerhouse, but nothing more. A struggling school serving the city's poorest part of town, it is 99 percent black. D'Leisha, an honors student since middle school, has only marginal college prospects. Predominantly white neighborhoods adjacent to Central have been gerrymandered into the attendance zones of other, whiter schools.

Tuscaloosa's schools today are not as starkly segregated as they were in 1954, the year the Supreme Court declared an end to separate and unequal education in America. No all-white schools exist anymore—the city's white students generally attend schools with significant numbers of black students. But while segregation as it is practiced today may be different than it was 60 years ago, it is no less pernicious: in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere, it involves the removal and isolation of poor black and Latino students, in particular, from everyone else. In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.

Tuscaloosa's school resegregation—among the most extensive in the country—is a story of city financial interests, secret meetings, and angry public votes. It is a story shaped by racial politics and a consuming fear of white flight. It was facilitated, to some extent, by the city's black elites. And it was blessed by a U.S. Department of Justice no longer committed to fighting for the civil-rights aims it had once championed.

Certainly what happened in Tuscaloosa was no accident. Nor was it isolated. Schools in the South, once the most segregated in the country, had by the 1970s become the most integrated, largely as a result of federal court orders. But since 2000, judges have released hundreds of school districts, from Mississippi to Virginia, from court-enforced integration, and many of these districts have followed the same path as Tuscaloosa's—back toward segregation. Black children across the South now attend majority-black schools at levels not seen in four decades. Nationally, the achievement gap between black and white students, which greatly narrowed during the era in which schools grew more integrated, widened as they became less so.

In recent years, a new term, apartheid schools—meaning schools whose white population is 1 percent or less, schools like Central—has entered the scholarly lexicon. While most of these schools are in the Northeast and Midwest, some 12 percent of black students in the South and nearly a quarter in Alabama now attend such schools—a figure likely to rise as court oversight continues to wane. In 1972, due to strong federal enforcement, only about 25 percent of black students in the South attended intensely segregated schools in which at least nine out of 10 students were racial minorities. In districts released from desegregation orders between 1990 and 2011, 53 percent of black students now attend such schools, according to an analysis by ProPublica.

 

Segregation Now

In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.

 

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Beyond Brown v Board of Education

Also returning to my last email, below are some additional articles on the return of school segregation, which I believe is a calamity – NOT because I think poor/minority kids need to sit next to rich/white kids to learn, but because I'm a realist: rich/white parents in this country have the political power to demand – and get – mostly good schools for their children, whereas that isn't the case for poor/minority parents and children. I also don't think it's healthy for our democracy for our schools to be so segregated.

 

The data around resegregation is shocking – here's an excerpt from Peter Meyer's article below:

According to Jeff Larson, Nikole Hannah-Jones and Mike Tigas of ProPublica, for instance, "From 1993 to 2011, the number of black students in schools where 90 percent or more of the student population are minorities rose from 2.3 million to over 2.9 million."

The numbers were real. And much of the "retreat" on integration, according to CRP [Civil Rights Project at UCLA], certainly seemed to be due to the abandonment of court orders that many school districts had been forced to follow as a result of failures to integrate their schools. "Segregation increased substantially after desegregation plans were terminated in many large districts including Charlotte, NC; Pinellas County, FL; and Henrico County, VA," says CRP.

The percentage of black southern students in "majority white" schools went from zero percent in 1954 to 43.5 percent in 1988. That was the high point; the percentage has since dropped to 23.2 percent. Thus the "long retreat." According to CRP, "The steady retrenchment of desegregation efforts began two decades after Brown and has now run twice as long as the period in which the Supreme Court announced and extended desegregation rights (1954-1974).

However, Meyer argues that the focus on desegregation is misguided – that we should instead focus on a high-quality education for all children:

"Segregation is not the main issue any longer," Sylvester James Jr., mayor of Kansas City, MO, told Education WeekKansas City schools have operated under a desegregation order for decades, during which time the district population plummeted, according to Ed Week, from 77,000 in the late 1960s to 13,000 today, 90 percent of them poor, 60 percent black, 28 percent Hispanic, and less than 10 percent white. (See also here.)  "Access to high-quality education is tied just as hard, and just as fast, to poverty and socioeconomics as it was to race."

