Education News Roundup Issue #104

To get this in your inbox: Subscribe to the Education News Roundup

Top Stories

G&T Admissions Misses the Mark
NYC’s New Gifted & Talented Admissions Brings Chaos — and Disregards Research
The 74 Million, 5/14/2023

New York City has, once again, tweaked qualification requirements for entry into its gifted-and-talented program for first through fourth grade next year. In the process, the district has managed to disregard research that spells out what specifically gave these programs any value.

Previously, kids in kindergarten through second grade took a standardized exam — a combination Otis-Lennon School Ability Test and the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test. Those who scored above the 97th percentile were eligible to apply to all five of the citywide accelerated schools. Those who scored above the 90th percentile could apply to their local district’s enriched programs. An algorithm first placed all 99th percentile students, then the 98th and so forth down the line. (Siblings received admissions priority and could jump the queue.) So many students qualified that, usually, about three-fourths of those who applied were left without a spot. 

Outlawing Early Admissions
Bill would end early, legacy admissions at NY colleges, universities
NY Post, 5/8/2023

State lawmakers are eyeing a ban on the practice of early admission to colleges and universities as the legislative session nears its end, with progressives claiming the practice is racist.

Supporters of a bill that would outlaw early admission — in which prospective students agree to attend their top-choice college in exchange for acceptance earlier in the admission cycle — as well as legacy admissions say both practices disproportionately help white and wealthy students get into prestigious schools like Columbia, NYU, and Cornell.

Class Size Mandate Loopholes
NYC’s new school class-size law could be foiled by ‘loopholes,’ educators say
NY Post, 4/30/2023

The new class-size reduction law for New York City has too many loopholes to make the huge impact some predicted any time soon, concerned educators and advocates told The Post.

The law, which limits the number of students in classes from kindergarten to 12th grade, has four major exemptions that the Department of Education can use to sidestep the mandates, sources said.

The exemptions cover: lack of space, “over-enrolled” programs, a shortage of licensed teachers, and schools in “severe economic distress.”

PLACE Survey Says…
Admissions a top parent focus: study
Queens Chronicle, 4/27/2023

Middle school screens remain a top concern for many New York City parents despite shifts to tighten the top tier of students admitted into schools, according to a recent survey.

A whopping 84 percent — over 400 parents — said they do not support the reduction of middle school screened programs in the survey conducted by the advocacy group Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum and Education NYC, which garnered over 500 responses.

NYSED’s Proficiency Con
The moving goal post of “proficiency” 
Empire Center, 4/26/2023

State education officials are poised to reset the way state assessments are scored. The move is much more than a technical change: it marks the beginning of yet another overhaul to the way student success is measured in the state, and the continuously shifting goalpost of what it means to be “proficient”. It raises the question of whether Albany has, at any point, had an accurate picture of where the state’s 2.4 million students stand academically.

This reset takes the form of a change to scoring criteria on state assessments. New York State Education Department’s (NYSED) technical advisory committee announced last month that they will be adjusting the cut scores on grades 3-8 assessments to reflect what officials have called a “new normal” for student achievement expectations. However, this new normal is based in part on test scores from the 2021-22 school year — one of the lowest in New York’s history.

Class SIze Concerns
Class size working group convenes
Queens Chronicle, 4/20/2023

Deborah Alexander, a District 30 parent who was selected for the group, said it is the trade-offs that she is concerned about.

“We all believe that lower class sizes are a good goal, that fewer kids in a classroom means more individualized attention and that would be good for students with [Individualized Education Programs], for students at an [Integrated Co-Teaching] class,” said Alexander. “Overall, however, it’s a domino effect.”

She said she is concerned that students won’t be able to go to their zoned school because class sizes are reduced.

“Now, are we busing kids to other districts, to other boroughs?” she said. “You can’t invent space out of nowhere.”

