Education News Roundup Issue #112

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Top Stories

D20 Expands MS Screens
As NYC middle school applications open, selective programs surge in one Brooklyn district
Chalkbeat, 10/11/2023

The number of middle schools across New York City using academic screens to sort fifth grade applicants continues to remain well below pre-pandemic levels — but in one Brooklyn school district, they’re growing dramatically.

This year, 78 middle school programs across 69 schools will screen applicants based on their academic records, according to Education Department data.

That was up from last year, when 59 of the city’s more than 470 middle schools selected at least some of their incoming sixth graders using their fourth grade academic performance. But it was still down when compared to pre-pandemic admissions cycles. For the 2020-21 academic year, 196 middle schools across the city screened at least some of their applicants.

Devil in the Class Size Law Details
Class size cap just won’t work: NYC schools will suffer from Albany mandate
NY Daily News, op-ed by Stephen Stowe and Deborah Alexander, 10/1/2023

Why is that pesky devil always mucking things up in the details? Why can’t we just close our eyes, wish for lower class size in our public schools and “poof,” it is so. The reality is that our government is not a genie that can defy the laws of time and space and simply conjure up an outcome simply because we really want something.

…Lowering class sizes sounds amazing at face value. However the reality, as evidenced in NYCPS data, is that many of the most overcrowded classes in the city are in many of the highest-performing schools. And while most of us would agree that more personal attention and the physical space for exploration in the classroom are objective goods, it is deceptively simple to call for action and pass a law that sounds great on paper. But in public policy, the game is won or lost over a period of many years and outcomes must be subject to strict weighing of the costs against the benefits achieved.

Some MS Screens Return to D2
Selective middle school admissions return to one Manhattan district after fierce debate
Chalkbeat, 10/5/2023

A Manhattan school district is reversing course, allowing some schools to screen middle school applicants for accelerated programs in the upcoming admissions cycle, according to a letter its superintendent sent to families this week.

It’s the first time middle schools in District 2 will screen applicants based on their fourth grade academic performance since the onset of the pandemic, when the city paused academic screens for middle schools.

…District 2’s decision to drop screens last year spurred some ire in the area, where the group Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum and Education, or PLACE, has a foothold on the district’s parent-led Community Education Council — with endorsed candidates winning seven of the 10 elected seats. The group advocates for test-based and other selective school admissions. 

There’s No Comparison
Half of New York City Children Passed Math and Reading Tests
NY Times, 10/5/2023

About half of New York City students showed proficiency on math and reading exams this year, according to data released on Wednesday — scores that, on paper, represented a rise over last year.

…Still, the gains carried a major asterisk: This year’s tests had been overhauled, and state officials warned against using them to gauge whether students in the nation’s largest public school system are recovering after schools closed three years ago as the coronavirus spread.

…“The most important question we’re asking right now is about academic recovery and educational recovery. And we can’t measure it in New York this year mostly.”

High School Admissions Resources

PLACE NYC presents
A Parent to Parent Conversation on NYC High School Applications & “Hidden Gems”
PLACE NYC, 10/24/2023

Slide Presentation & Recording of event 

NYC’s complex high school admissions process opens Oct. 3. Here’s what families should know.
Chalkbeat, 9/26/2023

Results from the 2023 NYC School Admission Lottery Surveys
Amelie Marian, 3/19/2023

Practice Exam

Election Watch

Seven City Council Races to Watch This Election
The City, 10/11/2023

Democratic Socialists of America facing an internal reckoning on Israel
Politico, 10/11/2023

Democrats need to overhaul their playbook for courting Asian American voters
City & State, 10/5/2023

Other Headlines

Parents demand removal of anti-Israel NYC teacher who continues to defend pro-terror views: ‘I stand by everything’
NY Post, 10/21/2023

NYC parent leader and BP appointee allegedly stole $15K from PTA
NY Post, 10/21/2023

Sheree Gibson, who was elevated by Queens Beep Donovan Richards to the Panel for Educational Policy, was arrested Monday and charged with grand larceny and forging business records during her time on the District 29 Presidents’ Council, according to a complaint from the Queens District Attorney’s Office. She pleaded not guilty at her arraignment.

Gibson, 50, is accused of writing nearly 40 “reimbursement” checks ranging from $15 to $1,300 for district-related costs to a Maryland woman, Shari-Joi Nicholson, who said she has never done any work for the District 29 Presidents’ Council, according to the court documents.

