Legislators In New York Have Voted To Reduce Public School Class Sizes

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New legislation would cut class sizes in New York City public schools, but city authorities called it an “unfunded mandate” that might hurt other education initiatives.

The legislation would regulate classroom sizes at 20 to 25, depending on grade level. Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks warned that the city would have to make severe cutbacks if Gov. Kathy Hochul adopts the new requirement without allocating cash for more teachers and space.

Adams stated that his government “strongly supports lower class sizes.” However, if the state does not provide more cash, the city will have to cut social workers, art programs, school excursions, after-school tutoring, dyslexia testing, and paraprofessionals. Officials warned the improvements would cost billions.

School Chancellor David Banks warned an underfunded obligation might harm the system.

New guidelines cap K-3 courses at 20 students, 4-8 classes at 23, and high school classes at 25. Current guidelines restrict first through sixth grade to 32 pupils, and middle school to 30 for “Title I” schools and 33 for non-Title I schools. High school classes are restricted to 34 students. The standards would be phased in over five years beginning this fall, with preference for schools serving high-poverty populations.

The measure permits temporary exemptions for schools with limited space, enrollment, teacher shortages, or “severe economic distress.”

Schools will have to specify whether they intend to build extra classrooms, put more instructors in a class, or “otherwise reduce the student-teacher ratio” temporarily.

The new class size standards aren’t funded by the law. The state will withhold money if the city doesn’t make improvements.

State Sen. John Liu, who leads NYC’s education committee, expects the city to use recent state funds to reduce class sizes.

Albany legislators opted to raise state financing for schools last year, following a 2006 court decision that highlighted huge class sizes as part of the city’s failure to deliver a “sound basic education.” 

Liu: “I think it’s terrific that we finally delivered on the long-standing promise of smaller class sizes in New York City.”

The city also has federal stimulus money it has yet to use.

Michael Mulgrew disputed the mayor’s claim that the city couldn’t afford the modifications. The organization says 90% of schools have room to meet the standards, and state funding and stimulus money should pay for the expenditures. “To threaten to cut safety, social, and health programs despite new funds shows how little Tweed cares about thousands of parents’ calls for smaller classes,” said UFT president Michael Mulgrew, referring to Tweed Courthouse, the historic building near City Hall that houses the city’s Department of Education. The law might also help UFT. Shrinking classrooms would certainly mean employing additional instructors, boosting the union. Teachers agree that small courses are beneficial for everyone. 

Liat Olenick, a teacher in Brooklyn, said lowering class size is the best approach to invest in student mental health, teaching, and teacher retention. “This is the best way to make up for learning loss and retain burnt-out teachers.”

New York: Proposed Bill To Offer Free Breakfast And Lunch At School

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It is possible that the state of New York may mandate that all schools provide free breakfast and lunch to their student body.  Senate Democratic leader Michele Hinchey of Kingston and Assembly Democratic leader Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas of East Elmhurst have presented legislation (A.9518/S.9144) to address the issue. It’s doubtful whether the measure will make it through both chambers of the legislature by the conclusion of the parliamentary session, currently planned for June 2.

If passed, the federal government’s Community Eligibility Programs would apply to all schools, and the state would foot the bill for the difference between what it costs to feed all kids and what it receives from the federal government via the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The measure doesn’t identify the possible expense to the state.

In March 2020, when many schools would be shuttered as a result of COVID-19, Congress allowed the USDA power to boost school food reimbursement rates and remove some criteria. Funding and exemptions allowed schools to provide grab-and-go meals or send food home with students rather of having to serve them in the school cafeteria. It also enhanced summer meal programs for youngsters.  There will be no further exemptions for the program’s expansion after June 30.

“The health and economic crises brought on by the COV1D-19 pandemic have made the federal school meal programs more important than ever,” Hinchey and Gonzalez-Rojas wrote in their legislative justification. “A record number of New Yorkers do not have enough to eat, and it is likely that the economic recovery for families who struggle to put food on the table will take years.” 

Approximately 800,000 pupils will no longer be eligible for free lunches at approximately 2,000 schools, according to Hinchey and Gonzalez-Rojas.

