School overcrowding, the failure of the Renewal school strategy, and my talk on Monday night in the Bronx

October 26, 2018

1. This week, we sent off our letter to the Mayor & Chancellor, signed by several prominent elected officials including Public Advocate Tish James and Manhattan BP Gale Brewer and more than fifty parent leaders, urging them to fully fund the need for seats in the new five-year capital plan.

Our press release is here and here’s an article in the Daily News about the letter, citing how there are now 575,000 students in overcrowded schools, according to the DOE’s own data. Aggressive steps are necessary to alleviate the worsening overcrowding that has overtaken our schools and deprived kids of an equitable chance to learn. We’re not letting up – please continue to send your emails to the Chancellor and Mayor by clicking here.

2. Today the NY Times reports on the disappointing results at the struggling Renewal schools. Since 2014, DOE has spent over $700 million on the Renewal program, growing the bureaucracy and adding lots of consultants and coaches, but doing very little to improve classroom conditions at these schools. This is despite the their repeated promises to parents and the NY State Education Department to “focus their efforts” on reducing class size at these schools – without allocating any dedicated funding or support to ensure this happens. Again this fall, they are making same empty promises in their Contract for Excellence briefings.

In testimony before the City Council and elsewhere, I have repeatedly criticized the strategies used in these schools and instead advocated that they should be capping class size at much lower levels- including at PS 111, the school the NY Times article focuses upon. Instead of lowering class sizes at PS 111, class sizes increased sharply in the fall of 2015 , so much that Kindergarten class sizes of 27 actually violated the union class size cap.

In our testimony last year, we again pointed out that nearly half of the Renewal schools failed to lower class size by even one student per class since 2014, and in about two thirds, there continued to be maximum class sizes of 30 or more, including at PS 50 Vito Marcantonio in E. Harlem, which the DOE closed at the end of last year.

We also showed that in the Renewal schools that did offer smaller classes, like PS 15 in lower Manhattan, where class sizes averaged 15.7, there was a statistically higher chance of success. PS 15 moved off the Renewal list and now has the second highest positive impact of any elementary school in the city, according to DOE, when achievement is adjusted for the need level of its students.

Here is my account of the tragic story of DOE’s refusal to do what’s obvious and right by kids (and teachers) at these schools. Sadly, whether our new Chancellor is prepared to listen any better to common sense and research now that the previous strategy has failed is in real doubt.

3. On Monday night, I will be speaking at Manhattan College in Riverdale on the importance of class size, school overcrowding and the failure of the DOE to address these issues with the seriousness that NYC children need and deserve, as well as our lawsuit to force them to do so:

Date: Monday, October 29th
6:30 PM
Place: Hayden Hall–Room 100; 4513 Manhattan College Parkway–Bx 10471 (map here.)

Cosponsored by the Manhattan College Department of Education and Concerned Citizens For Change

A flyer is here. Please come if you can! thanks, Leonie

Categories Newsletters, Uncategorized | Tags: | Posted on November 10, 2018

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