Powerful NYC principals’ union to get 16.7% pay increase in new 5-year pact: Adams
NY Post, 10/21/2023

More than 90,000 NYC students haven’t spent recent pandemic food benefits, data shows
Chalkbeat, 10/20/2023

NYC revises mandated reporter training to reduce unnecessary child welfare investigations
Chalkbeat, 10/20/2023

Not So Fast
Smaller Classes? At Elite Schools, Some Parents Say ‘No Thanks.’
NY Times, 10/19/2023

When lawmakers forced New York City last year to reduce public school class sizes, many parents celebrated a long-awaited victory. But now, the popular move is running into a surprising opponent: other parents.

At New York’s high schools, classrooms would shrink to 25 students over the next several years, down from 34, coming close to class sizes in some suburban districts.

…A growing number of families who want their children to attend the city’s most selective institutions, including its coveted crown jewels like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science, worry their odds could decrease at popular schools with packed classes and little extra space.

Why Some Parents Oppose Smaller Classes
NY Times, 10/19/2023

Four Things to Know About Lowest ACT Scores in More Than Three Decades
The 74 Million, 10/17/2023

Ask the Teacher
The best way for parents to approach teachers
Epicenter NYC, 10/17/2023

To help avoid the gut-punch shock expressed by some of the moms and dads quoted in the post after their straight-A student failed to pass the NY state tests, we offered the advice of one teacher:

Grades can often be higher than state tests because grades also include completed homework assignments, class participation and extra-credit work. 

…But there is still much more that families concerned about anything happening in their child’s school can do. 

Hundreds of outraged NYC parents protest after video shows man beat boy, 13
NY Post, 10/14/20203

Bay Area high school grad rejected by 16 colleges reveals how he got Google job
ABC 7, 10/13/2023

A New Low
ACT Scores Fell for Class of 2023, Sixth Consecutive Decline
Wall Street Journal, 10/11/2023

The average score on the ACT dropped to a new 30-year low, indicating fewer high-school seniors are ready for college, the organization behind the college admissions test said. 

Test takers had an average score of 19.5 out of 36 in 2023, down 0.3 points from 2022, according to ACT. It is the sixth consecutive year of declines, ACT said, and the second straight year the average score dropped below 20 since 1991. 

NY targets how TikTok, Instagram and other apps ‘prey’ on kids with bill cracking down on algorithms
NY Post, 10/11/2023

The Best Schools?
Who Runs the Best U.S. Schools? It May Be the Defense Department.
NY Times, 10/10/2023

Amy Dilmar, a middle-school principal in Georgia, is well aware of the many crises threatening American education. The lost learning that piled up during the coronavirus pandemic. The gaping inequalities by race and family income that have only gotten worse. A widening achievement gap between the highest- and lowest-performing students.

But she sees little of that at her school in Fort Moore, Ga.

Schools Cut Honors Classes to Address Racial Equity. It Isn’t a Quick Fix.
Wall Street Journal, 10/9/2023

NYC pays $200K to girl sexually abused, videotaped by Brooklyn HS boys — and school admins fueled ‘dangerous environment’: lawsuit
NY Post, 10/7/2023

Transportation commish’s family sues elite Fieldston School for racism
NY Post, 10/7/2023

The two kids of city Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and his top-ranking DOE educrat wife, Cristina Melendez, were racially discriminated against at the private Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx, according to a shocking lawsuit.

…The couple’s daughters attended the now-$63,020-a-year school on scholarships intended for lower-income minority students, according to the suit, despite Rodriguez earning over $191,000 in the fiscal year 2022 for his jobs as a city councilman and later DOT commish, while Melendez earned at least $81,526, per SeeThroughNY. She currently makes $195,000 a year.

Honors Opt-Out
Latino, Black enrollment in advanced math shot up after states made this change. Should it be a model?
NBC News, 10/7/2023

In a state that has passed anti-diversity laws and tried to squelch instruction on systemic racism, a new law could open doors for Latino and Black children long shut out of advanced math courses.

Just a handful of states have taken the step Texas did this year. Under a law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in May, school districts and open-enrollment charter schools must automatically enroll in an advanced math course sixth graders who score in the top 40% of the math portion of the state standardized test known as STAAR.

…The new practice in Texas is often called an “opt-out” law or policy, because rather than having to get into the advanced class, the qualifying student is automatically enrolled but can opt out if they don’t feel ready.