…But the bottom line, moving forward, seems to suggest that instead of closeting our children with a view of segregation that depends on one groups feelings of inferiority to sustain the raison d'etre of diversity, perhaps it's time to embrace, in the spirit of DuBois, schools that offer, first and foremost, a good education.

It may be that today's most salient argument for equality does not engage with racial psychologies but, i

 

Beyond Brown v Board of Education

By  | Posted on May 28, 2014

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Entwining Two Rights in California: Voting and Driving

 

Per my comment in my last email about voting rights, here's an editorial in the NYT about it:

For all the early excitement stirred by the presidential primary contests, a greater test of democracy than the candidates' cut-and-thrust will be voter participation, a vital statistic which dropped from 62.3 percent in 2008 to 57.5 percent in the last presidential election. In part because of a welter of obstructionist state laws, more than 90 million Americans did not bother or care to vote in 2012.

The Democratic-majority Legislature in California, the most populous state, has just taken a major step toward resisting this alarming trend by approving a system of automatic voter registration for any citizen who obtains or updates a California driver's license. Modeled on Oregon's excellent "motor-voter" program, the new system cannot help but increase democratic participation.

I actually think we should go a step further and making voting a REQUIREMENT (like jury duty), as Australia does.

 

I keep pounding on this issue for two reasons: a) the fact that poor and minority folks vote in far lower numbers is directly related, I believe, to the horribly inferior schools that our nation provides their children; and b) the concerted attempt to suppress the voter registration and turnout of poor and minority folks is so un-American and so racist that it makes me so mad I can't see straight! I'm a Democrat (and there are many like me) who's willing to blast my own party when it does terrible things (like pander to the teachers unions and throw poor kids under the bus). But where are any Republicans willing to stand up against these disenfranchisement efforts?! A true patriot would say, "Even if increased voter turnout hurts my party, it's the right thing to do for our democracy so I support it."

 

Entwining Two Rights in California: Voting and Driving

 

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Mathematica Policy Research report on KIPP schools

On September 17, Mathematica Policy Research released its third report on KIPP schools to date – see letter from KIPP CEO Richard Barth, below, and this web site: www.kipp.org/mathematica. The results were consistent with Mathematica's (and others') previous studies: that KIPP schools "have positive, statistically significant, and educationally meaningful impacts" at elementary, middle and high school levels. Kudos!


Greetings,
Today, Mathematica Policy Research released its third report on KIPP schools to date. I want to take this opportunity to share some context and reflect on the latest findings.
As many of you know, Mathematica has been intensively studying KIPP schools for the past eight years. The two previous reports from their earlier study of KIPP Middle Schools were released in 2010 and 2013.
Mathematica's independent study of KIPP is an outgrowth of our commitment to transparency and public accountability. Through third-party research like this – along with our annual Report Card and Healthy Schools and Regions Initiative – we identify how our schools are fulfilling their mission and where they can improve. 
Today's report is unique because it goes broader than any previous studies of KIPP. For the first time, Mathematica studied all K-12 levels of KIPP, including elementary and high schools as well as middle schools. They also looked at how KIPP schools have performed over time, particularly before and after we received a federal Investing in Innovation (i3) Scale-Up Grant.

Key takeaways from Mathematica's 2015 report:  
Elementary Schools:
  • KIPP elementary schools have positive, statistically significant, and educationally meaningful impacts in reading and math. Three years after entering KIPP elementary schools, students showed progress on three out of four measures of reading and math skills, as compared to similar students in their local communities.
Middle Schools:
  • KIPP middle schools have positive, statistically significant, and educationally meaningful impacts in reading, math, science, and social studies. This is consistent with Mathematica's previous research, which found that KIPP middle schools are producing gains for students in every tested subject compared to similar local students.
  • KIPP middle schools have maintained positive and statistically significant impacts over the past decade. Average impacts of middle schools were positive and statistically significant throughout the 10-year period covered by the study, though higher in earlier years than recent years. The KIPP middle schools that opened during the i3 scale-up period—2011 and later—are having similar impacts to those of older KIPP middle schools when they were in their first years.
High Schools:
  • KIPP high schools had positive, statistically significant, and educationally meaningful impacts on achievement for high school students new to the KIPP network. Compared to similar neighborhood students, new KIPPsters showed greater achievement in math, reading, and science.
  • For students continuing from KIPP middle schools, KIPP high schools' average additional impacts were not statistically significant compared to other high schools that enroll KIPP graduates. For the three most experienced high schools in the study, Mathematica found positive, statistically significant impacts in reading, language, and math. 
College Readiness:
  • KIPP high schools are having positive impacts on college preparedness. Among students who graduated from KIPP middle schools, those who went to KIPP high schools took more college-prep courses like AP, received more college counseling, and applied to college at greater rates.
Beyond looking at the objective school outcomes, Mathematica also surveyed students and parents on attitudes and general satisfaction. On surveys of student motivation, engagement, behavior, and educational aspirations, KIPP schools showed no significant impact. KIPP did have a positive impact on parent satisfaction with their child's school.  
I want to acknowledge the determination and achievements of our students, parents, teacher and school leaders. We are proud to know that, when scientifically measured, we are having a significant impact on the majority of our students, even as we have grown to a network of 183 schools that is now serving close to 70,000 children. At the same time, we are far from satisfied and recognize that we have work to do in realizing the full potential of all our KIPPsters.

