the new space wars

De Blasio lays out vision for charter school co-location rules

Staff from Amber Charter School greet Mayor Bill de Blasio on a visit in September.

Charter schools that play by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s rules will get a leg up in the rush for coveted public school space, the mayor said on Thursday.

In his most expansive remarks on charter schools since March, the mayor said he would will soon set a “clear standard” for charter schools that want space in public school buildings. He indicated that he could try to measure schools by how they serve high-needs students, their student retention rates, and even how much they “teach to the test.”

De Blasio’s remarks are significant because they provide a window into how his administration may seek to interpret a new charter school facilities law that could be costly for the city. Although it requires the city to provide new or expanding charter schools (at least 17 are hoping to open in 2015) with city-funded access to facilities, the mayor doesn’t have to give them space inside of public school buildings, which many charter schools prefer because it provides access to a school’s cafeteria, gymnasium and auditorium, among other reasons. Instead, the mayor could force them operate in private space—with the city footing the bill.

“The thing to recognize is our school system has finite physical space, and so by definition there will be a series of choices we have to make and not everyone will get the space they want,” de Blasio said Thursday at a charter school in East Harlem, the final stop on his five-borough tour on the first day of school.

De Blasio has yet to detail exactly what “co-location guidelines” he’ll ask charter schools to follow, though he said Thursday that a full policy is coming soon. A working group overseen by Deputy Mayor Richard Buery and Chancellor Carmen Fariña has been advising de Blasio on the issue.

But de Blasio offered a some clues into his thinking at Thursday’s press conference, which took place at Amber Charter School, a unionized school which operates in private space and has close ties to the East Harlem community. Amber “is a charter school that really exemplifies our values,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio then ticked off a series of critiques about enrollment and instructional practices that are often associated with charter schools. Unmentioned were the specific charter schools usually at the center of those critiques, which are typically part of large charter management organizations like Success Academy, KIPP, Achievement First, and Uncommon Schools.

Although charter schools serve higher-than-average numbers of black and Hispanic students, some lag behind in high-need student categories. To operate in public space, de Blasio said, schools would need to be “inclusive” of special-education students and English language learners. He also indicated that they would have to do a better job of serving more students in older grades, an issue that has divided the charter school sector.

“It’s very important that charters retain the students they start with, whether they’re academically strong or academically challenged,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio also suggested that the administration might take a look charter schools’ instructional practices when deciding which schools get preference for space.

“It’s very important to us to not just dwell on standardized testing and not just focus on teaching to the test but focus on multiple measure and teaching critical thinking,” he said.

The law also created a legal process to settle space-planning disagreements between de Blasio and charter schools. Speaking about the process, de Blasio suggested he was prepared to defend his co-location rules.

“Where we have a difference … there’s a due-process dynamic to the state law, including going into the judicial system,” de Blasio said.

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.