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StudentsFirstNY Weekly Education News Roundup: September 30 to October 4, 2013.

In this week's education news: charter schools warn against Bill de Blasio, NYC schools begin to focus on science and math classes, and AP classes come to high-needs schools.

New York State Board of Regents President Critiques Bill de Blasio on Charter School Plan
New York Post // October 2, 2013

New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch is concerned about Bill de Blasio’s stance on charter schools. De Blasio has stated that he wants to charge rent for charter schools in public school buildings.

As reported by the New York Post, Tisch is a supporter of charter schools that expand choices for NYC families:

"Anything that you do that makes it prohibitive for charter schools to grow and thrive in New York City is not a great way to proceed," Tisch said. "I'm sure charter school operators are paying attention to campaign rhetoric."

She added: "I want New York to be a place where charter schools grow and thrive. Charter schools are public schools. Charter schools have been a valuable alternative to failing schools. They've been a valuable part of rebuilding public schools."

Mayor Bloomberg has provided free space to most of the 183 charters serving 70,000 students, allowing the schools to operate in city buildings alongside traditional public schools.

de Blasio's Charter School Rent Plan Would Likely Cause School Closures
WNYC // October 1, 2013

Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York City, wants to charge rent on charter schools who use space in public school buildings. With de Blasio leading in the polls, charter school operators are beginning to plan for life under a mayor that is hostile to their profession.

According to WNYC, many charter schools are worried about being able to stay open if de Blasio were to charge rent on their schools:

But charter operators, from the smallest to the largest, said paying rent would be devastating. The privately managed schools get state funds, per-pupil, for operations, not for facilities. And those that operate in New York City are required to be non-profit organizations.

Study Debunks Theory that Charter Schools Are Against Special Needs Students
SchoolBook // October 1, 2013

A new report found that NYC charter schools are less likely to have special needs students because these students are less likely to apply.

The report, prepared by the Manhattan Institute and the Center on Reinventing Public Education, found that 13.1 percent of charter school students receive special education services, compared with 16.5 percent of NYC public school students. According to SchoolBook, critics claim that charter schools are actively discouraging special needs students from applying to charter schools. The study found these claims to be inaccurate.

Marcus Winter, the author of the report, wrote the following about charter schools and special needs students:

"It may be, for example, that the students were enrolled in specialized pre-school programs that feed into district elementary schools," he wrote. "It is also possible that the parents didn't see the charter schools as an appropriate fit for their child, either because of their own assumptions or because they were discouraged from applying by counselors or by charter school staff."

Diane Ravitch's Dramatic U-Turn on Education Policy
City Journal // October 3, 2013

Diane Ravitch's new book blasts the school choice and charter school movement that is taking hold in various school districts across the country. For the majority of her career in education, Ravitch, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Education and a fellow at the Brookings Institute, primarily was an education scholar who published material that was fairly complementary to education reform.

According to a long article in City Journal, Ravitch's turn to embrace anti-reform advocates began in 2007, culminating in her book "Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools." Explaining her complete reversal in viewing America's education system, City Journal writes:

A few years ago, Ravitch grew so troubled about the purported threat to the public schools that she went through an amazing life change for a 73-year-old historian, whose previous career had been spent writing scholarly books. She reinvented herself as a vehement political activist. Once one of the conservative school-reform movement's most visible faces, Ravitch became the inspirational leader of a radical countermovement that is rising from the grass roots to oppose the corporate villains. Evoking the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King, Ravitch proclaims that the only answer to the corporate school-reform agenda is to "build a political movement so united and clear in its purpose that it would be heard in every state Capitol and even in Washington, D.C." The problem is that Ravitch's civil rights analogy is misplaced; her new ideological allies have proved themselves utterly incapable of raising the educational achievement of poor minority kids.

NYC Schools Are Beginning to Emphasize STEM Classes
NY Daily News // September 30, 2013

While New York State high school students struggle to pass the Regents physics exams - or don't take it at all - a group of middle school students from two NYC public middle schools are taking the test. And an astonishing 90 percent of the students are passing.

STEM subjects, science, technology, engineering and math, are becoming increasingly important in schools since these fields are full of jobs. According to the New York Daily News, some schools in NYC are working to prepare students for careers in science and math fields:

Each summer for up to six weeks - depending on the budget available - the students report to school for academics in the morning and sports and other fun in the afternoon.

While it's not uncommon as a way to offer catch-up to kids who've fallen behind, a daily double period of tough academic subjects - including trigonometry and physics - helps these students accelerate.

NYC Brings AP Classes to High-Needs Schools
GothamSchools // September 30, 2013

New York City's Department of Education will be bringing Advanced Placement (AP) classes to 55 high-needs schools across NYC. According to GothamSchools, NYC will spend $7 million to bring 120 AP classes to these 55 schools, broadly focused on science, technology, engineering and math. The College Board, which administers AP tests across the country, is working with the City to help the iniatitive succeed:

But the exams are optional, and nationally, fewer black and Hispanic who take AP classes sit for the exams at the end, according to Trevor Packer, a vice president at College Board. Locally, while students of all races have taken and passed more AP exams in recent years, black and Hispanic students have continued to pass far less often than white and Asian students.

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