The mind of a student today

December 26, 2014 Below is an interesting visual I cam across through a tweet from We Are Teachers. The visual maps out some really intriguing facts about students today. These facts are based on different studies and surveys conducted mainly on US students. I went through this resource and devised this brief synopsis: Minority students attending US schools will make up a majority of all students…

The Best of the Consumer Electronics Show 2016

Panasonic's transparent microLED display at CES 2016.

Above: Panasonic’s transparent microLED display at CES 2016.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi
I’ve returned from the biggest battleground of tech, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
My Intel Basis Peak smartwatch told me that, over four days at CES, I walked 73,376 steps, or 18,344 steps per day. Those steps felt heavier this year because I carried a shoulder bag instead of using a roller bag, per the new security rules at the event. On the plus side, I managed to come back without the nerd flu and without a blister like last year.
I did my best, but that means I still only covered a very small percentage of the 3,000-plus companies spread across 2.4 million square feet of exhibit space at CES. My eyes began to glaze over as I saw the enormous numbers of drones, augmented reality glasses, virtual reality headsets, robots, smart cars, fitness wearables, 3D printers, and smart appliance that were part of the Internet of Things (making everyday objects smart and connected). I have published 63 stories about CES products and events. (I should say, I’ll continue to publish stories from CES over the next couple of weeks). I think this was my 20th CES, though I have lost count.
Inside the bubble of CES, which was attended by an estimated 150,000 people, I didn’t even know the stock market was melting down. CES is the place to look if we want to find the things that are going to save us from economic gloom, although we may have to really look. The global technology industry is expected to generate $950 billion in 2016, down 2 percent from a year ago, with the decline due in no small part to weakness in China. This year, I didn’t see much that was going to save the world economy and overcome the skepticism of natural-born cynics. You could certainly find partisans who will say that virtual reality or the Internet of Things will do that, as both movements have spread well beyond just one or two companies. But it’s a reach to say that these categories have already given us their killer apps.
Sill, I had a lot of fun finding things that I liked, and there was no shortage of these. Without further ado, here’s my favorite technology from CES 2016:
Panasonic Transparent Display
The idea of a transparent display isn’t that new. Big tech companies have been targeting them at retailers for a while. But this week Panasonic showed off a 55-inch television for the living room. The display is embedded in a bookcase, where it can transparently show a kind of trophy case behind the glass. But then it turns to black and shows home portraits. The image swivels to reveal a personalized screen with a weather report or a screen displaying a liquid-like aquarium. And it can even show a television show. The display has micro light-emitting diodes. While the screen is limited, as it isn’t completely transparent, it can display at a resolution of 1080p. This was a glimpse of the future, much like Panasonic’s Magic Mirror from a year ago. And I thought it was a wonderful example of how to make technology blend into the environment of the home.
Eyefluence
Jim Margraff, CEO of Eyefluence, wears an Oculus Rift headset.
Above: Jim Marggraff, CEO of Eyefluence, wears an Oculus Rift headset.
Image Credit: Dean Takahashi
Eyefluence was the shortest demo I did at CES, but it was enough to show me the future of using your eyes to control things. The tiny Eyefluence sensors are attached to the inside of an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and detect the smallest movements in your eyes. I blinked, turned my head, and moved my eyes around, but Eyefluence could still track when and how I wanted to control something. I could navigate through a menu without using my hands, a keyboard, or a mouse. It was fast. It only takes about a minute to learn how to follow Eyefluence’s instructions, after which you can start controlling things that are before your eyeballs. This could very well supply a major ingredient missing from virtual reality headsets and augmented reality glasses.
Vayyar’s 3D sensing
Israeli startup Vayyar uses 3D imaging with radio waves to see through solid surfaces. It can be used to show a 3D model of a cancerous growth in a woman’s breast. It can be used to detect the heartbeat of a person, such as a sleeping baby, in another room. Or it can be used to find studs or pipes that are hidden in a wall. It can see through materials, objects, and liquids. Vayyar can also detect motion and track multiple people in large areas. It works by shooting a radio wave into a solid object and measuring all of the ways that the wave bounces around as it hits various objects. Vayyar collects the reflections and analyzes them, putting them back together as a 3D image in real time. While it is powerful, the amazing technology doesn’t use a lot of power. It comes from seasoned technologists Raviv Melamed, Miri Ratner, and Naftali Chayat, who were inspired by military technology. Melamed, formerly of Intel, told us that the technology is inexpensive. And yes, if you have the ability to see through things, you’re Superman.
ODG’s ultra-wide wide-angle augmented reality glasses
Dean Takahashi demos ODG's augmented reality glasses.
Above: Dean Takahashi demos ODG’s augmented reality glasses.
Image Credit: Dean Takahashi
