NEW DATA

How many bullying complaints were reported at your New York City high school this year?

Over 4,200 bullying complaints were reported across the city’s schools in the first half of this school year, with close to half of them substantiated after officials investigated, education department officials said Friday.

The first-of-its-kind report, now required under city law, offers a more up-to-date picture of bullying, harassment, and intimidating behavior in the nation’s largest school system — and appears to show the number of substantiated complaints are on track to increase this school year. (Scroll down for a searchable database of every city high school that filed a bullying complaint.)

“The impetus for this was to put some data behind how extensive and pervasive bullying is in our school system,” said Mark Treyger, who pushed for the new reporting requirements and is the chairman of City Council’s education committee. “We keep hearing about bullying cases without any firm data to inform policymakers.”

The new round of data closely mimics numbers the city already reports to the state’s education department — though the new reports will eventually include more granular information including how long it takes schools to respond to each complaint and whether schools appropriately communicated with parents.

The city’s bullying policies have come under increased scrutiny after a student, who claimed to have been the victim of bullying, stabbed a 15-year-old classmate to death inside their Bronx school in September. A month later, officials unveiled a suite of new anti-bullying initiatives.

“Our schools are safe havens, and we’ve made significant investments to equip school communities with more tools and resources in order to address bullying head-on and provide support to students and families,” said Lois Herrera, CEO of the education department’s Office of Safety and Youth Development.

Here are three takeaways from the new data:

Bullying appears to be on the upswing.

Two years ago, city schools reported 3,281 substantiated incidents of bullying, harassment, or intimidating behavior to the state, according to education department officials. In the first half of this school year, 1,883 such incidents have been reported — which would represent a 15 percent increase over two years and a smaller 3 percent increase compared to last year (assuming the current rate continues through the rest of the school year).

A department spokeswoman, Miranda Barbot, cautioned that this year’s figures have not yet been audited, and said the final number could fluctuate, making it difficult to say for sure if reports of bullying will rise this year. Still, the number of bullying complaints will likely increase as the city begins allowing families to file them through a new online portal next year.

Race was a big factor in many complaints.

In all, schools investigated and confirmed 268 cases of bullying based on race during the first half of the school year. By contrast, 167 cases involved ethnicity or national origin, 163 cases were about gender identity or expression, and 144 had to do with a student’s weight.

Under a new policy announced this year, victims of bullying can request transfers to other schools, but city officials could not say how many students were granted such transfers.

Some high schools are responsible for an outsized share of bullying complaints.

The report only includes school-level data for high schools, and it shows that some report more bullying incidents than others. Not surprisingly, many schools with the largest number of bullying incidents tend to be comprehensive high schools that enroll more students.

John Adams High School, for instance, tops the list — a school that enrolls nearly 2,300 students and reported 21 confirmed instances of bullying in the first half of this school year. At the other end of the spectrum, 102 high schools — or roughly a quarter of them — reported no complaints of bullying.

The city’s statistics are worth taking with a grain of salt, since different educators may file bullying complaints under different circumstances. And a 2016 report by the State Education Department and attorney general found that the city under-reported bullying incidents to the state.

Still, the report offers a new set of data that gives a broad sense of bullying across the city’s 1,800 schools. And below, you can search for how many bullying incidents have been reported across the city’s high schools in the first half of this school year.

An asterisk means that somewhere between one and five incidents were reported, but were suppressed due to privacy laws. “Material incidents” refer to bullying complaints that were investigated and found to have merit by school officials. If your school does not appear, that means it did not report any bullying complaints. You can find the city’s full dataset here.

Sam Park contributed data visualizations.

big plans

Four things you should know about the new Memphis plan to expand district support to all schools

PHOTO: Anthony Lanzilote

Shelby County Schools board members heard an ambitious plan Tuesday to expand district support for students across all its nearly 150 schools.

The proposal would expand the district’s flagship turnaround program, the Innovation Zone; test all first-graders for gifted education; give hand-held electronic devices to more high school students; and offer more advanced courses. The recommendations are the first from the district’s new chief academic officer, Antonio Burt, who was appointed in September.

“We’re really focused on system-wide equity,” he said. “We can really switch the conversation from equity to really focusing on equity in action.”

In recent years, Memphis has become a model in Tennessee’s school turnaround efforts. But district officials believe Shelby County Schools has not effectively scaled those lessons up to impact more students more quickly. Burt said his plan will fill in those gaps.

Burt did not break down how much these initiatives would cost, but incoming interim superintendent Joris Ray said the proposals would anchor the district’s budget priorities for the 2019-20 school year.

Here is what you need to know:

All first-grade students would be tested to see if they are eligible for CLUE, the district’s gifted education program.

Currently, teachers pick students to be tested for admittance into a program that promotes higher-level grade work for students from preschool to high school.

Burt said the way students are chosen has led to wide disparities in the racial makeup of the program. Though white students make up 7 percent of the district’s population, they make up 38 percent of the students in CLUE. Black students make up 77 percent of the district’s enrollment, but 45 percent of students in the program.

Nationally, black students are far less likely to be placed in gifted programs, even if they have the same test scores as their white peers, and especially if their teacher is white, according to a 2016 study at Vanderbilt University.

For the first time, all Memphis schools identified by the state as low performing will get additional money.

Eleven schools will be added to the district’s Innovation Zone, known for improving test scores.