Onward,


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De Blasio’s Plan to Lift Poor Schools Comes With High Costs and Big Political Risks

On September 16, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio gave a major speech on his educational philosophy and initiatives. In it, he proposed many good things: a requirement that, within 10 years, all of the city's public schools will be required to offer computer science to all students (a partnership between the city, the NYC Department of Education, the New York City Foundation for Computer Science Education (CSNYC), the AOL Foundation and Robin Hood), a goal to increase the four-year high school graduation rate to 80% from 68% today (albeit by 2026), and (per the NYT article below):
There was $75 million a year for second-grade reading specialists. Advanced Placement classes got $51 million. Every eighth grader can take algebra thanks to $19 million. And $15 million was proposed to provide more than 16,000 students with dedicated counselors from sixth through 12th grade.
A few quick thoughts:
 
·         Overall, it's hard to get truly excited about the plan, but it does move in the right direction, even if marginally.
 
·         The good things here underscore the reason so many of us fought for mayoral control of the schools in the first place. De Blasio is responding to pressure to raise the bar – and the pressure is coming from all sides, which is kind of fascinating. The graduation rate and college-ready rate targets he set are the direct results of this pressure. More AP class offerings in high schools? Finally!
 
·         He even tried to throw reformers a bone:
 
Mr. de Blasio did try to inoculate himself against critics who adhere to Mr. Bloomberg's education approach. In contrast with the Bloomberg administration, the current mayor opposes closing schools that perform poorly, except as a last resort. While Mr. Bloomberg was on a constant, and largely unsuccessful, mission to fire teachers he considered subpar, Mr. de Blasio has had a more amicable relationship with the city teachers' union.
 
But he said on Wednesday that his administration had "helped 660 educators find their way out of the New York City school system," from April 2014 to April 2015. Asked to elaborate, the Department of Education said that the number included teachers who had been fired or denied tenure, and who resigned while facing disciplinary action.
 
"This shows we are willing and able to make the change that's necessary," Mr. de Blasio said. "Where it's needed, we will replace school leadership or staff to transform a school if they cannot improve with our tailored and targeted support."
 
·         de Blasio's proposals lacked any courage or boldness. For example, there's nothing about supporting successful charter schools (surprise!). I can almost see him thinking, "I have to do SOMETHING, but what can I do that won't piss off the unions?" Universal Pre-K, while a great accomplishment, is safe and was started before his tenure. This year's focus on computer science and extended AP courses also seems like a no brainer – fundamentals that people have been clamoring for and have started initiating on their own (some of the Bronx elected officials just did an event that focused on extended STEM partnerships in Bronx schools exclusive of the mayor). Lastly, the mayor's programs will not be fully implemented until 2026, which means even the youngest children in NYC schools today will be lucky to see any benefit (10 years is not an accepted implementation window for these types of programs).
 
·         In case there was any doubt about de Blasio's true colors, see the invitation below for an event that took place on Sept. 10th, in which de Blasio co-hosted a screening for a new film entitled: "Hedge Fund Billionaires vs. Kindergarten Teachers: Whose side are you on?"

De Blasio's Plan to Lift Poor Schools Comes With High Costs and Big Political Risks
NYT, SEPT. 16, 2015


 

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