Election News

‘N.Y. Dems risk losing the middle: Independent voters are slipping away and finding the GOP appealing
NY Daily News, op-ed by Kenneth Lovett, 5/22/2023

No Labels’ Eyes a Third-Party Run in 2024. Democrats Are Alarmed.
NY Times, 5/19/2021

‘She couldn’t handle it’ – why Kristin Richardson Jordan dropped out
City & State, 5/16/2023

AOC and Hakeem Jeffries leading NY House money race
NY Post, 5/13/2023

The American Dream is Still Possible in NYC, But We Need Strong Local Leadership
Gotham Gazette, op-ed by Ursila Jung, 4/19/2023

Other Headlines

Missing Them
2 boys found dead in NYC waterways remembered as devoted students who dreamed of success
NBC, 5/22/2023

Barrie told Diallo that he wanted to become an engineer — “and not just any engineer,” Diallo said, “but the very best engineer.” 

Math was Barrie’s favorite class at Democracy Prep Harlem Middle School, a charter school eight blocks north of the famed Apollo Theater. He knew that mastering the subject would boost his career prospects as he got older.

Warren left an equally enduring impression on those who knew him well, according to a staff member at his school, New Explorations Into Science, Technology and Math, or NEST+M, a public school on the Lower East Side.

…Much like Barrie, Warren was committed to academic achievement. He loved science class and, according to the staff member, “he would often beg for more science homework.”

The Parents Saying No to Smartphones
The Free Press, 5/22/2023

Not Cutting It
NYC Schools won’t see cuts in September, Banks pledges
City & State, 5/22/2023

Not a single New York City public school will enter next school year with less overall funding than they did this academic year, regardless of how many students they are projected to serve, schools Chancellor David Banks announced today.

Following weeks of pushback from advocates and parents over city plans to cut Department of Education funding by nearly $1 billion, Banks told council members Monday afternoon that the city plans to hold all schools “harmless” in their initial fall budget allocations. That means that even if fewer students than the year prior end up enrolled in a certain school come September, the city will ensure that the school receives either the same or more overall funding than it did during the current 2022-23 academic year, according to Banks. 

Cornell wants to ‘express itself’ but ‘diversity, equity, inclusion’ are in the way
NY Post, 5/20/2023

Suspensions Up
NYC school suspensions spike 27% during the first half of the school year
Chalkbeat, 5/19/2023

New York City public schools issued significantly more suspensions during the first half of this school year, according to long overdue department statistics.

Between July and December 2022, schools issued just over 10,600 suspensions — 27% more than the same period in 2021. The number is about 6% higher than in 2019 just before the pandemic hit, even though the number of K-12 students has declined over 10%.

Drilling down into the data, principal suspensions — which last five days or fewer — jumped by about 29%. Superintendent suspensions, which stretch longer than five days, and are served at outside suspension sites, spiked by 21%. (The figures do not include charter schools.)

Half of NYC HS Seniors Chronically Absent
The Empire Center, 5/19/2023

Special-Education System Stacked Against Families, Lawsuit Says
Wall Street Journal, 05/18/2023

Schools still on the table for migrants
Queens Chronicle, 5/18/2023

The city will continue to use school gyms as emergency shelter sites as long as migrants continue to arrive, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom said in a press conference regarding the asylum seeker crisis on Wednesday.

“The city shelter capacity is full and we have exhausted options for traditional shelter sites for the migrants,” said Williams-Isom, who was joined by Dr. Ted Long, senior vice president for ambulatory care and population health at New York City Health + Hospitals, the only other official in the briefing.

“We are now turning to temporary alternative options like gyms and large open spaces for some relief,” she continued. “Let me be clear, this is not our preference for shelter but it is the only option that we have.”

Students are increasingly refusing to go to school. It’s becoming a mental health crisis.
USA Today, 5/18/2023

The Newest College Admissions Ploy: Paying to Make Your Teen a “Peer-Reviewed” Author
ProPublica, 5/18/2023

Embracing ChatGPT
ChatGPT caught NYC schools off guard. Now, we’re determined to embrace its potential.
Chalkbeat, 5/18/2023

As Chancellor of the nation’s largest school system, New York City Public Schools, I anticipated starting 2023 by continuing the crucial work of ensuring every student can read proficiently, preparing each student for well-paying jobs, and providing quality schools that are safe, welcoming, and supported by the entire community.

Naturally, our best-laid plans are sometimes disrupted by the advance of technology and innovation. 

