Education

Rozic-Stavisky Bill Aimed At Diversity Boost For Gifted And Talented Program

Two Democratic state lawmakers on Thursday introduced a bill meant to boost diversity in the Gifted and Talented Program in New York City schools.

The measure was introduced amid a recommendation to scale back the program, which critics contend has largely benefited white and Asian students.

“All students deserve educational opportunities and it is my hope that by broadening access more students will enroll and benefit from accelerated school instruction,” Rozic said. “With the start of the new school year, our school system should take this opportunity to broaden the gateways for students and ensure that all New Yorkers have access to the educational services they deserve.”

Thursday was the first day of school for New York City students.

The bill would require all students before reaching third grade to be screened for the gifted and talented program, unless their parent or guardian opts out.

Rozic and Stavisky earlier this week sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio in support of the program.

“New York City’s Gifted and Talented Program allows for children who benefit from an accelerated learning experience an opportunity to be challenged in the classroom. This legislation would increase diversity throughout the Gifted and Talented Program and include more students from under-represented populations,” Stavisky said.

“This bill would ensure any child with the ability to excel has the opportunity to flourish and reach their full potential.”

Elia To Step Down At State Education Next Month

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia next month will step down from the post she has held since 2015, her office confirmed on Monday.

Elia made the surprise announcement earlier in the day a meeting of the Board of Regents.

An SED spokeswoman said Elia was leaving to “pursue another professional opportunity.”

Elia had previously served as the superintendent of schools in Hillsborough County, Florida and is a native of western New York.

At a news conference on Monday afternoon, Elia said she was leaving effective Aug. 31 for a job at a national education policy organization that focuses on turning around troubled schools. She declined to name the organization.

Elia took office amid a protracted fight in New York education policy circles over teacher evaluations and charter schools, navigating a complex and heated battle.

“I think for a period of time we were in a stalemate, not really focused on what we needed to do to support students,” she said. “I think by calming the waters, understanding the importance of teacher voice in everything that we do, I think that’s one of the things I’m most proud of.”

Ninety-Eight Percent Of School Districts Approve Budgets

The vast majority of school districts on Tuesday approved their proposed budgets, a pass rate of 98 percent, according to the New York State United Teachers union.

“Parents and community members showed their commitment to strong public education by resoundingly approving school budgets statewide in near-unanimous fashion yet again and electing to school boards educators dedicated to serving their area’s students,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “At a time when resources have been limited, it has never been more important for voters to stay engaged in and support our public school students and their dedicated teachers.”

At the same time, 29 NYSUT members were elected to school board seats.

The review by the union found of the 576 school budgets put before voters, only 10 were defeated. The pass rate for school district budgets has been around 98 percent for the last five years as districts set spending plans within a limit on how much they can raise in property tax levies.

Eight of the 10 budgets that were defeated had sought to override the tax cap.

“While we were disappointed the tax cap was made permanent earlier this year, NYSUT will not stop fighting for changes to this law to ensure schools are receiving the resources they need to thrive,” Pallotta said.

Bar Association Report Reviews School-To-Prison Pipeline

A report released on Wednesday by the state Bar Association reviews the connection between student discipline and the criminal justice system.

The report specifically reviewed the effect of the student suspension statute and its impact on students such as lower academic achievement, truancy, dropout rates and how they eventually reach contact with the juvenile justice system.

The report found there are impacts on students of color when suspended, as well as students with disabilities and LGBTQ students. Students who suspended are three times more likely to be in contact with the criminal justice or juvenile justice system and twice as likely to drop out of school.

“NYSBA’s Task Force on the School to Prison Pipeline was established to study relevant issues, information, law and current practices with respect to school discipline, outline appropriate disciplinary sanctions and restorative justice alternatives including youth courts, and recommend discipline and restorative justice best practices for school districts,” said NYSBA President Michael Miller.

“The school to prison pipeline pushes schoolchildren, especially at-risk youth, out of the classroom and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems,” Miller added. “As more school districts utilize the recommendations for treating student misconduct that are outlined in this excellent report, we believe that this disturbing trend will be diminished.”

