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P.S. 63 William McKinley Hopes New Name Will Make It a S.T.A.R.

PS 63 as STAR AcademyJessica Bell

P.S. 63 no longer wants to be associated with President William McKinley. The East Village school, which serves students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, is seeking to change its name to P.S. 63 S.T.A.R. Academy.

Principal Darlene Despeignes said the current name, P.S. 63 William McKinley, no longer reflects the nature of the school, located on East Third Street between First Avenue and Avenue. Last year, she brought the issue to District 1’s Community Education Council, which told her should could start re-branding as the S.T.A.R. Academy.

“The name William McKinley doesn’t denote anything about our school culture, community or the families we serve,” said Ms. Despeignes, who took over the school four years ago. “We’re more progressive than we were in the past and we really want to show off who we are through our name.”
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Park Protest Over Teacher Layoff Plan

IMG_0048Laura E. Lee Demonstrators marched through Tompkins Square Park this afternoon to protest the mayor’s proposal to dismiss 4,000 public school teachers.

Around 45 parents, teachers and children gathered in Tompkins Square Park this afternoon to protest Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plan to fire more than 4,000 teachers, saying the measure would have catastrophic consequences for the city’s public school students.

The protesters, many from nearby schools like the Earth School and the Children’s Workshop School, convened in the park shortly after class was dismissed at 3 p.m., chanting “No budget cuts, no layoffs” and carrying signs mocking Mr. Bloomberg. Some young students had even made their own signs in support of teachers. As the protest came to a close, parents and teachers pulled out their cellphones and flooded 311 with calls, telling operators that they were opposed to any teachers losing their jobs. Others filed their protest with 311 via text message.

“We know there’s money in the budget, it’s a question of priorities,” said Lisa Donlan, 51, who brought a megaphone to the park. “Everyone can come up with savings if we just reprioritize the education budget.”

Teachers opposed to Mr. Bloomberg’s plan were also among the crowd.

“I’m one of the teachers who will not be working next year if Bloomberg’s budget goes through,” said Stephanie Schwartz, a 27-year-old teacher at the Neighborhood School. “It’s stressful, I love my children as if they were my own. And after work I have to go and fight and make sure students will have enough teachers next year.”

Scenes from the Protest

Kaitlyn Bolton, of NYU Journalism’s Hyperlocal Summer Newsroom Academy, shares video of the demonstration.

At Girls Prep, A Study In Excellence

At Girls Prep, A Study In Excellence from The Local East Village on Vimeo.

The uniformed students of Girls Prep Lower East Side Elementary walk quietly in single file through neon orange hallways, under banners with slogans for the school’s four “core values”: sisterhood, scholarship, merit and responsibility. Since opening in 2005 as the first all-girls charter school in the city, it has been part of an ongoing experiment to boost performance in public schools. And for years now, students there have been quietly defying conventional wisdom about the link between income and academic performance.

At Girls Prep, where 98 percent of students are minority and almost three-quarters come from families with such low incomes that they qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, test scores have exceeded the state median the past few years – one of only a handful of schools in the East Village to do so.

NYU Journalism’s Andre Tartar reports.

Common Traits at Successful Schools

8th Grade Students, Tompkins Square Middle School Andre Tartar A group of eighth grade students at Tompkins Square Middle School, one of two schools in the East Village to receive “A” grades on a recent evaluation of city schools. Students attributed the school’s success to strong bonds with the faculty. “We are like a family,” said one eighth grader.

The halls of Tompkins Square Middle School fill with children headed to their next classes. The silver-haired dean of community affairs, Devan Aptekar, warns a visitor to get ready for some noise. But it never really comes. Instead of hollering and ricocheting off the walls, students chat with each other using their inside voices. A few even wave hello to Mr. Aptekar as they pass. Nearby, a math teacher jokes with a student and asks him to answer a question before he can enter the class: “What is negative fourteen squared?” Clearly, something is going right here.