State agency says nothing illegal about Assembly’s child care room
Times Union, 5/18/2023

Young Americans Are Dying at Alarming Rates, Reversing Years of Progress
Wall Street Journal, 05/17/2023

Dallas ISD’s Opt-Out Policy Dramatically Boosts Diversity in Its Honors Classes
The 74 Million, 5/16/2023

Cali’s Math Problem
California’s New Math Framework Doesn’t Add Up
Education Next, 5/16/2023

California’s proposed math curriculum framework has ignited a ferocious debate, touching off a revival of the 1990s math wars and attracting national media attention. Early drafts of the new framework faced a firestorm of criticism, with opponents charging that the guidelines sacrificed accelerated learning for high achievers in a misconceived attempt to promote equity.

The new framework, first released for public comment in 2021, called for all students to take the same math courses through 10th grade, a “detracking” policy that would effectively end the option of 8th graders taking algebra. A petition signed by nearly 6,000 STEM leaders argued that the framework “will have a significant adverse effect on gifted and advanced learners.” Rejecting the framework’s notions of social justice, an open letter with over 1,200 signatories, organized by the Independent Institute, accused the framework of “politicizing K–12 math in a potentially disastrous way” by trying “to build a mathless Brave New World on a foundation of unsound ideology.”

Inside the perplexing study that’s inspired colleges to drop remedial math
Hechinger Report, 5/16/2023

‘Devastating’: Pandemic learning loss needs urgent attention in U.S., national survey finds
Yahoo! News, 5/15/2023

NY’s First Statewide Math Competition
Elementary schoolers crunch numbers in first state math competition
Times Union, 5/21/2023

Around 150 elementary school students traveled from across the state for a first-of-its-kind competition Saturday at the University at Albany. The skill set needed for these 1st through 5th graders? Mathematics.

The state Department of Education teamed up with the company Suntex International and its First in Math program to launch New York’s first Statewide Mathematics Championship.

New Jersey educator passed over for 45 promotions because he’s white, he claims in lawsuit
NY Post, 5/13/2023

Migrants secretly being housed in PS 188 school gym in Coney Island
NY Post, 5/12/2023

Regressive Segregation
Racial-Affinity Calculus: Progressives return to the days of ‘separate but equal’ education
Wall Street Journal Editorial, 5/11/2023

In its 2023-2024 course catalog, Evanston Township High School (ETHS) offered two AP calculus classes for racial affinity groups. The first was “restricted to students who identify as Latinx.” The second was open only to “students who identify as black.” When the race-exclusionary classes made headlines, the school tweaked the descriptions to say that “while open to all students, this optional section of the course is intended to support students who identify as Black.”

The tweaked language is intended to avoid a civil-rights lawsuit since the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 that a “separate but equal” education policy based on race is unconstitutional. We’ll see if that works as a legal dodge, but the clear and depressing message is that black and Hispanic students can’t achieve at the same level as white or Asian students. Will the standards for the calculus classes also be different based on race?

The Parents Who Fight the City for a “Free Appropriate Public Education”
The New Yorker, 5/11/2023

16-year-old girl shot in head outside Queens school
NY Post, 5/11/2023

Wake Up Call
Parents Don’t Understand How Far Behind Their Kids Are in School
NY TImes, op-ed by Tom Kane and Sean Reardon, 5/11/2023

Parents have become a lot more optimistic about how well their children are doing in school.

In 2020 and 2021, a majority of parents in the United States reported that the pandemic was hurting their children’s education. But by the fall of 2022, a Pew survey showed that only a quarter of parents thought their children were still behind; another study revealed that more than 90 percent thought their child had already or would soon catch up. To hear parents tell it, the pandemic’s effects on education were transitory.

Are they right to be so sanguine? The latest evidence suggests otherwise. Math, reading and history scores from the past three years show that students learned far less during the pandemic than was typical in previous years. By the spring of 2022, according to our calculations, the average student was half a year behind in math and a third of a year behind in reading.

At least $391 per child in pandemic food benefits is coming to each NYC public school family
Chalkbeat, 5/10/2023

Ex-education commish: Lowering passing test scores is a parlor trick that hurts our kids
NJ,com, op-ed by Chris Cerf, 5/10/2023

Southwest Ga. teacher to retire after 78 years
WALB News, 5/10/2023

SUNY Mandates DEI
SUNY adds mandatory DEI social justice course to graduation requirements
The College Fix, 5/10/2023

The State University of New York will institute a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice course into its core curriculum across its 64 campuses beginning next fall for every incoming student.

