rally reprisal

For a third year in a row, pro-charter groups plan large political rally

Parents and students at a charter school march across the Brooklyn Bridge last year.

The political force that marched across Brooklyn Bridge last fall, and later helped topple Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to stunt New York City charter school growth, is mounting a new battle.

Calling itself the “Coalition for Education Equality,” a group led by the pro-charter Families for Excellent Schools announced they will stage a large education rally on Oct. 2 at Foley Square in Lower Manhattan. It’s the fourth such event held by charter school organizers since 2012 and the latest effort by the sector to flex its political muscle.

Organizers of next week’s rally insisted that the message isn’t as much about promoting charter school growth as it is about bringing attention to dozens of schools where few students are meeting reading and math proficiency.

“Our members urgently demand access to excellent schools, district or charter, for all New York City kids,” FES CEO Jeremiah Kittredge said in a statement.

But the rally, estimated to exceed 5,000, is still likely to consist primarily of parents, students and teachers from charter schools that tend to belong to charter management organizations, some of which are awaiting approval to open more schools next year. Two charter networks expected to play a central role at the rallies, Achievement First and Success Academy, helped kickstart a social media campaign that is accompanying next week’s event; both networks are planning to add new schools in the 2015-2016 school year.

FES, which formed in 2011, has emerged as the charter school sector’s major parent-organizing entity. Backed by a well-heeled board and funded with grants from the Walton Foundation, the group last year organized a rally in Albany and mounted a multimillion dollar advertising campaign attacking de Blasio after he blocked three Success schools from opening or expanding. Less than four weeks after the rally took place, lawmakers passed legislation that guaranteed access to facilities for Success and new charters in New York City.

This year’s event and related campaign doesn’t appear to offer any policy prescriptions for how to improve schools. But FES is among the advocates that in recent weeks have criticized the de Blasio administration for its delay in implementing a plan for the city’s struggling schools.

Chalkbeat reported this week that principals of low-performing schools are still unclear on details of the city’s plan, nearly three weeks into the school year. Kittredge said parents at the rally would seize on the issue, noting a report that highlighted hundreds of schools where nine out of ten students were not proficient on state reading and math tests. “Parents are looking for bolder leadership to address the city’s failing schools crisis,” he said.

But it could also be the first step in an effort to raise or eliminate a state limit on charter schools. As few as 17 city charter schools will be permitted to open under a state cap by the end of the year, and next year’s state budget negotiations is likely to include a tense debate over the issue.

Next week’s rally will be the fourth installment in what has been a series of demonstrations by the city’s well-coordinated charter school sector. But many charter schools have sat out of the rallies, revealing deep tensions in the sector between larger networks seeking to expand and smaller, independent schools. Those divisions widened last year after a group of independent charter schools publicly sided with de Blasio by declining to participate in an Albany rally organized by FES and Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz during state budget negotiations.

It’s unclear if the charter sector is any more united this year. A spokesman representing the smaller charter schools declined to comment on the rally, but emphasized their close ties to City Hall in a statement.

“Make no mistake, every child deserves a high-quality, well-rounded education—every serious stakeholder in our City agrees on that,” said the spokesperson, Rafiq Kalad Id-Din, who runs Teaching Firms of America Professional Preparatory Charter in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “Our members are on the ground working hard to deliver this promise and the mayor continues to seek our input on how to expand great options for kids. Let’s focus on making sure that all public schools—district and charter—have the public support they need to excel.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.