School to Prison Pipeline House Approved (004) by Nick Reisman on Scribd

SED: Computer-Based Testing To Resume

Computer-based examinations for students in grades 5 and 8 will continue on Thursday after service disruptions hindered the ability of schools to take the tests, the State Education Department announced.

At the same time, education officials will be staggering testing in certain grades in order to limit the number of students accessing the system at the same.

Meanwhile, paper examinations will be made available for schools as an alternative.

The company that provided the computer-based tests, Questar Assessment, Inc., diagnosed the problems that led to the problems this week and has instituted changes to address the issue.

“There is no excuse for the difficulties experienced by schools administering computer-based testing,” Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said.

“We are holding Questar accountable for its failure to deliver the services required in our contract with them. In the past 30 hours, we have worked diligently to fix the system so we can provide a successful experience for all users. Based on evaluations and assurances by ETS and Microsoft, we are confident testing can resume tomorrow without the issues experienced earlier this week. We thank our districts and schools for their incredible support and patience as we work to implement computer-based testing.”

Questar and its parent company ETS confirmed database servers ran out of free memory due to the number of transactions occurring on servers, which ultimately led to disruptions of testing for English Language Arts on Tuesday.

Suburban School Districts Join Forces

A coalition of school districts from the New York City suburbs are forming a coalition to push for more equity in school funding in this year’s state budget.

The districts — known as the Harmed Suburban Five coalition — are Ossining Union Free School District, Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District, Glen Cove City School District, Riverhead Central School District and Westbury Union Free School District.

The coalition wants 80 percent of the Foundation Aid funding, which is the state average, as the individual districts receive less than 50 percent of the Foundation Aid given to them.

The districts say they’ve been negatively affected by a shortage in state funding that’s been coupled with a 15 percent increase in student enrollment as well as a 30 percent increase in students who are also English language learners. At the same time, there’s been a 25 percent drop in the combined wealth ratio, which measures a communities wealth.

Nearly half of the student population at these districts applies for three-year free or reduced price lunch.

“Our schools are suffering from the lack of adequate funding, and our children are paying the price. The state needs to give the school district the aid it deserves so that our kids don’t have to lose the resources they need and the classes they love,” said Beata Mione, an Ossining parent.

Sources: Nolan Departing Ed Committee Chair Post

Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, an outspoken and passionate Queens Democrat, will be departing the Education Committee chairmanship to take the position as deputy speaker in the coming session, multiple sources at the state Capitol confirm.

Nolan will be replaced as Education Committee chair – a position she has held since 2006 and was given by former Speaker Sheldon Silver – by Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, who, like the current speaker, Carl Heastie, is a Bronx Democrat.

Nolan and Heastie memorably clashed back in 2015 when they both vied for the speakership after Silver was forced to give it up due to the fact that he was facing federal corruption charges. Nolan was the only woman in the running for the position, and she stuck it out longer than the other contenders, even as it became increasingly clear that Heastie was quickly locking up the support necessary to win the leadership fight.

In the end, however, Nolan conceded, noting the historic nature of both her candidacy and Heastie’s – he’s the first African American speaker – and said that she was gratified to “have put at least a scratch in the glass ceiling for women.”

Sources rejected the suggestion that Nolan’s departure from the Education Committee was due to some long-simmering feud between herself and Heastie, saying she had decided she had served long enough and wanted a break.

The change also comes as most committee chairs – and many leadership posts – are poised to lose the stipends they carry known in Albany parlance as “lulus” if the recommendation of the pay compensation commission goes through. But since the Education Committee position and the deputy speakership are in line to lose their lulus, it’s hard to see how Nolan might gain by this change.

Under the proposal, the Assembly Democrats would have only five posts that carry lulus: speaker, majority leader, speaker pro tempore, and the chairs of the Ways and Means and Codes committees. (That last one is the subject of much debate and speculation, as Ken Lovett reported this morning).