Fentanyl vial that looks like candy found at Brooklyn playground
NY Post, 10/6/2023

1400 多名家長連署 為小班制實施提意見
SingTao, 10/6/2023

Look for the Signs
Reading red flags: What parents need to know
Boston Globe, 10/5/2023

It isn’t always easy for parents to know how their child’s school is teaching reading. If you have questions or concerns, bring them to your child’s classroom teacher, literacy specialist, or principal. Here are some questions that can help guide the conversation, based in part on information from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The Flaws in New York’s Class Size Law
Families of New York, 10/4/2023

NYC test scores: Roughly 50% proficient on reading, math exams, data shows. Find your school’s proficiency rate.
Chalkbeat, 10/4/2023

The US needs to follow England’s lead and ban cell phones from schools
NY Post, op-ed by Rikki Schlott, 10/3/2023

New G&T Identification Guidance
New Guidance Released to Help Schools Identify a More Diverse Pipeline of Gifted and Talented Students
PR Newswire via NWEA, 10/3/2023 

K-12 assessment and research organization NWEA announced today new guidance for gifted-and-talented service identification and placement developed by a national expert on the topic: Dr. Scott Peters. The comprehensive guide focuses on appropriately using data from such assessments as NWEA’s MAP Growth, and provides broader considerations for school districts to use in evaluating and determining their gifted-and-talented service placement criteria.

“There are advanced learners — those who are underchallenged and could do more — in every school. Effective placement criteria should catch all the students who would benefit from advanced opportunities, avoid considering factors that are irrelevant to readiness or success, and do so all while balancing cost with sensitivity,” said Peters, senior research scientist at NWEA and author of the guide. “This new guide is a reference for schools on how to appropriately utilize data as well as other inputs toward a more equitable approach.”

College Kids Are Abandoning American Values. It’s Going to Destroy Our Democracy
Newsweek, op-ed by Brad Polumbo, 10/3/2023

On the Road
California’s Math Misadventure Is About to Go National
The Atlantic, 10/2/2023

When I decided to read every word of California’s 1,000-page proposal to transform math education in public schools, I learned that even speculative and unproved ideas can end up as official instructional policy.

In 2021, the state released a draft of the California Mathematics Framework, whose authors were promising to open up new pathways into science and tech careers for students who might otherwise be left behind. At the time, news reports highlighted features of the CMF that struck me as dubious. That draft explicitly promoted the San Francisco Unified School District’s policy of banishing Algebra I from middle school—a policy grounded in the belief that teaching the subject only in high school would give all students the same opportunities for future success.

The document also made a broad presumption that tweaking the content and timing of the math curriculum, rather than more effective teaching of the existing one, was the best way to fix achievement gaps among demographic groups. Unfortunately, the sheer size of the sprawling document discouraged serious public scrutiny.

The research evidence for sex ed remains thin
Hechinger Report, 10/2/2023

Fiscally Challenged
New York Schools Came Back From the Brink. Now a New Crisis Looms.
NY Times, 10/2/2023

Just a year ago, the outlook for New York City was bleak: The nation’s largest school system had lost 120,000 children in five years, and Mayor Eric Adams warned gravely, “We’re in a very dangerous place.”

But today, despite some continuing and intense struggles, the darkest projections seem to have been avoided. Public school enrollment is no longer in free fall, buoyed partly by migrant arrivals…Now, though, the system is barreling toward a steep new challenge: a huge fiscal cliff that could reduce the education budget by hundreds of millions of dollars. In some ways, the city’s situation mirrors a crisis looming for school districts all over the country.

…In the coming months, the mayor has said he may force all city agencies to reduce spending by up to 15 percent, citing the costs of caring for the influx of migrants who have overwhelmed the city’s homeless shelter system…Then, the system will face a legal mandate to lower its class sizes, requiring a billion-plus dollars in hiring costs.

Serious crime at NYC schools spikes 16% due to burglary, larceny surges
NY Post, 9/30/2023

Juilliard Goes Tuition Free For Acting Degree: Take A Bow
West Side Rag, 9/29/2023

Princeton Offers a Tuition Break
Wall Street Journal Editorial, 9/26/2023

The SATs Will Be Different Next Year, and That Could Be a Game-Changer
NY Times, op-ed by Adam Grant, 9/20/2023