In the wake of the recent progress reports on which East Village schools performed poorly, The Local decided to ask the two schools awarded “A” grades, Tompkins Square Middle School and East Side Community School, about the ingredients of their success.
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Surprise at the Report on Area Schools

Kim Davis PortraitKim Davis.

I moved to the East Village – in fact to Alphabet City, as it was then called – when my daughter was a year old. All her schooling has been here (she’s in middle school now) and as a parent I’ve been happy with every bit of it. I share the surprise expressed by some residents in The Local’s report Monday. I just don’t recognize my daughter’s school in the Department of Education’s findings.

East Village education began for her at the Emmanuel Day Care center on Sixth Street, with its smart, friendly and in some cases very long-serving staff. I was staggered by the Center’s ambition, watching them introduce pre-schoolers not only to reading and writing, but sophisticated math and science topics.

I had always assumed she would progress from there to P.S. 364, a nearby public school. Her mother had ideas about a private Catholic education. Thankfully we never had to debate it. One day, browsing among the stalls at the Loisaida street fair, we came across flyers for an all-girl charter school, not yet open. At the time I had no idea what a charter school was, although I did notice that it was free. I think we all know about charter schools now, and the debates about sharing space with city schools, about non-unionized teaching staff, and the lottery admission system – but that’s another story.

Anyway, that’s where my daughter went – Girls Prep on East Houston – and she’s been happy and successful there ever since. I read the report card with amazement. A and B for environment and student performance, a C score overall, but F for student progress. As a parent, I shrug my shoulders. (Full disclosure: her mother is employed by the school as a teaching assistant; she’s usually more critical of it than I am.)

The report card doesn’t really explain how this was measured. My daughter and her sharp, alert, articulate friends are making plenty of progress as far as I can see. It just makes me nervous for the school and the staff. Monitoring school performance is a great idea. Clarity and transparency in the reporting could be improved.

For what it’s worth, P.S. 364 got an overall D.

Kim Davis is the community editor of The Local East Village.

Tell us how you feel about the latest evaluations of neighborhood schools.

Report: Neighborhood Schools Lag

P3300740Timothy J. Stenovec The East Village Community School and the Children’s Workshop School share a building on East 12th Street and both earned a C grade for academic performance.

Report cards are out for public schools in neighborhoods across the city and the East Village is getting the kind of grades that would cause just about any parent concern.

Of the 15 neighborhood elementary and middle schools graded as part of the city’s annual progress report, which was released on Sept. 30, only four were awarded A’s or B’s. Ten schools received C’s, and one earned a D. The scores dropped significantly compared to last year, when every East Village K-8 school earned at least an A or a B.

Failing grades for schools come with repercussions. Schools that receive low grades can face closure, and the principals of low performing schools can be fired.

Parents dropping their children off at the East Village Community School and the Children’s Workshop School recently were surprised to learn about that their schools were not making the grade.
 Both schools, which share a building on East 12th Street, got C’s this year, although the East Village Community School got D’s in “student progress” and “student performance,” two of the sub-categories that contribute to the overall grade.
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A Closer Look at Schools

EV Kids 8Sarah Tung

Good morning, East Village.

Just above this post, we’ve published a story by NYU Journalism’s Timothy J. Stenovec in which he takes a look at recently released performance evaluations for 15 neighborhood elementary and middle schools.

The results of those evaluations were not encouraging – just four of the 15 schools received a grade of B or better. Two received A’s, one received a D.

Viewed one way, the grades might not have been totally unexpected during a year in which education officials overhauled the state’s standardized testing system. Department of Education officials acknowledged as much when they told Mr. Stenovec that part of the showing by city schools could be attributable to the change.

But that only tells part of the story of what’s happening in East Village schools.

Parents, teachers, union officials, politicians and other stakeholders often speak in general terms when discussing some of the challenges facing public education.

We’d like to hear some specifics from you.

What kind of teaching initiatives are working in your school?

Has enough been done to fix the aging infrastructure at some school buildings?

What kind of penalties should be levied against schools that under perform?

We encourage all of you – parents, teachers, administrators, students – to read Mr. Stenovec’s post and add your comments to it.