The new course will “explore race, class, and gender identity,” according to SUNY officials.

SUNY becomes the latest higher education institution to implement DEI curriculum requirements into its graduation criteria, following institutions such as Rutgers University and the 23-campus California State University system.

As Post-Pandemic Enrollment Lags, Schools Compete for Fewer Students
The 74 Million, 5/10/2023

With phonics win, Banks proves himself the champion NYC kids need
NY Post Editorial, 5/10/2023

Banking on Phonics for NYC
New York Is Forcing Schools to Change How They Teach Children to Read
NY Times, 5/9/2023

Hundreds of public schools have been teaching reading the wrong way for the last two decades, leaving an untold number of children struggling to acquire a crucial life skill, according to New York City’s schools chancellor.

Now, David C. Banks, the chancellor, wants to “sound the alarm” and is planning to force the nation’s largest school system to take a new approach.

On Tuesday, Mr. Banks announced major changes to reading instruction in an aim to tackle a persistent problem: About half of city children in grades three through eight are not proficient in reading. Black, Latino and low-income children fare even worse.

NYC schools grasp for support as some migrant students miss out on mandated English instruction
Chalkbeat, 5/9/2023

With LSAT poised for elimination, law deans call for compromise
Reuters, 5/9/2023

Students can’t get off their phones. Schools have had enough.
Washington Post, 5/9/2023

Mo Math Controversy
How a debate over the science of math could reignite the math wars
Hechinger Report, 5/8/2023

How does a revolution start? Sometimes, it’s a simple question. For Sarah Powell, an associate professor of special education at the University of Texas at Austin, the question was this math problem: Donna and Natasha folded 96 paper cranes. Donna folded 25 paper cranes. How many did Natasha fold?

In a study, Powell posed that question to children at the end of third grade, when they should have been able to answer it easily. Instead, most couldn’t solve it. One underlined 11 words in the question but didn’t attempt any math. Another jotted down the number 96 and gave up. A few wrote down random numbers that had nothing to do with the problem. More than half the students added the numbers 96 and 25 together. Only two children out of 15 she showed me got the correct answer: 96-25=71.

“I could send you hundreds of these,” Powell said. “It’s heartbreaking. How did we let it get to this? These are kids that just get passed from one grade level to the next. You shouldn’t let a kid get to fourth grade if they can’t add 12 plus 13. I see it as a huge equity issue. It is totally unfair what we are doing to these kids.” 

Chinese Company Now Owns Tutoring Firm Contracted by Military and Schools in U.S.
Wall Street Journal, 5/8/2023

How Well Does Your Child’s School Support Student Mental Health?
The City, 5/4/2023

Eighth-Graders’ History, Civics Test Scores Hit Record Low
Wall Street Journal, 5/3/2023

DEI Is Everywhere in Our Schools and It’s Hurting Our Kids. We Need to Act
Newsweek, op-ed by Charles Love, 5/3/2023

Failing History
It’s Not Just Math and Reading: U.S. History Scores for 8th Graders Plunge
NY Times, 5/3/2023

National test scores released on Wednesday showed a marked drop in students’ knowledge of U.S. history and a modest decline in civics, a sign of the pandemic’s alarming reach, damaging student performance in nearly every academic area.

The pandemic plunge in U.S. history accelerated a downward trend that began nearly a decade ago, hitting this recent low at a time when the subject itself has become increasingly politically divisive.

A growing number of students are falling below even the basic standards set out on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a rigorous national exam administered by the Department of Education. About 40 percent of eighth graders scored “below basic” in U.S. history last year, compared with 34 percent in 2018 and 29 percent in 2014.

16-year-old boy slashed inside NYC high school: cops
NY Post, 5/3/2023

F.T.C. Seeks ‘Blanket’ Ban on Meta’s Use of Young Users’ Data
NY Times, 5/3/2023

Dyscalculia and Dyslexia: Reading Disabilities Offer Insights for Math Support
EdWeek, 5/1/2023

Unions Growing Ranks
NYSUT’s new focus: Unionizing private schools, and libraries
Times Union, 5/1/2023

The powerful statewide teachers union is seeking to organize libraries and private schools to bring dozens of new groups into its 700,000-member organization.

