In New York, there were bright spots in 2016: a spike in passing rates on state tests for English and math, the launch of initiatives to reduce inequity in math and reading, and policy changes that support struggling students.

Other moments — the continued struggle with segregation and leaked footage of abusive discipline in action — cast a shadow on the overall progress of this year. Here’s Chalkbeat New York’s recap of some of the biggest education moments of 2016.

  •  One principal, two schools, and a high-stakes experiment gone awry
    “Finally, when critics questioned the idea of putting a single principal in charge of two schools when one of them is among the state’s lowest-performing, education department officials insisted that his role at Medgar Evers would be limited. But now, after Medgar Evers’ acting principal was removed from the school in March due to an investigation and has not been replaced, Wiltshire is devoting significant time and attention to his old school.”
  • NAACP’s call to stop charter schools’ growth reignites debate in New York City
    “Still, while charter schools educate just 10 percent of the city’s students, their parents represent an important political bloc. Tens of thousands of charter school students and their families rallied in September for the sector’s growth, and when asked, many of them dismissed the NAACP’s resolution as out of touch.”
  • In a shift, new rules make it easier for New York City students to switch schools
    “Some students got trapped in violent schools because transfers were available only to students who could show they had been victims of violence. Other students found themselves stuck in small schools with limited course offerings — a particular challenge for students whose interests and goals might have shifted since the high school application process in eighth grade.”
  •  City will hire 100 reading coaches to kick off of universal literacy initiative
    “The reason the city chose to focus on improved reading instruction is clear: Only about 30 percent of city students are proficient in English in third grade. The city has met that statistic with lofty goals: Over the next six years, the city has pledged to increase that number to over 60 percent, and to have every student reading on grade level by 2026. “
  •  Only 8 percent of New York City teachers are men of color. Here’s how the city is trying to change that
    “In a city where Asian, black, and Hispanic boys make up 43 percent of the over one million public-school students, just over 8 percent of the city’s 76,000 teachers are nonwhite men. That leaves thousands of students of color without role models who resemble them, and without teachers who research shows tend to have higher expectations of nonwhite students.”
  •  Eva Moskowitz defends Success Academy teacher shown yelling in video, calls New York Times coverage biased
    “Moskowitz’s less apologetic tone illustrates the recent pressure Success has faced after a wave of negative press, including the coverage of the ‘Got to Go’ list. Critics have long held, and Success has denied, that the high-performing schools have done well because they pressure poor-performing or poorly behaved students to leave — claims that the ‘Got to Go’ list seemed to vindicate.”
  •  Eight top 10s from New York City’s 2016 test scores
    “The percentage of New York City students passing their state English tests spiked nearly eight points this year and math pass rates also improved, giving city officials reason to celebrate. It’s worth noting, however, that the average proficiency scores on both exams still hovered below 40 percent. “
  •  Betty Rosa, new head of New York education policy: As a parent, ‘I would opt out’
    “The statements also illustrate the somewhat precarious position Rosa now occupies as a critic of state education policy. As chancellor, she oversees the State Education Department — which administers the state tests — and whose leader, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, has been campaigning to minimize the opt-out movement’s growth. “
  •  After announcing plans for 12 school mergers, Fariña says to expect many more
    “In a reversal of the previous administration’s policy of creating new small schools, Fariña has announced plans over the past year to combine 25 small schools, arguing that by pooling resources the merged schools are able to offer more advanced classes and enrichment programs.”
  •  Searching for answers to segregation, Fariña enlists top deputy and solicits local ideas
    “At the same time, Fariña continues to regard diversity as a goal achieved largely through grassroots efforts that the education department can support but not spearhead.”
Rajihah Coaxum making a version of the “centerpiece” for teachers participating in the NYC Math Lab.
PHOTO CREDIT: Elizabeth Green
  • 75 schools will overhaul math teaching, a move Fariña says will reduce inequity
    “‘If you look at your higher-achieving schools or parents who think their children should be higher-achieving, you’ll see that the coursework is different than in schools in other places,’ Fariña told a group of teachers and principals on Tuesday. Later, she said, ‘I want to see a student in the South Bronx having the same access to algebra as a kid in Park Slope.'”