Posts from Chris Arp
August 1, 2011
The Mabel Barrett Fitzgerald Day Care Center sits within the Amsterdam Houses public housing complex, recently the site of a sweeping drug bust. A few blocks away, however, glitzy Lincoln Center is flanked by some of the most expensive apartments in Manhattan.
The location provides rich field trip opportunities for the Fitzgerald program, which this year received city funding to serve 58 low-income children. But now the center’s zip code could take a toll on its budget.
The threat comes from the funding structure underlying EarlyLearn, the Administration for Children Services’ ambitious reform of the city’s public daycare system. This summer, ACS is requiring that all public centers, including Fitzgerald, submit applications showing why they deserve continued funding, and next spring, some programs will learn that they have not made the cut.
The evaluation process will focus on quality. But it will also take into account something outside centers’ control: their address.
Under EarlyLearn, the number of city-funded daycare seats across the city will drop, and ACS plans to allot a larger portion of the remaining seats to neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of needy families. To assess need, ACS is looking primarily at the poverty level in the zip code where each center is located. That means that centers in high-poverty zip codes stand a greater chance of receiving continued funding, while the number of slots in more affluent neighborhoods could decrease sharply.
Childcare experts and center directors say this approach could shut out poor New Yorkers who live in relatively affluent areas. In particular, they say, residents of some housing projects are at risk of being left without the childcare on which they’ve come to rely. (more…)
July 18, 2011
On a recent morning at Stagg Street Center for Children, in Williamsburg, a class of 4-year-olds put up an abstract, angular structure in the first-floor art gallery. The were inspired by Louise Nevelson’s “Sky Cathedral,” which they had seen on a recent trip to MOMA. Later, that same class sculpted in clay with a visiting artist, while a portable kiln warmed up behind them.
For more than four decades, Larry Provette, Stagg Street’s director, has provided rich, arts-focused experiences for low-income children in his neighborhood. But he fears that Stagg Street might not be around much longer.
That’s because a city initiative to boost early childhood education is requiring every publicly funded daycare center, from mom-and-pop operations working out of apartments to larger centers housed in city facilities, to prove that they are worthy of city funding. Directors welcomed the news late last week that their deadline to do so has been pushed back a month, to Sept. 12.
That deadline is for the first step in an ambitious overhaul, called EarlyLearn, of the city’s public daycare system. Under EarlyLearn, the city’s 647 daycare programs and family care networks, which together served 51,766 children in 2010-2011, will have to meet higher academic and developmental standards starting in 2013. By September, all programs must reapply for approval from the Administration for Children’s Services, which funds and oversees them. The proposals must describe each center’s existing programs and outline how they will be updated to meet the new standards. ACS and the Department of Education, which will help review applications, plan to announce which centers will receive new contracts in March 2012. (more…)
June 29, 2011
The 89-year-old nave of Riverside Church reverberated with Bulldog spirit on Monday, as Manhattan’s Washington Irving High School held its graduation exercises.
The graduates, who filled the vast space with a unified toss of their caps at the ceremony’s conclusion, represented just a fraction of the students who started at Washington Irving four years ago. While graduation data for this year’s class is not yet available, last year Washington Irving’s 4-year graduation rate was just 55 percent, which was an increase from 2009, when its rate was the lowest in the city among traditional high schools. The city has dramatically reduced the school’s size in recent years in an effort to turn performance around.
But the school’s struggles barely registered at graduation, where a handful of top students were recognized for their achievements. (more…)
June 24, 2011
The claim might sound like a stretch coming from a 18-year-old high school student in the midst of preparing for SAT subject tests and Advanced Placement courses. But Ahmed has interests that span far beyond the classroom.
This summer, Ahmed has his sights set on launching a technology blog that focuses on open-source programming. “Look at Firefox, where you had a ton of people working because they had passion,” he said, referring to the popular open-source web browser. “If you work for passion, it adds another level of sincerity to what you are doing.”
Ahmed’s passion has taken him to the top of his class at Hillcrest High School in Queens, where he will be a senior — taking four AP courses — in September. New Visions, the network that works with Hillcrest, recognized Ahmed by supporting his bid for the prestigious Annenberg Scholarship, which will provide a full ride to the college of his choice. (Last year’s winner, Karina Melendez, is headed to Columbia University this fall.)
Ahmed attributes his success in part to a habit of hard work that he learned in British-style schools in Bangladesh, where he lived until 2009. But in conversation it becomes immediately clear that Ahmed is motivated, above all else, by a wide-ranging curiosity. (more…)
June 15, 2011
Members of the Community Education Council for District 1 prepared for a meeting last night with Chancellor Dennis Walcott by compiling a 6-page list of questions about the most pressing issues facing the Lower East Side school district. They got few answers.
The council’s questions addressed space allocation in local school buildings, the implementation of new “common core” standards, and District 1′s unique all-lottery enrollment model, among other issues.
