City Scraps Change to G&T Policy, and Other News of Note

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After hearing complaints from parents, the Department of Education says it will stick with its current policy of giving a slight advantage to siblings who test into gifted and talented programs.

A letter was sent Wednesday to families who requested G&T; testing. The agency issued the following statement:

The Department of Education will maintain its existing sibling gifted and talented policy for the 2013-2014 school year. The Department received a lot of public feedback on the sibling policy and will take more time to analyze the issue, especially after the implementation of the Nagelieri Nonverbal Ability Test this year. We believe it is in the best interests of families to see what changes this new assessment may bring before we make any changes to our placement methodology.

Some parents worried the change would have made it harder for families with multiple children, because a sibling of a child in a G&T; program who met the testing threshold could not attend the same school if another child who qualified had a higher score.

The Panel for Educational Policy is still voting Thursday on other regulations pertaining to admissions for all programs. But the D.O.E. says those regulations won't alter the current policy of sibling priority in G&T; programs, because the agency has scrapped its specific changes to those programs.

Charters on the Docket

The meeting's agenda also includes seven new charter schools, all of which would be co-located in buildings with other schools. Three of those charters would open in neighborhoods that are considered more middle- or upper-class than the low-income neighborhoods where charter schools traditionally open.

Success Academies is planning to open two elementary schools in Manhattan: one in the High School of Graphic Communication Arts building west of midtown and the other at Washington Irving's campus east of Union Square. A third charter, Citizens of the World, would open inside a junior high school on the border of Greenpoint and Williamsburg. Opponents accuse the charter of deliberately marketing itself to upper- and middle-class families, though the charter says it's seeking a diverse community.

The panel will also vote to approve almost $1.5 million in transportation contracts for students whose schools were relocated after Hurricane Sandy.

Charters Sharing Space

In other developments, the New York City Charter School Center released another report finding school buildings with multiple schools tend to be less crowded than single-school buildings. The report is aimed at critics who claim charters are taking away space from regular public schools.

The report finds charter schools that are co-located with other schools tend to be more crowded than the district schools in the same buildings. Within a building where charter schools are co-located, the report says the charter school areas are 99 percent utilized on average compared to a 72 percent average utilization rate for the district schools.

And it notes that over 900 - or 58 percent - of all New York City public schools share space with another school, but that only 8 percent of the co-located schools are charters. The report's authors said they used the so-called "blue book" of enrollment and capacity data from the School Construction Authority.

The report is unlikely to appease opponents of co-locations, who claim the charters often take valuable art and music classrooms away from the district schools. Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, said her group's analysis of Education Impact Statements of co-location proposals for the 2010 and 2011 school years finds that of the 79 charter school co-locations that were approved, nearly 22 (or nearly 30 percent) are projected to push their buildings to 100 percent utilization or more during the following year or soon thereafter.

Union Makes Demands Before Teacher Evaluation Deal

As the clock ticks down to Governor Andrew Cuomo's January 17th deadline for districts to approve teacher evaluation plans, or risk losing state aid, teachers union president Michael Mulgrew sent a letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott saying he wants to first settle an issue that's been bothering his members.

Mulgrew said teachers have been complaining that a new program called the Teacher Effectiveness Intensive Three Week Cycle has been launched in many schools "without any planning or proper training for the schools."

The city has been test-driving a program for principals to evaluate teachers by using very specific guidelines in more than 100 schools. But the union claims the city went expanded the pilot program without its involvement. "Your decision to launch this new program without a plan that would lead to its successful implementation is mind-boggling to us," Mulgrew stated in the letter.

Mulgrew said he will not down with the city to hash out the details of the new, state mandated evaluation system until the two sides discuss its roll-out.

A Department of Education called Mulgrew's complaints "inaccurate." The agency said education officials meet monthly with the U.F.T. to discuss any issues related to the Teacher Effectiveness program and that it's been working with the union on the issue for three years in preparation for a final evaluation deal.