All students at Jamestown are eligible for free breakfast and lunch under the Universal Free Meal programs. To ensure that every student in Jamestown Public Schools is eligible for free breakfast and lunch, the city implemented a series of initiatives. Families do not need to submit a free or reduced lunch application to be eligible.

Those students who live in Jamestown but go to school in another district will have to fill out an application for free or reduced meals at the school where they are currently enrolled. This covers students from Jamestown who are enrolled in BOCES programs.

New York: Many Teachers Have Been Put On Unpaid Leave For Allegedly Using Fake Vaccination Cards

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Dozens of New York City public school instructors are facing dismissal after allegedly presenting fake documentation of COVID immunization. They will be replaced.

A lawsuit, on the other hand, is being threatened by the teachers’ unions.

Spring break is over, and those instructors will not be returning to the classroom.

“I’m really disappointed to learn there were fake vaccination cards. Not only is it illegal, it undermines our entire trust,” Mayor Eric Adams said.

As of this writing, the Department of Education has confirmed that less than 100 workers have been affected, but it has not explained how it came at this conclusion.

“It’s not safe for our kids, for us, too,” parent Jazmin Mendez told CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

“People have been faking the cards since the pandemic started. It’s nothing new, and the fact that the DOE is just finding out about it now, it’s too little, too late,” parent Moe Green said.

According to a statement released by the United Federation of Teachers, the charges are based on “unproven claims,” and lowering teachers’ compensation before providing evidence is “a blatant breach of the fundamental principle of due process.”

“I don’t support any fraudulent or illegal activity, but I understand when people feel desperate,” said Michael Kane, founder of Teachers for Choice.

When Kane was fired in February for not complying with the city’s vaccine requirement, he had been a teacher for 14 years. Adams says he will not be modifying the legislation, even giving certain exemptions.

“We now have Eric Adams saying if you’re a high paying performer or athlete, you don’t have to abide by this rule, but if you’re part of the working class, you do,” Kane said. “What we have now is not public health. We have class warfare.”

However, as the number of COVID cases in the city rises, so does the risk.

If the Department of Education does not overturn its judgment by the end of the day, the teachers’ union has vowed to file a lawsuit.

After multiple failed court challenges, ex-Mayor Bill de Blasio imposed a vaccination requirement on municipal workers and students in the autumn.

EdTPA, The State’s Teacher Certification Exam, Will Be Canceled By A Vote Of New York Officials

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The contentious edTPA, a nationwide evaluation that some have criticized as a barrier to diversifying and expanding the teaching field, will no longer be required for New York State’s prospective teachers.

To abolish this prerequisite for obtaining a teaching credential from the New York State Board of Regents, the state’s education governing body, was overwhelmingly approved Tuesday. April 27 is the date of the transition.

Before accepting the adjustment, the board members had not discussed the issue with one another. Many Regents, like New York City-based Kathleen Cashin, praised the proposal when it was initially offered in December.

Pearson evaluates and charges a $300 fee for the edTPA, which is broken down into many sections. For their portfolios, teacher candidates should include their written and video-recorded lessons, as well as an evaluation of their students’ progress in those lessons and a commentary on those lessons.

As a result of the pandemic and other recent revisions to New York teacher certification, the state has decided to abolish the requirement. Tests have also been pushed out by instructors in New Jersey lately.

A written test has been substituted for the edTPA by state education authorities due to the current public health crisis, and teacher preparation programs have welcomed the adjustment. William Murphy, the state education department’s deputy commissioner of higher education, informed the Regents in December that several of them had asked for the abolition of the exam completely.

When asked by Murphy if their students were learning anything during student teaching, program directors responded that their students were more focused on fulfilling edTPA requirements. They also had a difficult time balancing the exam’s many components.

Teacher preparation programs will be expected to develop their own “multi-measure assessment” that meets New York’s teaching requirements by September 1, 2023, if they choose not to administer the test.

Those opposed to the test have long argued that it excludes qualified applicants of color from the teaching profession, which is already suffering from a severe shortage. When compared to their white or Hispanic colleagues, Black test takers failed the edTPA by almost two times the percentage in 2017. Officials in the state have refused to provide any more current test results.