Their questions went largely unanswered in part because of a scheduling mishap: Walcott told the council on Monday that he would leave the meeting early so he could celebrate his daughter’s birthday. Having billed the meeting as a town hall conversation with the chancellor, the council decided to devote the entire hour to public comment instead of their own questions, according to Lisa Donlan, its president. About a dozen people asked the chancellor questions that were mostly personal, rather than policy-oriented.
Donlan said the Department of Education still could have addressed the council’s concerns more fully. Department officials came to the meeting with a 2-page response to their questions, which had been submitted earlier in the week.
“Clearly this was not a good faith effort to answer the CEC’s questions,” Donlan said.
The council’s questions and the department’s response are below. (more…)
June 13, 2011
Mayor Bloomberg announced a plan to move at least one charter school out of its home inside a district school building today. But the plan does not involve a change in the legal battle that the city faces over its decision to grant space to some charter schools.
Instead, the DREAM Charter School will move out of a district school building and into a new space in East Harlem that it will share with 90 new New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) apartments.
The new building, an $85 million project that will replace a parking lot connected to the Washington Houses, is being constructed through a mix of private and public dollars.
Of the public dollars, $32.5 million will come from a Department of Education program that provides matching grants to help build facilities for charter schools, which are publicly funded but receive no direct state support for facilities expenses and are not guaranteed public space.
Another nearly $30 million will come from housing development funds.
“NYCHA properties happen to have pockets of a scarce and really valuable resource in our city: underutilized land,” Bloomberg said at a press conference today announcing the deal. (more…)
June 10, 2011
The head of the city’s principal training academy has an unprecedented line on her resume: she has worked as a principal before.
Irma Zardoya, who was principal of The Bilingual School in the Bronx for nine years in the 1980s and served as a district leader for many years after that, replaced Sandra Stein as CEO of the city’s Leadership Academy last month.
Stein, who had led the academy since 2005, came to the position from Baruch College, where she wrote about principal training and created its Aspiring Leaders Program. Stein’s predecessor, Robert Knowling, came from the corporate world.
In an interview at the Leadership Academy’s headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, Zardoya said that she doesn’t have immediate plans to change the content or aim of the academy. But she is zeroing in on one goal that might separate her from her predecessors. She wants to work on building new principals’ relationships with other administrators in their districts.
“Everyone needs to be responsible for a [new principal’s] success, so that when the person is placed they are not lonely, so that the superintendent is aware of who this person is,” she said.
The Bloomberg administration created the New York City Leadership Academy and its Aspiring Principals Program in 2003 to train administrators for service under former Chancellor Joel Klein. The original idea of the academy, which had former General Electric C.E.O. Jack Welch on its original advisory board, was to apply leadership principles from the corporate world to education.
The academy’s most recent graduating class made up 23 percent of first-year principals this school year. (more…)
June 7, 2011
Chancellor Dennis Walcott met the parents last night at a panel session with PTA leaders and parent coordinators that gave him a chance to demonstrate his oft-stated commitment to community outreach.
Walcott also previewed a new survey, called the Chancellor’s Family Feedback Form, that he said will be released later this month.
A flier handed out to parents describes the survey as an opportunity to “Tell us what information about your child is important to you and how you’d like to get it.” The flier advertises a web site for the survey, FamilyFeedback.org, which is not yet live.
Asked for more detailed information, a Department of Education spokeswoman said that the survey is still being developed.
The announcement came as several attendees complained to Walcott about the challenges of getting a response from school officials. “What resources do parents have when principals don’t respond?” one woman said.
“What’s the chain of command here if we have a problem?” asked another attendee. (more…)
June 1, 2011
The president of the NAACP’s New York chapter kept her word to meet with angry charter school parents today — after 20 of them appeared at her Midtown office.
The parents traveled to president Hazel Dukes’ office this morning, four days after a large rally against the civil rights group’s involvement in a lawsuit that could negatively affect several charter schools.
A day before the rally, Dukes told GothamSchools, ”Any parent that wants to meet with me, I will meet with them anywhere they want.” Since then, more than 2,000 parents have signed on to a letter asking for a meeting with Dukes, according to Kerri Lyon, a spokeswoman for the New York City Charter School Center.
But Ny Whitaker, whose child attends Harlem Success Academy, said she tried twice last week to schedule a meeting before telling an assistant that she would bring a group to Dukes’ office today. When the group arrived this morning, Dukes invited its members in for a conversation.
Dukes didn’t accede to the parents’ chief demand — that the NAACP withdraw from the lawsuit, which seeks to prevent 17 charter schools from opening, moving, or expanding. But parents in the meeting said Dukes signaled a willingness to engage them in dialogue. (more…)
May 25, 2011
East Harlem middle schoolers have teamed up with one of the city’s largest advertising firms to create a series of commercials against bullying.
A group of students from Isaac Newton Middle School screened their spots last night at the Midtown headquarters of advertising giant McCann Erickson (the same company that bought Sterling Cooper two seasons ago on the TV show “Mad Men”).
“Bullying is a topic that is all around the world, so we’re trying to send a message about it,” said Brandon Simmons, a seventh grader. Then he switched to pitch mode: “Our intended audience is students.”