The iZone pumps about $600,000 per school for teacher bonuses, for more resources to combat the effects of poverty, and for principals to have more say over which teachers they hire.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Antonio Burt became assistant superintendent in 2017 over the Innovation Zone and other struggling schools within Shelby County Schools. He is now the district’s academic chief.

Some of the schools Burt wants to add have been languishing on the state’s list since it was first created in 2012, but have not received substantial support.

As some schools are being added to the iZone, others have improved their performance, and are no longer eligible for additional state funding. Shelby County Schools, which has covered the reduction in funding, for the first time plans to gradually wean 13 schools off that extra support. Burt vowed to monitor those schools to make sure they don’t slip again.

Scroll down to the bottom of the story to see which schools will be affected.

Burt’s plan also would combine Hamilton Elementary and Hamilton Middle into a K-8 school next year, and separate Raleigh-Egypt Middle/High into two schools again after a charter operator moved out the neighborhood. The Hamilton school proposal is also part of outgoing Superintendent Dorsey Hopson’s recommendation to consolidate some schools.

Every student in nine high schools would get a hand-held device or laptop this fall, with a goal to expand to every school by the 2024-25 school year.

The district hasn’t decided whether it would be laptops, tablets, or some other device, but officials say students should have more access to technology.

“I think about children in the municipalities and across the nation… they have a device in their hand,” said Ray. “All their textbooks, they’re loaded to one device. So we need to in Shelby County Schools increase technology and give our students the opportunity to compete worldwide.”

But board members cautioned the district should have a robust learning plan for those devices.

“It’s more than just putting a device in hand,” said board member Miska Clay Bibbs.

Every high school will have two Advanced Placement courses for college credit by school year 2020-21.

Students from poor families are more likely to attend a high school with fewer advanced courses, according to a 2018 district report. Burt wants to change that.

The plan calls for more teachers in every high school to be trained to lead an honors, Advanced Placement, or pre-Advanced Placement class.

Below are the schools that would be added to and removed from the iZone. Read the district’s full presentation below.

The schools that would be added to the iZone are:

  • LaRose Elementary
  • Dunbar Elementary
  • Getwell Elementary
  • Hawkins Mill Elementary
  • Woodstock Middle
  • Georgian Hills Middle
  • Craigmont Middle
  • Wooddale High
  • Sheffield High
  • Oakhaven High
  • Manassas High

These schools would be cycled out of the iZone:

  • Cherokee Elementary
  • Treadwell Elementary
  • Lucie E. Campbell Elementary
  • Ford Road Elementary
  • Westhaven Elementary
  • Douglass K-8
  • Chickasaw Middle
  • Treadwell Middle
  • Sherwood Middle
  • Hamilton Middle
  • Douglass High
  • Mitchell High
  • Melrose High

text skills

‘My reminders are not spam!’: Teachers and parents protest Verizon over new texting fees

Hell hath no fury like teachers who are told that their direct line to students and parents might soon be cut off.

That’s what Verizon is learning after a text-messaging service used by teachers and parents to share updates about homework assignments and snow days announced that the company would soon make messaging prohibitively expensive.

The service, Remind, emailed users late Monday to tell them that Verizon had decided to treat their messages as spam — a move that would make it impossible to continue distributing messages for free. The change would affect 7 million of the service’s 31 million users, a spokesperson said.

“The Verizon fee will increase our costs of providing text messaging by 11X—pushing our annual costs into the millions of dollars,” the company said in the letter. “This isn’t financially feasible for us to support, and it’s forcing us to end Remind text messaging for everyone who has a wireless plan with Verizon.”

The letter urged teachers and families to download Remind’s app instead — and to lobby Verizon to change its policy.

“If there’s one thing we know, it’s the power of communication,” Remind’s website read. “If Remind’s made a positive impact on how you teach or learn, please call Verizon and ask them to #ReverseTheFee.”

Overnight and into Tuesday, countless educators and parents followed Remind’s lead, posting on Twitter and calling Verizon to explain why free text messaging is essential to their work. Two million educators use the service monthly, and the company says it is used in about 80 percent of U.S. schools.

“My reminders to students and their parents are #NotSpam!!,” wrote Phillip Cantor, a high school teacher in Chicago.  “My district allows ONLY @remind101 to communicate with students via text because it’s safe and free.”

“I bet you didn’t know that 29% of the students that attend the school I teach at rely on the translation tool built into @RemindHQ,” tweeted Beth Small. “Please don’t silence parent/teacher communication!”

“The Remind service is invaluable with my students,” wrote David Bell. “As a high school counselor it helps me build a rapport with my students that wouldn’t otherwise exist.”

Remind officials said the company had been trying to negotiate with Verizon since last summer, when the company first announced the rate increase. (They also said they are locked in a similar conflict with a telecommunications company in Canada.)

Those negotiations are complicated. According to a Verizon spokesperson, Remind contracts with another messaging company, Twilio, that contracts with a firm that has a contract with Verizon, and Remind is not the only service to be caught in a dragnet meant to reduce the number of spam messages that cell phone users receive.

Several of those companies met throughout the day Tuesday with the goal of preserving free text-messaging for teachers and schools. But the night ended without a resolution, and with the social media protest continuing to take aim at the phone company.

“As a student, I use Remind daily and by charging teachers for using its features, that experience will be cut off for me,” tweeted Keegan Ator. “What’s more important, future generations of hard-working students or a few extra pennies in the bank?”