How to take action on school shootings, and news from a wild 24 hours for NYC schools

The awful shootings at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida have aroused much sorrow, anger and a greater awareness of the need to better protect children so that this sort of event never happens again. Class Size Matters, along with the Network for Public Education and many other groups, is helping to organize protests against gun violence to take place at schools all over the nation on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine shootings. You can organize a walk-out at your school, or a hands-around-your-school event at drop-off, as we did in NYC a few years back, or whatever your school community prefers. But please take the pledge at the NPE website to do something, and after you’ve planned your event, enter it into the form here. If you’re part of an organization that would like to join our larger coalition, email with the name of your organization and your logo. In addition, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas are holding marches all over the nation on March 24; more info on how you can join them here.

If you live in New York City, you know that we’ve had a wild ride during the last 24 hours. Last night the news broke that the Superintendent of Miami-Dade schools, Alberto Carvalho, had been selected by the mayor to be our next Chancellor, but then this morning Carvalho changed his mind. I think most of us would agree with the new chair of the NYC Council Education committee Mark Treyger, who said, “The best decisions are the most informed decisions…you have to involve critical stakeholders.” As Diane Ravitch asked, Isn’t it time that that Mayor de Blasio institute an open, transparent process, with parents and educators involved in the decision?

Also last night, the Panel for Education Policy voted to close ten schools, after a raucous meeting lasting seven hours, filled with the protests of hundreds of teachers, students and parents. Only two schools were spared, PS/IS 42 and MS 53, both in Queens, with the vote postponed on one other school, the High School for Health Careers and Sciences in Manhattan. The long evening was a heartbreaking experience that we lived through repeatedly during the previous administration, and hoped would never happen again.

Five of the schools slated for closure are Renewal schools, all of which the DOE had promised the state to reduce class size in 2014. Yet of the five schools to be closed, all continued to have maximum class sizes of 30 or more this year. In half of Renewal schools in which class sizes were reduced, like PS 15 in Manhattan, results have strongly improved. In fact, we found a significant correlation between the average class size of Renewal schools and their impact on student achievement.

See my testimony to the City Council on this point, and about how the DOE has botched its policies to improve these schools. You can also check out my summary of some of the other issues that came up during Tuesday’s Council hearings, including the Chancellor’s inconsistent and often arbitrary rationales for putting certain schools in the Renewal program in the first place, and deciding which schools to close.

Among the other non-Renewal schools that the PEP voted to close last night was PS 25 Eubie Blake in Brooklyn — despite the fact that PS 25 not only provides truly small classes to its high needs students, but also, according to the DOE’s own analysis, has the fourth highest positive impact on student achievement of any of the 633 elementary schools in the city. More on this here.

Who knows if and when we will get a new Chancellor. But when we do, let’s hope the person chosen will be someone who is better at listening to parents, supporting students and teachers, and strengthening our public schools.

Categories News, Newsletters, Recent Newsletters, Updates | Tags: | Posted on March 1, 2018

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