now hiring

More men of color are teaching in New York City classrooms as city works to boost overall retention and recruitment

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
NYC Men Teach staffer Chimere Stephens moderated a discussion between prospective teachers and retired principals in June 2016

The number of male teachers of color entering New York City classrooms rose this school year, but there is still a long way to go before the teaching force matches the demographics of the city’s students.

The Department of Education hired 600 men of color to teach this school year — up by about 100 over the previous year. Thanks in part to efforts like NYC Men Teach, a recruitment and training initiative spearheaded by Mayor Bill de Blasio, roughly 10 percent of all teachers hired this year were men who are black, Hispanic or Asian. That’s an increase of two percentage points — or 25 percent — over 2015.

A majority of New York City students — about 85 percent — are nonwhite. Of that, more than 40 percent are male. Research has shown that teachers of color often have higher expectations of nonwhite students and help serve as role models.

A Department of Education official said another 200 candidates are expected to be brought into classrooms next year through NYC Men Teach — a $16 million initiative. It’s unclear whether the city will reach its goal of hiring 1,000 men of color by 2018.

“We are making steady progress,” Will Mantell, a DOE spokesman, wrote in an email.

The department is also working on overall recruitment and retention, according to testimony at a City Council Education Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Though New York City has not experienced the crunch felt in other school districts across the country, the DOE hasn’t been immune to national teacher shortages in critical areas such as bilingual education and STEM — science, technology, engineering and math.

Amy Way, who helps oversee teacher recruitment efforts at the DOE, said recent applicant pools are “strong,” but the city has seen a decline in applicants who are recent graduates of education schools.

“That is a concern for us,” she said. “We are engaging with schools of education and other partners to really look at that longer-term pipeline and how we can build interest.”

With a retention rate of more than 93 percent year-over-year, New York City beats national averages. Still, about 35 percent of teachers leave within the first five years, Way said.

Of the more than 5,500 local teachers who left the profession last year, a majority resigned, according to the United Federation of Teachers.

“In exit interviews, these educators cited a variety of reasons, but first and foremost they found the difficult working conditions and lack of support too overwhelming,” Karen Alford, vice president of elementary education for the union, said in a prepared statement.

City Council members who are also former educators and spoke at the hearing said large class sizes are a major reason why city teachers leave. Councilman Mark Treyger, who taught at Brooklyn’s New Utrecht High School for eight years, said teachers need more time to collaborate — and that principals should be freed up from paperwork to allow them more time to provide feedback on each teacher’s performance.

Among other solutions proposed: new residency programs for teachers in training and eliminating bureaucratic hurdles in the state certification process.

Way said the city has focused on creating alternative pathways to becoming a teacher and offering financial incentives for those pursuing credentials in high-need areas.

“While we recognize there are still challenges in this area, we are on the right track,” she said.

The New Chancellor

Tell us: What should the new chancellor, Richard Carranza, know about New York City schools?

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
A student at P.S. 69 Journey Prep in the Bronx paints a picture. The school uses a Reggio Emilia approach and is in the city's Showcase Schools program.

In a few short weeks, Richard Carranza will take over the nation’s largest school system as chancellor of New York City’s public schools.

Carranza, who has never before worked east of the Mississippi, will have to get up to speed quickly on a new city with unfamiliar challenges. The best people to guide him in this endeavor: New Yorkers who understand the city in its complexity.

So we want to hear from you: What does Carranza need to know about the city, its schools, and you to help him as he gets started April 2. Please fill out the survey below; we’ll collect your responses and share them with our readers and Carranza himself.

The deadline is March 23.

buses or bust?

Mayor Duggan says bus plan encourages cooperation. Detroit school board committee wants more details.

PHOTO: Denver Post file
Fourth-graders Kintan Surghani, left, and Rachel Anderson laugh out the school bus window at Mitchell Elementary School in Golden.

Detroit’s school superintendent is asking for more information about the mayor’s initiative to create a joint bus route for charter and district students after realizing the costs could be higher than the district anticipated.

District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a school board subcommittee Friday that he thought the original cost to the district was estimated to be around $25,000 total. Instead, he said it could cost the district roughly between $75,000 and a maximum of $125,000 for their five schools on the loop.

“I think there was a misunderstanding….” Vitti said. “I think this needs a deeper review…The understanding was that it would be $25,000 for all schools. Now, there are ongoing conversations about it being $15,000 to $25,000 for each individual school.”

The bus loop connecting charter and district schools was announced earlier this month by Mayor Mike Duggan as a way to draw kids back from the suburbs.

Duggan’s bus loop proposal is based on one that operates in Denver that would travel a circuit in certain neighborhoods, picking up students on designated street corners and dropping them off at both district and charter schools.

The bus routes — which Duggan said would be funded by philanthropy, the schools and the city — could even service afterschool programs that the schools on the bus route could work together to create.

In concept, the finance committee was not opposed to the idea. But despite two-thirds of the cost being covered and splitting the remaining third with charters, they were worried enough about the increased costs that they voted not to recommend approval of the agreement to the full board.  

Vitti said when he saw the draft plan, the higher price made him question whether the loop would be worth it.

“If it was $25,000, it would be an easier decision,” he said.

To better understand the costs and benefits and to ultimately decide, Vitti said he needs more data, which will take a few weeks. 

Alexis Wiley, Duggan’s chief of staff, said the district’s hesitation was a sign they were performing their due diligence before agreeing to the plan.

“I’m not at all deterred by this,” Wiley said. She said the district, charters, and city officials have met twice, and are “working in the same direction, so that we eliminate as many barriers as we can.”

Duggan told a crowd earlier this month at the State of the City address that the bus loop was an effort to grab the city’s children – some 32,500 – back from suburban schools.

Transportation is often cited as one of the reasons children leave the city’s schools and go to other districts, and charter leaders have said they support the bus loop because they believe it will make it easier for students to attend their schools.

But some board members had doubts that the bus loop would be enough to bring those kids back, and were concerned about giving charters an advantage in their competition against the district to increase enrollment.

“I don’t know if transportation would be why these parents send their kids outside of the district,” Angelique Peterson-Mayberry said. “If we could find out some of the reasons why, it would add to the validity” of implementing the bus loop.

Board member LaMar Lemmons echoed other members’ concerns on the impact of the transportation plan, and said many parents left the district because of the poor quality of schools under emergency management, not transportation.

“All those years in emergency management, that drove parents to seek alternatives, as well as charters,” he said. “I’m hesitant to form an unholy alliance with the charters for something like this.”