The Osterhout Design Group has taken its technology for night-vision goggles and turned it into augmented reality headsets for government and enterprises. The newest R-7 headset is like looking at a 65-inch TV screen that’s right in front of your eyeballs. The company demoed a future-generation technology with ultra wide-angle viewing. The R-7 has a 30-degree field of view, but the future product has a 50-degree field of view with a 22:9 aspect ratio. It’s more like sitting in the best seat in an IMAX theater, said Nima Shams, vice president at ODG. I was able to look at it and see a wide Martian landscape. The glasses are packed with technology, from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios to gyroscopes and altitude sensors. The R-7 costs $2,750, but there’s no telling how much the wide-angle display will be. At some point in the future, I fully expect that his experience is going to be better than going to an IMAX theater.
Cypress’s energy-harvesting solar beacon
This solar-based Bluetooth energy beacon doesn't need a battery.
Above: This solar-based Bluetooth energy beacon doesn’t need a battery.
Image Credit: Cypress
Beacons are devices that can connect to your smartphone using a local Bluetooth network. Retailers like to use them to send special offers to your smartphone. That technique can target people walking by a specific store and get them to come inside. But Beacons often run out of battery. By combining technology from Spansion (which Cypress Semiconductor has acquired) and Cypress, the product designers can create a Beacon with a solar energy array. Using that technology, the device can generate its own electricity and doesn’t need a battery. You can embed this kind of technology in any device that is part of the Internet of Things (smart and connected everyday objects). You could put a Beacon in a cemetery and use it to send a story about the life of someone buried there. “We want the Internet of Things, but nobody wants to change 20 billion batteries,” said Eran Sandhaus, vice president at Cypress Semiconductor. Hundreds of potential advertisers are looking at it. We’ll definitely need new sources of power, whether kinetic or otherwise. This is how the Internet of Things is going to become practical, with billions of smart, connected objects that operate on the slimmest amount of power.
Netatmo’s Presence smart outdoor security camera
Netatmo has a smart security camera.
Above: Netatmo has a smart security camera.
Image Credit: Netatmo
Presence is a smart outdoor security camera that sends an alert based on an analysis of a scene. If someone is loitering around your house, Netatmo’s Presence will detect that person and send a message to your smartphone. It can detect the movements of your pet, or it can tell you if someone is dropping a delivery at your door. You can train the camera to stay in a particular zone and, using deep learning technology, analyze only certain types of motion. It also comes with a floodlight. Presence doesn’t dump a ton of video on you. You don’t have to take an online storage subscription out. When it identifies significant events, it saves the video so that you can view it, preventing you having to view long, unedited footage. Presence will be available in the third quarter.
LG Rollable Display
LG's rollable display
Above: LG’s rollable display
Image Credit: LG
Rollable and flexible displays seem like either science fiction or a waste of time. But the LG rollable OLED screen is real. We can roll up the screen like a newspaper, and, in fact, that might be a good use of the technology. LG is showing a prototype now that is as thin as paper and has a resolution of 810 x 1200, or almost 1 million pixels. I’m not sure how we’ll end up using it. But I suspect the roller display will find many usages over time. This makes me feel like technology is becoming as disposable and flexible as a poster. You can go somewhere, put up a rollable screen, and then turn your surroundings into a movie theater or living room.
AtmosFlare 3D drawing
3D drawing is pretty cool. Adrian Amjadi of AtmosFlare showed me how to draw physical images in 3D, using the 3D drawing pen. The system uses ultraviolet light to cure a resin. You can pull on it and deform it any way you wish, essentially making something like the jellyfish in the video here. The resin sticks on porous things, but not on metal. The longer you leave the UV light on, the harder it becomes. The $30 system is on sale at Toys ‘R Us. The company says this will “forever change the way you do art.” I don’t know if it’s going to do that, but it did give me a small moment when I thought, “Wow, that’s cool.”
Medium painting and sculpting in Oculus Rift
Oculus VR came up with its “paint app” in September, but I finally got some hands-on time with it at CES. I was amazed at how easy it was to sculpt objects using two virtual hands (via the Oculus Touch hand controls and Oculus Rift headset). Expressing yourself with sculpting tools isn’t easy. But sculpting in the virtual space gave me a feeling of instant gratification. I started with a blank slate. Then I selected a tool for adding clay with one of my hands. I was able to change the way that the clay shot out of the Oculus Touch wand by rotating my hand. Then I was able to smooth out the edges, spray paint it, replicate it, and delete whole sections of it using my hands in the virtual world. It really makes you feel like you are sculpting something that is real. I can imagine it will be very easy to use a 3D printer to print out the 3D creations you build. You could certainly do something like this in a video game, like Media Molecule’s upcoming Dreams game on the PlayStation 4. But in VR, you feel like you are also inside the thing you are creating. You can turn the image to view it from new angles. This is one of those experiences that could make your head explode with creativity if you’re a 3D artist or sculptor.
Parrot Disco
Parrot Disco
Above: Parrot Disco
Image Credit: Parrot
Parrot has created a unique drone that can fly for 45 minutes on a single charge and reach speeds up to 50 miles per hour. The Parrot Disco is the Swiss company’s latest entry into one of tech’s fastest-growing markets. The Disco is a flying wing that has a motor. It can fly itself or follow instructions you give it via an app. The drone can also take off and land by itself, using its own autopilot. If you use the Parrot Skycontroller, you can get a first-person view on a tablet screen of everything the drone is seeing. You don’t need any training to fly the drone, which has a range of two kilometers, and can navigate its way back to you.

