Streams

Math Do-Over for State Officials on School Safety

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - 07:57 AM

Is it really possible that the state issued drastically incorrect statistics on New York City school violence because someone in the Department of Education failed to read an Excel spreadsheet correctly?

"A document the city sent in October 2010 contained several tabs, but state officials only examined the first one," Anna M. Phillips reported Monday in SchoolBook. The result: The state reported 20,000 fewer violent episodes in New York City schools than city officials had recorded.

The error has sent state officials scrambling to recalculate the list of "persistently dangerous schools." The error was first reported Monday by The New York Post.

The Daily News points out that the drop in violent episodes was, on its face, "improbable," particularly when it comes to individual schools. At Jamaica High School, for instance, it points out, "The report showed just six cases at the 1,474-student high school in the 2009-10 school year — down from 378 incidents the year before."

On the other hand, the paper says, Lehman High School in the Bronx posted 647 violent episodes last year, almost double the 378 cases reported the year before.

The error not only raises question about the State Education Department's competence, but the city's reaction hints strongly that there is little love between the city and state education agencies.

City Room reported Monday that a few dozen New York City schoolchildren spent their Columbus Day holiday demonstrating at Zuccotti Park with their parents.

Carrying homemade signs, they had a variety of grievances, including the holiday itself, which the children said should not be celebrated. And as Caleb Horowitz, 7, a second grader at Public School 116 in Manhattan, put it, he was there "to protect animals, and because some people are very poor and have no homes and food — stuff like that.”

Many of the children were students at Central Park East I and Central Park East II, Alice Speri writes:

Naomi Smith, the principal at Central Park East II, said she had always made it a point to teach her students that Columbus did not discover America. The protest, she said, seemed like a perfect opportunity for children to learn something while school was not in session.

“One of our models is teaching to make a difference,” Ms. Smith said. “I thought it would be great for the children to see what’s happening here. This is what democracy looks like.”

And Richard Pérez-Peña has an article in The New York Times about Philip Garber Jr., 16, who is taking two classes at the County College of Morris. Because he stutters, his teacher "sent him an e-mail asking that he pose questions before or after class, 'so we do not infringe on other students’ time.' " Philip transferred out of the class, but his experience raises questions about how teachers handle disabilities in the classroom.

Here's what is going on Tuesday:

Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott and Lillian Roberts, the president of District Council 37, the union that represents school aides, secretaries and other support workers, will testify Wednesday during a City Council joint oversight committee hearing on the layoffs of 672 school employees. The hearing by the Council’s Committee on Finance and the Committee on Education will begin at 10 a.m. at the Emigrant Savings Bank, 49-51 Chambers Street. Fernanda Santos of The Times will be filing reports to SchoolBook from the hearing.

At noon, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will announce the first program in his Young Men’s Initative at the Bronx Library Center, 310 East Kingsbridge Road. Emily Canal will be there for SchoolBook.

At 6:30 p.m., the third Community Education Council hearing on the Department of Education proposal to rezone District 2 is expected to draw parents who are either upset that they can no longer choose between two schools in Greenwich Village, or are unhappy that the city is not building more schools for children in the TriBeCa, Battery Park City or financial district neighborhoods. Anna M. Phillips will cover it for SchoolBook.

And school safety is on the agenda from 8:15 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the sixth annual Safety Conference by the Schools United Network. Representatives from the New York Police Department, the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the city parks department will be on hand at the 92nd Street Y to talk about street crime, bullying and Internet harassment, and how the Schools Unite Network enables children and families to report problems discreetly. “We enable parents and school staff to report things that, because of individual's fears of repercussions and cultural differences, they may not directly be wiling or able to report to the police department,” says Jill Greenbaum, a network organizer.

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