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September 13, 2013
Middle schools start longer days with a focus on participation
Students at I.S. 340 played a strategic game of tag called "one step" on Thursday during their extended day, part of a city pilot program. After dismissal on the first day of school at I.S. 30, sixth-graders filed into the auditorium, where Principal Carol Heeraman asked an important question: How many had permission to stay for two and a half more hours? Only a handful of students raised their hands, and the rest were dismissed with instructions to have their parents sign the permission form by the next day. "This is your homework assignment," Heeraman said. I.S. 30 is one of 20 city middle schools to pilot an extended day this year as part of the Department of Education's two-year-old Middle School Quality Initiative. Some schools started the year with near-perfect attendance, but others are learning that getting all students who are eligible for the programming to attend can be a complicated endeavor. In I.S. 30's auditorium, one student raised his hand and asked, “What if my mom doesn’t want me to stay?”
September 10, 2013
Schools play starring role as primary election day finally arrives
Months of mayoral candidates' promises and pavement-pounding culminate today, when New Yorkers head to the polls to pick their favorite candidate from each political party. City schools will play a starring role in the election. About 650 of the city's school buildings are being used as polling stations today, meaning that unfamiliar adults will be filing in and out all day, especially at drop-off time this morning, to wrangle with old-style voting machines. For some of them, Election Day is the only time they will ever step inside a public school. (Voting today? Take our voters guides to the Democratic and Republican primaries with you, and don't forget our tracker of all candidates' education positions. NY1, the New York Times, City Limits, the Center for Arts Education, among others, all produced resources for education voters, too.)
September 6, 2013
GothamSchools voter guide: The NYC mayoral primaries
We've published story after story about where the mayoral candidates stand on education. But with the primary around the corner, who should education voters vote for? The Democratic front-runners share many of their positions of education—many of them pushing back against Bloomberg's legacy—but they also have some key differences. The Republican contenders, meanwhile, have offered fewer specifics but are looking to maintain the status quo. Here, we took a look at where the candidates diverge on crucial issues of education policy and compiled their top priorities to help if you haven't yet made a final pick.
August 30, 2013
De Blasio and Quinn line up lawmakers in pre-K squabble
The mayoral campaigns of Bill de Blasio and Christine Quinn have each sent out press releases today touting legislative support for their positions on de…
August 28, 2013
Poll: Path to victory for UFT’s mayoral candidate is narrow
A new Quinnipiac poll has Public Advocate Bill de Blasio surging into the lead in the Democratic race for mayor. De Blasio would receive…
August 26, 2013
Quinn: Girls should have their own tech schools
Mayoral candidate and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn wants to open at least five new all-girls middle schools, one in each borough, dedicated to science and math. "The point of the schools, and in particular that it’s girls only, is in part to send a message to girls, ‘This is a field for you,’" Quinn said at a press conference at Brooklyn Bridge Park today. Quinn herself attended an all-girls Catholic high school and has said she would expand single-sex schooling if she is elected. (Single-sex education has strong advocates, but researchers say there’s no evidence that it improves learning and could actually diminish students’ self-esteem.)
August 23, 2013
Quinn targets a de Blasio selling point: his record with parents
As a school board member, public advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, pictured here with ex-state education commissioner David Steiner, once supported a superintendent who resigned amid charges of mismanagement. Christine Quinn’s mayoral campaign is unearthing an old education scandal to take aim at Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the current Democratic frontrunner in the race to replace Mayor Bloomberg. In a press release, the Quinn campaign compiled news coverage about Frank DeStefano — the superintendent of Brooklyn's District 15 in the late 1990s who ran up a $1.2 million budget deficit — to make the case that de Blasio, then a school board member, allowed the mismanagement to occur. The attack comes as the two are embroiled in bitter fighting over many issues, including the city's support for local hospitals. "What Bill de Blasio says and what Bill de Blasio does are two very different things," Quinn spokesman Mike Morey said in a statement. "While he talks glowingly about his work on his local school board, parents in the district knew de Blasio was only concerned about what was best for Bill de Blasio." There’s no disputing that the scandal, which ended in the district superintendent’s resignation, was a difficult time for the school district where de Blasio got his start in city politics. When GothamSchools looked into the episode earlier this summer, de Blasio declined to speak about it, and his campaign did not respond to requests for comment today. But the story is not as cut and dry as the Quinn campaign suggests.
August 23, 2013
Quinn calls for principals to have more school discipline power
Mayoral candidate Christine Quinn shakes the hand of Cheyanne Smith, who will be a senior at the Bushwick School for Social Justice and has worked with the Urban Youth Collaborative. Mayoral candidate and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called for principals to have more control over disciplinary decisions in schools. But she stopped short of saying she would transfer full authority back to principals from the New York Police Department. While the Bloomberg administration has famously considered principals to be the CEOs of their schools, principals’ authority does not extend to safety agents, who since 1998 have been under the authority of the New York Police Department in an arrangement that advocates say breeds tension. Some Democratic candidates for mayor have said they would restore authority to principals if elected. But Quinn said she would seek a healthy balance between the NYPD and educators' influence in school discipline. "I think you want the school safety agents to also have NYPD training, you want them to also have that focus," she said at a press conference at City Hall today. "But we want the majority of focus and we want final decisions to be made by the principals. That's critical."