Bullish on Blended Learning Clusters

Michael Horn
CONTRIBUTOR
An increasing number of regions are trying to create concentrated groups of blended-learning schools alongside education technology companies, which may be key to advancing the blended-learning field and increasing its odds of personalizing learning at scale to allow every child to be successful.

There is a theoretical underpinning for being bullish on the value these clusters could lend to the sector. These early attempts at building regional clusters mirror in many ways the clusters that Harvard professor Michael Porter has written about as having a powerful impact on the success of certain industries in certain geographies. Porter defines a cluster as a geographic concentration of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field.

“Clusters promote both competition and cooperation,” Porter wrote in his classic Harvard Business Review article on the topic, “Clusters and the New Economics of Competition.” He goes on to note that vigorous competition is critical for a cluster to succeed, but that there must be lots of cooperation as well—“much of it vertical, involving companies in related industries and local institutions.”

The benefit of being geographically based, he writes, is that the proximity of the players and the repeated exchanges among them “fosters better coordination and trust.” The strength comes from the knowledge, relationships, and motivation that build up, which are local in nature. Indeed, new suppliers are likely to emerge within a cluster, he writes, because the “concentrated customer base” makes it easier for them to spot new market opportunities or challenges that players need help solving.

From wine and technology in California to the leather fashion industry in Italy and pharmaceuticals in New Jersey and Philadelphia, clusters have endured and been instrumental in advancing sectors even in a world where technology has reduced the importance of geography.

