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Raising Our Voices in Albany for Great Schools

In February, 200 public school parents from communities across New York City traveled to the State Capital in Albany for a special panel co-sponsored by State Senator Kevin Parker and StudentsFirstNY on the need for high-quality school options in our communities.

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The Failure of 'Renewal Schools'

By Aradany Vargas, a public school parent at P.S. 149 Sojourner Truth

My daughter is a third-grader in one of Mayor de Blasio’s so-called Renewal Schools in Harlem. When I first heard about the program, I was hopeful: P.S. 149 needed attention and change to become the kind of school I wanted for my daughter. But, as a parent, I have not seen much renewal.

Since the program started, enrollment at P.S. 149 has dropped 25 percent. For the kids who have stayed, scores haven’t improved much – students passing the English Language Arts exam has gone from 5 percent in 2014 to 13 percent in 2017. The math pass rate has dropped from 8 percent to 5 percent over the same time. So despite all the resources the Department of Education claims to have pumped into our school, fewer students are doing math at grade level.

Read the full oped in the Gotham Gazette

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What NYC schools need in the next schools chancellor

By Jenny Sedlis, Executive Director of StudentsFirstNY

With the news that Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña is retiring, Mayor de Blasio says he is looking for a new chancellor to follow the blueprint he has laid out during his first four years in office. That would be a mistake.

Given the challenges our city schools continue to face, he’d be wise to look for someone willing to challenge his assumptions and chart a very different course.

Read the full oped in the New York Post.

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Bloomberg Was Right. Time for De Blasio to Start Closing New York City’s Worst Schools and Opening Better Ones

By Jenny Sedlis, Executive Director of StudentsFirstNY

Three years ago, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gave a speech at the Coalition School for Social Change in East Harlem to announce what he called “a bold new plan for turning around schools that are struggling in this city, for not giving up on them — in fact, giving them what they need to succeed.” The mayor criticized his predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for closing schools like the Coalition School.

This week, de Blasio announced he will now close the Coalition School and eight others in his Renewal Schools program after spending more than half a billion dollars trying to fix them. The mayor’s expensive school turnaround model has failed miserably, and kids have suffered. It’s time for the city Department of Education to admit reality, change course, and pursue evidence-based strategies that have proven successful in improving academic outcomes for children.

Read the full oped in The 74.

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Mr. Mayor, leave Medgar Evers College Preparatory School alone: The Department of Education should ditch its admission-reform plan

Charisse Smith is the mother of a ninth grader at Medgar Evers Preparatory School and a senior organizer with StudentsFirstNY, an education reform organization

As a parent of a student at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School, I was outraged to hear that Mayor de Blasio wants to water down the admissions process at our school. Medgar Evers Prep is a Crown Heights oasis for families from over 61 zip codes. The mayor should be trying to replicate this school’s success in every district in the city, but instead, he keeps interfering with what’s working. It’s time for him to get out of our way and get to work fixing schools that need the help.

I chose Medgar Evers for my son because the school is a beacon for families like ours. It’s one of the only high-performing schools in the city where 99% of students are minority. The student body is 88% African American, 71% are from low-income families, and test scores are off the charts, with 84% of the student body taking at least a few of the over 22 AP classes that are offered.

Read the full oped in the New York Daily News.

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Parents Don’t Want to Take a Chance on Unwanted Teachers

By DeWayne Murreld, father of a high school junior and a Senior Parent Organizer for StudentsFirstNY, a leading education reform organization.

This past week, I waited over two hours at Mayor de Blasio’s town hall in Brownsville to ask an important question about my son’s school. For kids in our neighborhood, a quality education can mean the difference between life or death. So I would have waited all night to get a straight answer from the Mayor. But when I finally got to the microphone, I could barely get my question out before he dismissed me. I asked the Mayor to make a commitment that he wouldn’t send unwanted teachers into classrooms at my son’s school, but Mayor de Blasio made it clear that kids in our neighborhood aren’t his priority.

Instead of listening to our concerns, the Mayor defended his plan to put unwanted teachers back into classrooms. Right now, there are close to 800 of these unwanted teachers. They’re not assigned to full-time positions because no principal wants to hire them, but the Mayor is “solving” that problem by forcing principals to take them anyway.

Read the full oped in King County Politics.

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Where Are the Advocates as NYC Sends 100s of Troubled Teachers Into Struggling Schools?

By Chris Stewart, the CEO of the Wayfinder Foundation, a former elected member of Minneapolis’s Board of Education, and a 2014 Bush Fellow.

Over a decade ago, New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and its most powerful union boss, Randi Weingarten, had a showdown over the handling of teachers who weren’t needed by the system, but who were contractually entitled to a job.

The labor-management clash resulted in a deal that allowed larger numbers of unwanted teachers to enter a man-made lake of incompetence bureaucratically labeled the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR). Sending teachers to the ATR is something like sending baseball players to minor league teams without the bats, gloves, balls, grass, plates, fans, coaches, uniforms, bleachers, training camps, or practices.

Read the full oped in The 74.

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Don’t force a dud teacher on my kid: The mayor's decision to override principals will hurt families like mine

By Nicole Thomas, the parent of a rising fifth-grader at PS 256.

As a mother, I try to do everything I can for my daughter. I make sure she eats well and works hard and I’m involved in her education. I do my part, and when I drop her off at school, I want to know that the educators are doing theirs. I have to trust that the principal is picking the best teachers and holding them to high standards.

Last month, Mayor de Blasio made a decision that shatters the trust I have when I send my daughter to school. Principals across the city will no longer be able to select the teachers they want if they’re unable to fill a vacancy; instead, breaking a promise made by Chancellor Carmen Fariña, the city will force on the school an unwanted teacher from the Absent Teacher Reserve, or ATR.

Read the full oped in the New York Daily News.

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StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis Statement on Charter Deal Announcement

 

"Charters have been battling with the de Blasio administration for the last four years but thanks to Albany leaders, productive conversations led to an agreement that's good for all public school kids. Parents will have access to more school options and charter operators will get significant relief. Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan, Leader Klein and Speaker Heastie deserve credit for their work on behalf of all students."

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Public School Parents Deserve Transparency

By Devon Winston, a Bronx parent of a 2nd grader a P.S. 46. in the Fordham section.

When Bill de Blasio was Public Advocate, he talked a lot about transparency in government. Once, he even gave the NYC Department of Education a “D” in transparency for failing to give enough information to parents. Now that he’s living at Gracie Mansion, however, he doesn’t seem as concerned about families in underserved neighborhoods. I am fed up with Mayor de Blasio’s stonewalling – it’s time for him to provide basic information to parents about what’s really going on in our public schools.

Public school parents from across New York City are demanding answers from DOE. We have worked with StudentsFirstNY over the past 20 months to file Freedom of Information requests with City Hall, but de Blasio’s bureaucrats are ignoring us. We deserve to have our questions answered and we are fed up with the Mayor’s hypocritical stonewalling.

Read the full oped in The Bronx Chronicle.

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