Also, as of last week, the commission’s proposal, which also would dramatically limit lawmakers’ ability to earn outside income, while boosting their salaries to make them the highest paid state legislators in the nation, is the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Government Justice Center.

This change in the Assembly Democrats’ line-up comes at a time when the Senate Education Committee will also be under new leadership. Incoming Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins recently announced Sen. Shelley Mayer, of Yonkers, would be taking the reigns of that committee after its current occupant, Republican Sen. Carl Marcellino, was defeated by James Gaughran in November as part of the blue wave that swept the GOP out of the majority.

Board Of Regents Wants $2.1B Boost In School Aid

The state Board of Regents on Monday called for a $2.1 billion hike in foundation aid for schools in the 2019-20 school year, a move applauded by education advocates.

“The Board of Regents and I believe that all children should have access to a high-quality education regardless of their race, where they live or where they go to school,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa said.

“The priorities and proposals put forth today build on the idea that every child in every school deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged; and they will ultimately allow the Department to implement programs to achieve this goal.”

The Regents outlined a package of goals for the foundation aid, including support for English language learners, career and technical education and money toward pre-kindergarten.

The two most largest items in the state budget are typically health care and education spending.

Typically state lawmakers propose funding for schools in line with what the Board of Regents has proposed, with the governor proposing a lower figure and negotiations producing a mid-range figure.

But education advocates this year are hopeful that a Democratic-controlled state Senate will nudge the ball forward on the school aid front.

“With the new reality in the New York State legislature, we hope that finally our students will receive the investment they have a right to by the state,” said the Alliance for Quality Education in a statement. “We urge the Governor to propose a budget that follows in the footsteps of the Board of Regents. We urge the Assembly and the Senate to be as adamant in the commitment to public schools and New York’s students as the Board of Regents has been. This year, the legislature must commit to a three year phase in of the Foundation Aid formula so the state can finally deliver on its obligation to provide ‘a sound basic education’ to all students.

SED Memo Outlines Opposition To Guns In Schools

The state Education Department in a memorandum released Thursday outlined its refusal to accept federal funds for the training, purchasing or storage of firearms in schools.

The Education Department’s rejection of federal funding comes as the federal government has floated the possibility of bolstering school security against mass shootings by, among other proposals, have creating grants for weaponry in schools.

“The Department is focused on promoting a relationship of trust, cultural responsiveness, and respect between schools and families; ensuring that schools are safe havens for students and their teachers, where they are free to learn and teach, to laugh, and continually grow together,” the SED memo, released by Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, states.

“There is nothing more important than the safety and security of our students, and we are committed to continuing to partner with you to advance social emotional learning and well-being to promote positive school climates. We simply cannot afford to use federal education dollars that are intended for teaching and learning to pay for weapons that will compromise our schools and communities.”

Department officials in a previous statement last month had rejected the initial idea of arming schools.

9 12 18.TitleIVFundsfor Firearms by Nick Reisman on Scribd

SED Says Too Much Money Went To Charter Schools, 3 School Districts

The State Education Department over-allocated $12 million to local education agencies, a move that largely impacted charter schools, Commissioner MaryEllen Elia on Friday announced.

The $12 million is nearly 8 percent of the overall $153 million allocated to local education agencies in the state.

The error led to 275 charter schools and three school districts receiving too much money, leading to under-allocations to 677 school districts and 100 Special Act schools.

“The State Education Department regrets this unfortunate error and any undue burden it may place on schools,” Elia said. “We are taking immediate steps to correct it and ensure it does not happen again, including strengthening our internal controls. We will do everything possible to reduce the impact for all schools, including to reimburse 99 percent of districts this year.”

The Education Department plans to reduce a portion of funding received through Tital IIA from each LEA that was overpaid in the 2017-18 school year for up to five years in order to recoup the funding. That is expected to minimize the burden on the impacted schools, the department said.

For some of the state’s largest school districts — Buffalo, Rochester, East Ramapo and Syracuse — they will be made whole over a two-year period. New York City will be re-paid over a four-year period.