August 15, 2013
On education, mayoral hopefuls don't talk about their limitations
One mayoral candidate wants to ban testing. Another has pledged to close charter schools. And one wants to raise city income taxes to fund early childhood education. Despite coming from different candidates, the pledges have one thing in common: They can't be fulfilled from inside City Hall, despite mayoral control of the city's schools. The legislature and the governor's office change tax laws and controls how school aid is spent. The Board of Regents and the State Education Department set policy and regulations around testing. And state's charter authorizing bodies control which charter schools stay open and which close. While the chief executive of New York City will always have clout in Albany and legislators might be inclined to go along with a newly elected mayor's proposals, some of the candidates' proposals would be hard sells. A review of candidates' education proposals shows that they have been less than eager to talk about these limitations on the campaign trail, leaving questions about their ability to follow through on key elements of their education platforms.
August 15, 2013
Quinn, de Blasio tangle over schools as campaign trail heats up
Newly considered a frontrunner in the Democratic mayoral primary, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is taking aim at City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and he's using her education record as ammunition. Their dustup over after-school funding was only one of several statements that mayoral candidates made today about their plans for the city's schools, as the pace of proposals — and re-proposals — picks up with the primary just weeks away. Displaying a chart titled "New York City Out-of-School Time Seats Past Six Years Under Bloomberg and Quinn" at a press conference outside East Side Community High School today, de Blasio decried Quinn as complicit in recent cuts to city-funded after-school and child-care programs.
August 14, 2013
About that “major education announcement” de Blasio promised
DE BLASIO TO RENEW CALL FOR TAX ON WEALTHY TO FUND UNIVERSAL PRE-K, CONTRAST WITH SPEAKER QUINN’S PLAN TO SADDLE MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES WITH…
August 6, 2013
Mayoral hopefuls hit Bloomberg over looming test score decline
Mayoral candidates have declared open season on Mayor Bloomberg's education legacy on the eve of new test scores that will be much lower than in the past. What began last week as a fight between the teachers union and City Hall spilled out onto the campaign trail this week with a flurry of critical comments from Democratic contenders about test score gains under Bloomberg and his eagerness to tout them as evidence of his administration's success. "The days of the mayor dislocating his shoulder patting himself on the back should be over," Anthony Weiner told reporters this morning at an education event. Weiner said it wasn't "entirely fair" to blame Bloomberg for the anticipated drop in scores, which reflect student performance on state tests that were for the first time aligned to more challenging learning standards known as the Common Core. But Weiner later added that the "constant emphasis on testing in schools has created nothing but trouble" and even suggested that Bloomberg helped "fudge" the scores at top-performing schools for political gain. "There was a spate of press conferences about how amazing schools were doing that were later discredited when those numbers came crashing back to Earth," Weiner said.
July 25, 2013
Weiner evades issue dealing with sexual misconduct in schools
This week's Anthony Weiner sex scandal had an odd side effect for the education policy debate in the mayor's race. It caused AFT President Randi Weingarten to raise an issue that has been a thorn in the union's side. "So how can Anthony run for Mayor, when a teacher for the same conduct would be fired," Weingarten said in a tweet yesterday. She was referring to a push to tighten punishments for teachers found guilty of inappropriate behavior that the union here has opposed. Since 2007, the city has been unable to fire nearly 100 people working in schools for a variety of sexual indiscretions that range from verbal abuse to physical contact, according to the Daily News. It’s a tiny fraction of one percent of the city’s 80,000-plus school staff, but a group of anti-union advocates have tried to make the issue a question in the mayor's race, asking candidates if they support giving the city more power to fire people for sexual indiscretions. Weiner is one of the candidates who hasn't responded to a questionairre by the advocacy group pushing candidates to take a position on tightening the rules and his spokeswoman did not respond to GothamSchools' questions. Getting caught for sending lewd pictures of himself to women is the type of behavior that would put Weiner in the city's crosshairs if he were a teacher.
July 24, 2013
Bloomberg critics release education roadmap for next mayor
A coalition of education advocates who have opposed Mayor Bloomberg's education policies have released their suggestions for the next mayor. The report, from the A+NYC coalition, offers a preview of priorities that might reign should one of Bloomberg's education critics take his place at City Hall: more arts and physical education, investing in community schools, shifting discipline authority from the New York Police Department officers in schools to the principals, and an overhaul of the city's accountability system for schools to place less emphasis on test scores. But while leading Democratic mayoral candidates, including Christine Quinn, John Liu, Bill de Blasio and Bill Thompson, helped launch the week-long bus tour in March that led to the report, this morning, the recommendations received a more tepid response. When this post went to press, Quinn and de Blasio had yet to release statements. Even Thompson, the candidate who has received the endorsement of Bloomberg's largest education critic, the teachers union, didn't send a statement until this afternoon. (The statement did, however, vow to "implement these ideas.") The relatively slow responses might stem from the fact that, with the United Federation of Teachers' endorsement already made, to Thompson, the candidates are focusing less attention on education.
June 12, 2013
Liu stands his ground, Weiner impresses in charter-led forum
Former congressman and mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner poses with a parent and student from Girls Prep Bronx at a forum led by charter school parents Tuesday night. Many parents gave Weiner a favorable review. Some mayoral candidates who have been critical of charter schools avoided uncomfortable questions by skipping a forum hosted by charter school advocates Tuesday night. But Comptroller John Liu not only showed up but said he would issue a potentially crippling blow to the charter sector if he becomes mayor. Liu said he would charge rent to charter schools that occupy space in city buildings, reversing a Bloomberg administration policy of awarding unused space in school buildings to charter schools that want to operate there. The policy has allowed the city's charter sector to flourish. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former congressman Anthony Weiner — who emerged as the audience's clear favorites — both said they would not consider charging rent, something that some critics of charter schools want the next mayor to do. "The model of charter schools is in part based on not paying rent," Quinn said. "So if you say you're going to pay rent, then you're not going to have charters."
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