As Clayton Christensen has observed, clusters may be particularly important in more nascent fields—like blended learning—in which the ecosystem is still immature, performance has yet to overshoot its users’ performance demands, and how the different parts of the ecosystem fit together are still not well understood, and thus the ecosystem is highly interdependent, even as proprietary, vertically integrated firms do not—or in the case of education, often cannot—stretch across the entire value network. In this circumstance, having a cluster with organizations so close together competing and working together may be critical.

 

Perhaps the most promising blended-learning cluster is blossoming somewhat organically in Silicon Valley, where Silicon Schools Fund (where I’m a board member), the Rogers Family Foundation, and Startup Education are helping fund the creation of a critical mass of blended-learning schools and traditional venture capitalists alongside funders like Reach Capital, Owl Ventures, GSV, and Learn Capital and accelerators like ImagineK12 are helping seed an equally critical mass of education technology companies.

The NGLC Regional Funds for Breakthrough Schools, one of the supporters of the Rogers Family Foundation’s efforts in California, has funded similar regional efforts in New Orleans with New Schools for New Orleans; Washington, DC, with CityBridge Foundation; Colorado with the Colorado Education Initiative; Chicago with Leap Innovations; and New England with the New England Secondary School Consortium.

Student Question | Is Social Media Making Us More Narcissistic?

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Are social media like Facebook turning us into narcissists? The Times online feature Room for Debate invites knowledgeable outside contributors to discuss questions like this one as well as news events and other timely issues.

Student Opinion – The Learning NetworkStudent Opinion – The Learning Network
Questions about issues in the news for students 13 and older.

Do you spend too much time trying to be attractive and interesting to others? Are you just a little too in love with your own Instagram feed?

An essay addressing those questions was chosen by two of our Student Council members this week. Angie Shen explains why she thinks it’s important:
As the generation who grew up with social media, a reflection on narcissism is of critical importance to teenagers. What are the psychological and ethical implications of constant engagement with or obsession over social media? How does it change our relationship with others and how we see ourselves?

“Narcissism Is Increasing. So You’re Not So Special.” begins:

My teenage son recently informed me that there is an Internet quiz to test oneself for narcissism. His friend had just taken it. “How did it turn out?” I asked. “He says he did great!” my son responded. “He got the maximum score!”

When I was a child, no one outside the mental health profession talked about narcissism; people were more concerned with inadequate self-esteem, which at the time was believed to lurk behind nearly every difficulty. Like so many excesses of the 1970s, the self-love cult spun out of control and is now rampaging through our culture like Godzilla through Tokyo.

A 2010 study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that the percentage of college students exhibiting narcissistic personality traits, based on their scores on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, a widely used diagnostic test, has increased by more than half since the early 1980s, to 30 percent. In their book “Narcissism Epidemic,” the psychology professors Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell show that narcissism has increased as quickly as obesity has since the 1980s. Even our egos are getting fat.

It has even infected our political debate. Donald Trump? “Remarkably narcissistic,” the developmental psychologist Howard Gardner told Vanity Fair magazine. I can’t say whether Mr. Trump is or isn’t a narcissist. But I do dispute the assertion that if he is, it is somehow remarkable.

This is a costly problem. While full-blown narcissists often report high levels of personal satisfaction, they create havoc and misery around them. There is overwhelming evidence linking narcissism with lower honesty and raised aggression. It’s notable for Valentine’s Day that narcissists struggle to stay committed to romantic partners, in no small part because they consider themselves superior.

The full-blown narcissist might reply, “So what?” But narcissism isn’t an either-or characteristic. It’s more of a set of progressive symptoms (like alcoholism) than an identifiable state (like diabetes). Millions of Americans exhibit symptoms, but still have a conscience and a hunger for moral improvement. At the very least, they really don’t want to be terrible people.

Students: Read the entire article, then tell us …

— Do you recognize yourself or your friends or family in any of the descriptions in this article? Are you sometimes too fixated on collecting “likes” and thinking about how others see you?