New York State United Teachers elected Melinda Person of Guilderland as their new president Saturday night after President Andy Pallotta retired.  Person is hoping to expand the union significantly over the next three years.

“This is something NYSUT hasn’t done in quite a while on a big scale,” she said.

Typically, the organization adds four or five new units a year, she said.  Person’s goal: 10 to 13 a year for the next three years.

New York’s education ‘leaders’ take another step against excellence
NY Post Editorial, 4/30/2023

Percentage of teen girls considering, attempting suicide rose in second year of pandemic: CDC 
CBS News 2, 4/28/2023

Trust Issues
The Long Shadow of Covid School Closures
NY Times, 4/28/2023

During the early months of the Covid pandemic, Randi Weingarten and the teachers’ union she leads faced a vexing question: When should schools reopen?

For years, advocates of public education like Weingarten had argued that schools played an irreplaceable role. School was where children learned academic and social skills. It was where low-income children received subsidized meals. Without public schools, their defenders argued, society would come apart.

On the other side of the ledger, however, was the worst pandemic in a century. Teachers and parents feared that reopening schools before vaccines were available would spark Covid outbreaks, illness and death.

De Blasio aides said effort to buy controversial East Village school was ‘nuts,’ new emails show
Crain’s NY, 4/27/2023

The ‘Hurtful’ Idea of Scientific Merit
Wall Street Journal, op-ed by J. Coyne and A. Krylov, 4/27/2023

Equitable Grading
Schools Are Ditching Homework, Deadlines in Favor of ‘Equitable Grading’
Wall Street Journal, 4/26/2023

Las Vegas high-school English teacher Laura Jeanne Penrod initially thought the grading changes at her school district made sense. Under the overhaul, students are given more chances to prove they have mastered a subject without being held to arbitrary deadlines, in recognition of challenges some children have outside school. 

Soon after the system was introduced, however, Ms. Penrod said her 11th-grade honors students realized the new rules minimized the importance of homework to their final grades, leading many to forgo the brainstorming and rough drafts required ahead of writing a persuasive essay. Some didn’t turn in the essay at all, knowing they could redo it later.

Beware the poison pill in Albany’s deal to ‘help’ NYC charter schools
NY Post Editorial, 4/26/2023

Ability Grouping as Equitable
Advanced Public Education! Compare With Brand ‘Equity’!
RealClear Investigations, 4/26/2023

Nico’s prospects were already looking dicey in the second grade. Raised by his Latina grandmother in a Spanish-speaking home, he was a witty boy whose clowning got him branded as a troublemaker in an Arizona public school outside Phoenix. 

But Nico was saved from this downward spiral by an unlikely intervention —a test given to all third graders. Scoring in the 97th percentile, Nico was placed with other gifted kids and challenged academically like never before, providing him desperately needed focus. By fifth grade in 2021, according to Karen Brown, director of gifted services at Paradise Valley Unified School District, the class clown had become a class leader and was elected to the Student Council. 

California Math Framework Creates Education Storm for the Nation
Well News, 4/25/2023

UFT accused of hypocrisy after national union boss Randi Weingarten’s charter school gets NYC space
NY Post, 4/23/2022

Special commission debates the fate of Regents exams in New York
Fox 5 News, 4/23/2023

New NYC Climate Curriculum
Teaching green: NYC rolls out climate-based curriculum
Gothamist, 4/22/2023

Mayor Eric Adams has announced some new steps the city’s public schools will take to boost sustainability – part of the city’s broader sustainability plan, PlaNYC.

“We want the students to know we are taking our climate plan to the next level,” Adams said ahead of Earth Day this week.

Starting next year, all New York City public schools will be asked to participate in a Climate Action Day, showcasing lessons in environmental education and sustainability. The education department will also create new career training programs for the “green” economy and ramp up professional development for teachers on issues of sustainability.

List of ‘bad’ NYC principals includes serial hugger, sexy dresser and ‘Lucifer’s sister’
NY Post, 4/22/2023

Sorry, Randi: No one resents teachers or schools — just your leadership
NY Post, op-ed by Natalya Murahkver, 4/21/2023