town hall time

Fariña promises Common Core "re-rollout," downplays gifted programs at town hall

Chancellor Carmen Fariña gave some big hints about how the city will be handling the Common Core, co-locations, and gifted policy to parents in Far Rockaway on Monday night. 

“We wanted to come to the end of the world before we did things close to home,” Fariña said, to laughs from the crowd of parents from Queens’ District 27. 

In addition to her announcement about pre-kindergarten seats, some of the takeaways:

Details about new co-location policy: The Department of Education unveiled the broad outline of a new policy for space planning decisions on Monday, including more community meetings and walkthroughs of affected schools by a senior official.

In addition, “One of the things I will guarantee you is they will be done with the approval of the community and with one of my four deputy chancellors walking the building with the [school leadership teams] and making sure that everything being written up is exactly what we’re going to do,” Fariña said.

That addresses two major complaints of the existing co-location process: that local input is ignored and that the plans often misrepresent a building’s available space. It also signals Fariña’s expectation that the affected school will approve of the space-sharing plans—consensus that has been hard to come by in recent years.

Fariña also made it clear that the re-evaluation of the city’s space-planning guidebook, the “Blue Book,” would shift it toward a more conservative view of what spaces could be converted to new uses. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, schools frequently used space in unconventional ways to accommodate additional schools in the building.

“To me a science room is a science room, it is not a potential classroom,” Fariña said.

Common Core will get an official fresh start: “We’re going to re-roll it out,” Fariña said of the standards, though she offered few new specifics beyond points she’s made before: officials will be looking to better align the curriculum with student abilities and improve teacher training.

Another interesting tidbit: Fariña said that the city will, “to the degree we can,” pay schools for Common Core-aligned curriculum materials they wrote or edited if schools can show that their work could be used by others.

Gifted & Talented gets downplayed: When a parent asked about the dearth of gifted and talented options in District 27, Fariña didn’t answer her directly. Instead, the chancellor said her “goal would be to have neighborhood schools that provide gifted practices to all students.”

To train teachers, she said she’s bringing back Joseph Renzulli and Sally Reis—researchers known for what’s called the Schoolwide Enrichment Model of providing high-level instruction for students of varying ability levels. (For parents who still want their children in independent, specially designed classes, that model is a frequent target of criticism.)

“My children did not go to gifted and talented [programs], and I think they had wonderful educations because their teachers taught all the kids in that class to the highest level,” Fariña said.

After the meeting, Fariña clarified that she wasn’t proposing changes to existing gifted programs, but the Renzulli training would be an option for schools moving forward.

More parent coordinator training on the way: Fariña said she’s bringing back serious training for parent coordinators, harkening back to her days as deputy chancellor when she took new parent coordinators to workshops at Teachers College and on museum tours to learn how to lead parent groups.

“They should also be the people who assist the principal, but not necessarily doing paperwork. In many cases they become the ex officio paperwork person when they should actually be the first person parents talk to and learn from,” Fariña said, mentioning parents of special needs students and English Language Learners in particular.

That’s exactly what some parent coordinators said they wanted from Fariña back in January.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.