— What’s the line between “healthy self-love” that “requires being fully alive at this moment, as opposed to being virtually alive while wondering what others think,” and unhealthy narcissism? How can you stay on the healthy side of the line?

— Did you take the test? What did it tell you about yourself?

Henry Xu, another Student Council member who recommended this article, suggests these questions:

— What about Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media feeds makes them so hard to put down?

— Do you think this writer’s proposal of a “social media fast” is a viable way to combat narcissism?

— For those who aren’t as attached to social media, do challenges from an overinflated sense of self still arise? If so, from where?

— If everyone is becoming more narcissistic, does that make narcissism necessarily a bad thing?

Want to think more about these questions? The Room for Debate blog’s forum Facebook and Narcissism can help.

2015’s Best and Worst States for Teachers

Best and Worst States for Teachers
Most educators don’t pursue their profession for the money. But that doesn’t justify paying teachers any less than they deserve, considering the profound difference they make in people’s lives. In reality, however, teachers across the U.S. are shortchanged every year — their salaries consistently fail to keep up with inflation — while the law demands they produce better students.

It’s no surprise that the high turnover rate within the field has been likened to a revolving door. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about a fifth of all newly minted public-school teachers leave their positions before the end of their first year. And nearly half of them never last more than five.

Besides inadequate compensation, other problems persist in the academic environment. Many teachers, especially novices, transfer to other schools or abandon the profession altogether “as the result of feeling overwhelmed, ineffective, and unsupported,” according to ASCD. Without good teachers who are not only paid reasonably but also treated fairly, the quality of American education is bound to suffer.

In order to help ease the process of finding the best teaching opportunities in the U.S. — and draw attention to the states needing improvement — WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 13 key metrics. Our data set ranges from the median starting salary to the projected number of teachers per student by year 2022. The results of our study, as well as additional insight from experts and a detailed methodology, can be found below.

Main Findings

Overall Rank

State

‘Job Opportunity & Competition’ Rank

‘Academic & Work Environment’ Rank

1 Massachusetts 9 3
2 Virginia 2 14
3 Minnesota 3 10
4 Wyoming 4 13
5 New Jersey 20 2
6 Iowa 7 15
7 Wisconsin 13 8
8 Pennsylvania 1 22
9 Kansas 23 7
10 Maryland 12 17
11 Illinois 18 12
12 New York 5 26
13 Vermont 37 1
14 Utah 14 20
15 Kentucky 16 19
16 New Hampshire 34 6
17 North Dakota 35 5
18 Nebraska 31 11
19 Montana 29 16
20 Michigan 8 35
21 Delaware 15 30
22 Ohio 26 21
23 Indiana 11 33
24 Missouri 21 27
25 Texas 17 32
26 District of Columbia 10 46
27 Florida 25 31
28 Colorado 41 9
29 Arkansas 32 23
30 Alabama 18 40
31 Nevada 6 50
32 Idaho 24 36
33 Tennessee 33 28
34 Connecticut 48 4
35 Alaska 22 47
36 California 28 44
37 Georgia 29 45
38 Washington 39 29
39 Maine 49 18
40 Louisiana 27 49
41 Oklahoma 35 42
42 South Dakota 43 25
43 New Mexico 40 41
44 Rhode Island 46 24
45 South Carolina 38 48
46 Hawaii 44 38
47 Oregon 45 37
48 Mississippi 47 43
49 Arizona 42 51
50 North Carolina 50 34
51 West Virginia 51 39

Best States for Teachers Artwork

 

 

 

 

Readers Respond to Redesigned, and Wordier, SAT

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A math class at Match Charter School in Boston, which is doing a lot of test prep for the SAT. Reading passages will be harder and math problems wordier in the new test. Credit Shiho Fukada for The New York Times

 

Is it unfair to some students that the redesigned SAT, being rolled out next month, will include longer and harder reading passages and wordier math problems than before? Anemona Hartocollis’s article on the topic drew more than 900 responses from readers.

