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Weekend To-Do List
8/25 - 8/27
1. NYC’s Slashed Class Sizes Will Lead To Inequitable Support for Schools
READ/LISTEN: Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a law to reduce class sizes in New York City last year. While the move was praised by the teachers union and lawmakers in Albany, new analysis from Alex Zimmerman and Matt Barnum at Chalkbeat suggests that the law’s implementation may prove inequitable. While schools with higher poverty rates stand to benefit the least because they already have smaller class sizes, funding the mandate for all schools (which will require an annual $1.3B - $1.9B) means those high-poverty schools will be impacted by a reallocation of funds that could lead to increased teacher shortages, denial of support staff such as tutors and social workers, and a reduction in resources for supplies and programming. New York City Mayor Eric Adams decried the decision last year:
“Clearly we should use taxpayers’ dollars to focus on equity — not equality, equity,” Adams said at a press conference last September. “There are certain school districts that need more,” he added. “We’re taking away the chancellor’s ability to focus on where the problem is, and the governor made the decision to sign it.”
2. Pennsylvania Educators Face Impossible Decisions as Funding Formula Remains Unsolved
READ: Lydia McFarlane and Mark Lieberman reported on Pennsylvania’s continued inertia after a judge ruled in February that the state’s K-12 school funding system was unconstitutional due to the disparities between wealthier and poorer districts. Policymakers are tasked with redesigning the state’s approach, but after this year’s legislative session ended in July without any notable progress, educators in underfunded districts face difficult decisions in preparation for the new school year. One school superintendent said the sense of limbo has prevented him from fulfilling the true purpose of his job:
[Brian] Waite recently had to decide between reducing large class sizes or maintaining a reading support program for struggling students. He conducted a risk assessment for making each choice, and ultimately decided to shutter the reading program.
The decision was painful. “I had to figure out which is better value, and I shouldn’t have to do that,” he said.
Pennsylvania lawmakers return to work on September 26. Read more in Education Week here.
3. Arizona High School Offers Blueprint for Comprehensive Personalized Learning
READ: Beth Hawkins profiled Phoenix Union City High School’s efforts to serve as an alternative to the traditional high school setting. The school’s 83 students select from a mix of the district’s 500+ learning options, from in-person classes to internships and career training programs, to create a custom education program that best meets their needs. PXU reported its highest single-day enrollment in over 50 years last fall, and advocates say the success offers a roadmap to creating personalized learning environments without sacrificing the benefits of larger schools:
Worried their kids will slip through the cracks in a large student body, many families want small schools. But they also want the clubs, sports and other opportunities a big high school can offer. Some want career training programs that will lead to a good job immediately after graduation, while others want college prep. Phoenix Union, [superintendent Chad Gestson] believed, needed to become all things to all families.
“There is still magic in large, comprehensive campuses,” says Gestson. “Lots of kids in this country go to school not for math but for theater or the chance to go to MEChA [El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, a national Mexican-American club] or the Black student union.
“The challenge was to take large schools and make them feel small.”
Read more here.
4. Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Charts the Path Forward
READ: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s head of education, Sandra Liu Huang, took to the organization’s blog this week to articulate the future of CZI’s education work. She celebrated the department’s efforts to create high-quality resources for teachers but noted that too many of these resources have been under-utilized as educators face an overabundance of options, most notably in ed-tech and curricula. As a result, CZI will place a premium on “coherence work” moving forward, whatever that means:
Through our partnerships with researchers and educators and the work of our software team, we can create educational tools that better integrate research, practices and content. From program conception to software feature design, we can center our work on student and educator voices so we can address chronic learning and teaching challenges while creating a way for important high-quality resources, research, practices and content to reach broader utilization.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after CZI laid off 48 employees in the education department. Read more here.
5. School Choice Is Here To Stay
READ: Marc LeBlond and Ed Tarnowski reflected on a “watershed year” for educational choice as part of EdChoice’s annual end-of-session wrap-up. They highlighted the expansion of private choice programs in nine states, the 111 bills introduced in 40 states related to ESAs, vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and refundable tax credits, and the 93,000 students who utilized ESAs in 2023 (compared to 33,000 in 2022). LeBlong and Tarnowski called it “the Year of Universal Choice”:
We’ve hit escape velocity. Educational freedom and choice is here to stay. It’s only a matter of time before every dollar follows every child to an educational setting of their parent’s choice.
Read more here.
6. New Anti-Choice Book a Swing and a Miss
READ: Jay P. Greene penned a critical review of Cara Fitzpatrick’s new book, The Death of Public School: How Conservatives Won the War Over Education in America. The book says it looks back “at the turbulent history of school choice” and “presents the compelling history of the fiercest battle in the history of American education–one that already has changed the future of public schooling.” However, Greene argues Fitzpatrick simply proves that public education is alive and well and cautions that the book has a clear bias and overlooks critical pieces of history to ensure an anti-choice narrative. Still, Greene doesn’t necessarily recommend readers skip it altogether:
Having lived through and directly experienced much of the school-choice history described in the book, I found Fitzpatrick’s account to be accurate and well written, even if the interpretation of events was often distorted. Reading this book is a little like watching your favorite baseball team on TV with broadcast announcers from the other team. You get to see the game, and the play-by-play is not filled with lies; it is just spun in an irritating way that could only please fans of the other team. Effective journalists and historians learn how to write like national announcers for baseball games, avoiding commentary that rallies the fans of one team while annoying the fans of the other. Fitzpatrick is more Harry Caray than Joe Buck.
Read more in Education Next here.