The state’s teachers’ union, which has opposed the test since it was originally introduced in New York in 2014, welcomed the modification. According to the union’s executive vice president, the test has long been criticized for being too difficult and resulting in some applicants dropping out of their teacher training programs..

DiBrango said that now is a “critical moment” to eliminate the test because of the state’s teacher shortage. A drop of more than half in state teaching programs’ enrolment since 2009, according to union data.

Teacher preparation programs in New York are well regarded and trusted by the state, DiBrango added. One-size-fits-all doesn’t actually work for anybody in this state.

Even though teacher preparation programs in Washington State are free to design their own assessments, researcher Dan Goldhaber observed that this would lead to an uneven set of standards throughout Washington. He worked on a study to see how the edTPA affected teachers. A policy reform of this kind may not result in better-qualified instructors, he noted.

New York initially suggested the move in December, and Goldhaber told Chalkbeat at the time that “I believe we need to attempt to measure what is occurring in teacher preparation based on the effect that teachers, who are prepared, have on student outcomes.”

These regulations should be reviewed in terms of whether or not they are “beneficial,” the state representative stated.

An investigation by Goldhaber indicated that Hispanic teachers in Washington state had a failure rate of almost three times that of white teachers.

That same research found conflicting evidence of a correlation between higher edTPA scores and improved student performance on state reading and math examinations, as judged by their scores. Higher edTPA scores were linked to better arithmetic performance, but not to better reading performance.

Schools In New York Are No Longer Required To Wear Masks

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Masks will no longer be mandatory in New York State schools beginning March 2. During a live conference on Sunday, February 27, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced this in reaction to dropping COVID-19 rates.

COVID-19 levels in New York state are continuing to fall, prompting Governor Hochul to withdraw the mask rule for indoor companies on February 9. Governor Hochul stated that the decision was taken after monitoring statistics, administering millions of exams to pupils in schools, and conferring with CDC specialists, school experts, and representatives of the educational community.

The news comes only days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) modified their mask recommendations. Masks are not necessary in counties with low to medium risk evaluations, according to the revised standards.

County governments can still choose to require masks in schools, according to Governor Hochul, but the choice should not differ across school districts within a county. Hochul also reminded parents that it is up to them to decide whether or not their children should wear a mask.

Former Teacher To Auction Off Lifelong Collection Of African-American Artifacts

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After a retired school teacher spent a lifetime putting it together, one of the biggest collections of African American artifacts is going up for sale.

Elizabeth Meaders, a former New York City school teacher, has amassed more than 20,000 artifacts and mementos relating to African-American history over the period of 60 years. It all started with adoration for Jackie Robinson, the Hall of Fame baseball player who broke the color barrier in the sport.

“Jackie was the beginning. He was like the plug that pushed me. But once I got into the collecting field and found out how magnificent and how unappreciated these African-American artifacts and ephemera were, I was just overpowered because I switched from sports to military,” Meaders said.

Throughout the decades, what she describes as a passion evolved into a labor of love. The 90-year-old is prepared to part ways with this history after years of preserving it in her three-story Staten Island home.

“This could be a museum, whether it’s here in New York or in any town or city in America. It’s a ready-to-go museum. And that’s what it should be — a museum,” Guernsey’s Auction House president Arlan Ettinger told CBS News. 

“I would be bumping into people and knocking them out of my way and grabbing history for 20 more years. But the reality is I’ve run out of gas. I’m too old. I can’t go any further. I’m worn out physically. I have to accept reality and say it’s time for some institution or a person who is a humanitarian, philanthropist, patriotic American to take this collection to the next level,” Meaders said.

Over the years, she gathered the artifacts from catalogs and historical exhibitions. Guernsey’s in Manhattan will auction it off at the end of the month (February 28, 2022).

“Her collection focuses on the African-American experience, starting with the scourge of slavery, the struggle for civil rights, blacks in the military, in arts and the entertainment world, in sports and politics and religion and education,” said Arlan Ettinger, president of the auction house.

According to Ettinger, some of the works are relatively unknown, making this auction unique.

