Monthly Archives: April 2017

Struggling Schools Improve on Test Scores

The state released its annual standardized test scores on Tuesday, bringing measured good news for the city’s most struggling schools. They improved more on the math and reading tests than schools citywide.

But Mayor Bill de Blasio made clear that for some the progress was not sufficient to keep them from the chopping block.

The schools, which are part of Mr. de Blasio’s Renewal program, received extra support from the Education Department in the form of teacher development, a longer school day and special services for students and their families.

At the 57 elementary and middle schools in the city’s $582 million Renewal program, the percentage of children who passed the reading tests increased by 3.2 points from last year; the percentage passing the math tests increased by 1.5 points. Citywide, reading proficiency increased by 2.6 percentage points and math proficiency grew by 1.3 points.

Over all, the proficiency rate on the reading tests increased at 47 of the 57 Renewal schools, while math proficiency increased at 34 of them.

At a celebratory news conference at Tweed Courthouse, the headquarters of the Education Department, Mr. de Blasio said of the Renewal schools, “There are going to be some, when we go through the whole process — I’m certain some will be slated to close.”

The Renewal schools still lag behind the city in their passing rates: just 15.9 percent of their students passed the reading tests, while 9.4 percent scored as proficient in math; citywide, 40.6 percent of students passed the reading tests, and 37.8 percent of students passed the math tests.

Mr. de Blasio announced the Renewal program in November 2014, saying that the city would give the schools three years to improve.

He said that the Education Department would make final decisions in November about which schools would be closed or merged with other schools.

He suggested that some schools that had made significant improvement would be taken out of the Renewal program entirely, while others would receive continued help. Carmen Fariña, the New York City schools chancellor, said that she planned to put new principals in some Renewal schools in September.

My University Is Named for Robert E. Lee. What Now?

Despite the horrific timing of his remarks, President Trump’s defense of Confederate statues last week revealed a viewpoint that’s widely held in this country — and not just by neo-Nazis or white supremacists. Plenty of Americans find themselves conflicted about recent efforts to remove monuments to the Confederacy, be they statues or the names of buildings, highways or schools.

This is especially true at my (beloved) alma mater. I’m a 2017 graduate of Washington and Lee University, which is named for George Washington, an early benefactor, and Robert E. Lee, who served as college president from 1865 until his death in 1870.

Over the past several years, some students have begun to advocate that the university do more to distance itself from our second namesake, while others have come to Lee’s rescue with increasing vigor. As one peer wrote in a conservative campus publication called The Spectator, “Robert E. Lee evinced an unusual and relative show of honor and integrity that should not be slandered by his role in the Civil War.”

I have many friends who share this opinion. Although they would never associate with white supremacists or attend alt-right rallies, they get upset at any suggestion that Washington and Lee change how it honors Lee’s legacy on campus.

It’s true that the retired Confederate general played an important role in our university’s history. But if the Washington and Lee community is not more willing to critically evaluate one of our patron saints — and modify how we celebrate him — we only legitimize the “causes” of white supremacists who latch onto statues of men like Lee because they symbolize the subjugation of black people.

The school wasn’t even always called Washington and Lee. Founded in 1749 as Augusta Academy, it was subsequently renamed Liberty Hall in 1776 and Liberty Hall Academy in 1782. It became Washington Academy in 1796, after George Washington donated some $20,000 worth of James River Canal stock to the institution, effectively saving it from financial ruin.

After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee was recruited to become college president of what was by then called Washington College, a post he accepted with reservations, worried that he “might draw upon the college a feeling of hostility.” When he died in 1870, trustees voted to change the name of the school to Washington and Lee University.

In his short tenure, Lee nearly reinvented the place. He championed the sciences, joined the Lexington Law School to the college, introduced what would become our hallmark honor system and established some of America’s first collegiate journalism and business classes, and he turned down more profitable jobs to do so. He worked to ensure that Northern and Southern students studied together and pledged to devote his “remaining energies to training young men to do their duty in life.”

But this is the same Lee who led the Confederate army against the Union to preserve the status quo of slavery in our nation’s bloodiest war. Lee is often defended as a product of his time, but at least one other Virginian, George Henry Thomas, became a notable Union general. Later, as a college president, Lee was also mostly unwilling to discipline students involved in attempted lynchings and kidnappings of black women who lived nearby.

Touring our campus, though, you wouldn’t even guess that Lee was on the losing side of the Civil War.

Portraits of the man are prominently displayed, and three university buildings bear his name. One is the president’s house, in which Lee died. The second, Lee-Jackson House, is home to the office of the dean of the college and is also named for Stonewall Jackson, Lee’s military colleague in the Confederacy. The third building is Lee Chapel, which was commissioned by the retired general but not named for him until after his death.

Inside this campus landmark, where an altar might have been built, rests a gigantic, recumbent, marble statue of Lee, wearing Confederate battle gear and resting on a camp bed. (Lee is buried with his family in a mausoleum beneath the chapel.)

As Coding Boot Camps Close

In the last five years, dozens of schools have popped up offering an unusual promise: Even humanities graduates can learn how to code in a few months and join the high-paying digital economy. Students and their hopeful parents shelled out as much as $26,000 seeking to jump-start a career.

