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Advocates Call for More Transparency in Evaluating School Capacity

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

An advocacy group is accusing the city's Department of Education of manipulating data to make it seem like schools have more space than they actually have.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity analyzed the capacity of different school buildings listed in the official "blue book" and found the numbers went up and down wildly from one year to the next.

Regina Castro, a parent the Coalition for Educational Justice, said middle schools just installed science labs to help students prepare for the regents exam. "Now, science labs are being dismantled and turned into classrooms because the blue book says that our schools can fit more children than they actually can," said Castro.

The blue book is one tool the department uses to decide whether a school building is full or can take more students. Other reports provide other data about how classrooms are used, but those reports are not available to the public.

Kim Sweet is a child advocate who works with parents concerned about new schools being added to existing buildings. "Parents were hearing from the DOE's representatives that the school had plenty of space, but that they were actually seeing that their children were being provided with speech therapy in the hallways, in the back of the library because they had classrooms taken away already," said Sweet.

Other parents complained their children have to eat lunch in shifts from as early as 10 a.m. to as late as 2 p.m. They say music and art rooms have been reduced to carts teachers push from room to room.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity won a lawsuit in 1995 that required the state to provide more funding to New York City Schools. Part of that order was for the city to revise the way it evaluates classroom capacity, which the campaign says the city has not done.

In a statement, the Department of Education said the study was flawed and did not account for all the ways the schools have increased capacity, such as by moving administrators to other buildings and using their offices as classrooms. They said school leaders use buildings in different ways from year to year and that there have been historic investments in school construction.

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Comments [1]

ED GREENSPAN

When will Ms. Sweet and others in your group advocate for children who want to learn but can't due to the constant disruptions of others?
How could Ms. Sweet support that 7 year old who was waving a knife around in the room? What would have happened if the child killed another child? You'd blame the teacher by saying that the latter didn't motivate the class. The teacher's safety was also in a precarious situation.
Start working to remove disruptive children from school. We need the restoration of the 600 school concept for unruly recalcitrant children. Teachers have to spend the majority of their day disciplining these so called students. Before you can talk about children, your organization should start teaching in one of our many SURR schools. You ought to teach under a Leadership Academy principal. You can be rated by such a person despite the fact that they never taught. How about advocating for smaller class size? How about advocating for excessed teachers? Why not use them to lower class sizes?
Allow supervisors and teachers to discipline the unruly. Having served in the trenches, they know what is needed for success in school

Apr. 21 2011 11:17 PM

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