“A collection that really has no equal, people far more knowledgeable than I, very qualified Museum directors and historians, have described the Meaders collection as likely the best of its type in the world. I mean, that’s saying a lot,” he noted.

Meaders and Guernsey both hope that the collection will end up in a museum or institution, where it can benefit the general public.

NYC Public School Cafeterias Going Vegan On Fridays

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Forget mystery meat or cheese pizza. Instead, chickpea wraps and veggie tacos will be on the menu for New York City public school students as the nation’s largest school district shifts to “Vegan Fridays” in school cafeterias.

The move was pushed by the city’s new Mayor Eric Adams, who follows and promotes a plant-based diet that he credits for improving his health.

“I can’t tell people what to put on their grills on the weekend. But darn it, we should not be feeding the health care crisis in our prisons, our hospitals, and most importantly, in our schools, so we want to go in a more healthy direction,” Adams said in an interview on WNBC-TV on Friday.

Vegan options are already available in all of the city’s public schools every day, but starting Friday and continuing weekly, the lunch offering will be vegan. Students can still request a non-vegan option, according to the city’s Department of Education, and milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hummus and pretzels will always be available to students.

New York City public schools, which have about 938,000 students, have been offering Meatless Mondays since 2019 and Meatless Fridays since April. Around the country, 14% of school districts offered vegan meals and 56% offered vegetarian meals in at least one of their schools, according to a 2018 survey from the School Nutrition Association, a trade group representing school nutrition programs and workers.

It’s unclear whether any other districts around the country plan to go vegan one day a week like New York City schools.

New York City schools says its vegan meals have been tested and approved by small groups of students.

Friday’s menu included “vegan veggie tacos,” with a tortilla and salsa, with broccoli, and a carrot and lemon salad on the side. Other planned offerings this month include a Mediterranean chickpea dish with rice or pasta, and a black bean and plantain rice bowl.

Adams, a former New York City police captain, has said he traded in a lifestyle with junk food for a plant-based diet that helped him overcome diabetes. He wrote a book about his diet, “Healthy at Last.”

Nearly 40% of New York City public school children in grades K-8 were overweight or obese, according to data cited by the city in 2019.

Angela Odoms-Young, an associate professor in the nutritional sciences division at Cornell University who helped develop the nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program, said the shift in New York City schools is “innovative and exciting.”

Odoms-Young said adding in plant-based meals can help ensure students are getting the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, expose them to foods they might not normally consume and reinforce lifelong healthy habits. She also said it could dispel the notion of children being resistant to eating vegetables.

“It doesn’t just have to be broccoli,” Odoms-Young said. “It can just be a whole host of things that maybe kids would eat — particularly if it’s prepared in different ways.”

Video: NY Science Teacher Arrested For Allegedly Injecting Teen With COVID-19 Vaccine Without Parents’ Consent

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A Long Island biology teacher has been placed on leave after video footage emerged of her jabbing her son’s 17-year-old friend with a Covid-19 vaccine at her home without his parent’s permission.

The video, which started circulating on Monday, shows Laura Parker Russo, 54, cleaning the unidentified teen’s skin as she prepared to administer a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine into his right arm.

“There you go, at-home vaccine,’ the teen can be heard saying as he sits in a chair while Russo wipes his arm. The video is captioned with “never been so uncomfy in his life.” Watch the clip below:

The teacher stuck the J&J vaccine, which is only approved for Americans 18 years or older, into the boy’s arm on New Year’s Eve, police said. According to officials, the teenager asked for the vaccine because his mother allegedly didn’t want to have him vaccinated against Covid. It is not yet known how Russo obtained the vaccine without any medical qualifications and cops are now investigating the matter.

Police said Russo is not a medical professional and is not authorized to administer vaccines.

She was placed under arrest without incident and has been charged with New York State Education Law Unauthorized Practice of a Profession, the department said.

The Nassau County School District told NBC News 4 that Russo has been reassigned from the classroom pending the outcome of the investigation into the allegations against her.

The school district said that the allegations were not related to the school she worked at, however, and noted that the incident did not occur on school property.

“The individual in question is a district employee who has been removed from the classroom and reassigned pending the outcome of the investigation,” the district said.