But the coding boot-camp field now faces a sobering moment, as two large schools have announced plans to shut down this year — despite backing by major for-profit education companies, Kaplan and the Apollo Education Group, the parent of the University of Phoenix.

The closings are a sign that years of heady growth led to a boot-camp glut, and that the field could be in the early stages of a shakeout.

“You can imagine this becoming a big industry, but not for 90 companies,” said Michael Horn, a principal consultant at Entangled Solutions, an education research and consulting firm.

The demand from employers is shifting and the schools must adapt. Many boot camps have not evolved beyond courses in basic web development, but companies are now often looking for more advanced coding skills.

courses, bought Dev Bootcamp and pledged bold expansion.

It is now closing at the end of the year.

Also closing is The Iron Yard, a boot camp that was founded in Greenville, S.C., in 2013 and swiftly spread to 15 campuses, from Las Vegas to Washington, D.C. Its main financial backer is the Apollo Education Group.

Since 2013, the number of boot camp schools in the United States has tripled to more than 90, and the number of graduates will reach nearly 23,000 in 2017, a tenfold jump from 2013, according to Course Report, which tracks the industry.

Tarlin Ray, who became president of Dev Bootcamp in April, said in an email that the school offered “a high-quality program” that helped thousands of people join the high-tech economy. “But we were simply unable to find a sustainable business model,” he wrote.

Iron Yard echoed that theme. In an email, Lelia King, a spokeswoman, said that while students benefited, the company was “ultimately unable to sustain our current business model.”

Boot camp courses, aimed at adults, vary in length and cost. Some can take 26 weeks or more, and tuition can reach $26,000. The average course length is just over 14 weeks, and the average cost is $11,400, according to Course Report.

The successful schools, analysts say, will increasingly be ones that expand their programs to suit the changing needs of employers. Some have already added courses like data science, artificial intelligence, digital marketing and project management. Other steps include tailoring courses for corporations, which need to update the skills of their workers, or develop online courses.

Ryan Craig, a managing director at University Ventures, which invests in education start-ups, including Galvanize, a large boot camp, predicted that the overall market would still grow. But students, he said, would become more concentrated in the schools with the best reputations and job placement rates.

The promise of boot camps is that they are on-ramps to good jobs. But rapid expansion into new cities can leave little time to forge ties with nearby companies, the hiring market for boot camp graduates, said Liz Eggleston, co-founder of Course Report.

That message was underlined by Mr. Ray of Dev Bootcamp. While he would not discuss specifics about what happened to his school, he wrote: “We do think that as the boot camp industry continues on, it will be important to create stronger alignment with employers.”

Some boot camps cater directly to corporate customers. General Assembly, which operates 20 coding campuses and has raised $119 million in venture financing, now works with more than 100 large companies on programs to equip their employees with digital skills.

Even With Affirmative Action

Even after decades of affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago, according to a New York Times analysis.

The share of black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged since 1980. Black students are just 6 percent of freshmen but 15 percent of college-age Americans, as the chart below shows.

More Hispanics are attending elite schools, but the increase has not kept up with the huge growth of young Hispanics in the United States, so the gap between students and the college-age population has widened.

The Times analysis includes 100 schools ranging from public flagship universities to the Ivy League. For both blacks and Hispanics, the trend extends back to at least 1980, the earliest year that fall enrollment data was available from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Blacks and Hispanics have gained ground at less selective colleges and universities but not at the highly selective institutions, said Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education, which represents more than 1,700 colleges and universities.

The courts have ruled that colleges and universities can consider race or ethnicity “as one element in a holistic admissions policy, so it’s something that can be considered, but it’s not a magic bullet,” he said.

Affirmative action increases the numbers of black and Hispanic students at many colleges and universities, but experts say that persistent underrepresentation often stems from equity issues that begin earlier.

Elementary and secondary schools with large numbers of black and Hispanic students are less likely to have experienced teachers, advanced courses, high-quality instructional materials and adequate facilities, according to the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

“There’s such a distinct disadvantage to begin with,” said David Hawkins, an executive director at the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “A cascading set of obstacles all seem to contribute to a diminished representation of minority students in highly selective colleges.”

The Ivy League

Black students make up 9 percent of the freshmen at Ivy League schools but 15 percent of college-age Americans, roughly the same gap as in 1980. (A category for multiracial students, introduced in 2008.

University of California Campuses

The number of Hispanic and black freshmen on the University of California campuses declined immediately after California’s affirmative action ban took effect, especially at the most sought-after campuses, said Stephen Handel, associate vice president for undergraduate admissions. The system put the ban in place in 1998.

Even now, both Hispanics and blacks are least represented at Berkeley, the most selective campus. On seven campuses, Hispanics now make up a quarter or more of the freshmen, but that’s still far below their share of the college-age population in the state, which is close to 50 percent.

“Despite the progress the U.C. has made in assembling a more diverse student body, a lot of work remains to be done so that all U.C. campuses reflect the true diversity of the state,” Mr. Handel said in an email.