Some stressed that college admissions tests, by their very nature, should winnow out weaker readers.

“Why would you want to accept students who can’t read and write at a college level regardless of their background?” asked Ed H. of Irvine, Calif. “Instead of complaining about the idea that it is unfair to certain students, why not make sure those students are better prepared? If the poor can’t read as well as the rich, then that’s the problem that needs to be addressed.” His comment was the most recommended by other readers.
Some readers zeroed in on a sentence in the article that noted educators “fear that the revised test will penalize students who have not been exposed to a lot of reading, or who speak a different language at home — like immigrants and the poor.”

Ed Bloom, from Columbia, S.C., wrote: “I’m a reading specialist. I went nuts. Let’s not penalize people who haven’t been exposed to a lot of driving by flunking them on the driving test. Let’s not penalize the pilot of our jet liner by keeping him out of the cockpit just because he hasn’t been exposed to a lot of flying. The correct way of thinking about all of the above is not to think of it as penalizing but, instead, a need to get that person the experience. … There are lots of ways to get children ‘exposed’ to reading.”

Adam from New York wrote: “You could call it ‘penalizing students who have not been exposed to a lot of reading.’ Or you could call it ‘evaluating students’ reading skills.’”

LindaP in Boston countered with a personal story. Her son is dyslexic, and he found the SAT tough. “The comments here make my blood boil,” she wrote. “‘Who wants a kid in college who can’t read proficiently?’ ‘Prepare them better.’ ‘Perhaps these kids aren’t college material.’ Life and learning is not a straight line, and these tests take many different kinds of learners and pigeonhole each and every one of them.” Her son, she noted, is now an M.D., Ph.D. with a specialty in hematology.

A commenter under the handle R-son from Glen Allen, Va., said his stepson, who is better in math than reading, would soon be taking the test. “The new SAT will be hard for him, but he has an advantage over other students — an $800 Kaplan prep course. So it boils down to this — he’ll score better on the SAT than a lower-income student with the same abilities whose family can’t afford to fork out close to 1K to prep for and take this test. So how is this test, in any form, fair?”

A few commenters critiqued the sample of five math SAT questions that accompanied the article. Ninety-three percent of readers answered the first question in the quiz correctly; 57 percent answered the fourth question correctly. Of an algebra problem about a phone repair technician, a reader using the name Kathy, WastingTime in DC wondered, “Who gets a phone fixed these days?”

One reader, who admitted she answered only one of the five problems correctly, pointed to a question about a pear tree. Gabrielle from Los Angeles wrote: “I am a horticultural therapist who designed and built a therapeutic garden. Here’s the answer to figure out which pear tree to buy: use your relationships. Ask your friends what they’ve had success with. Call me crazy but after I left high school, I never took another math class, and it’s never held me back.”

New York Schools Wonder: How White Is Too White?

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Brooklyn Arts and Science Elementary School is one of seven New York City public schools taking part in an Education Department initiative aimed at maintaining a racial and socio-economic balance at schools in fast-gentrifying neighborhoods. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

How white is too white? At the Academy of Arts and Letters, a small K-8 school in Brooklyn founded in 2006 to educate a community of “diverse individuals,” that question is being put to the test.

The school — along with six others in New York City — is part of a new Education Department initiative aimed at maintaining a racial and socioeconomic balance at schools in fast-gentrifying neighborhoods. For the first time the department is allowing a group of principals to set aside a percentage of seats for low-income families, English-language learners or students engaged with the child welfare system as a means of creating greater diversity within their schools.

The continuing segregation of American schools — and the accompanying achievement gap between white, middle-class students and poorer minority children — has become an urgent matter of debate among educators and at all levels of government. Last week, President Obama lent his weight to the issue when he included in his budget a $120 million grant program for school integration aimed at de-concentrating poverty.

Sandra Soto, the principal of Brooklyn Arts and Science, is allowed to set aside 20 percent of her seats for English-language learners and children in the child welfare system. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Carmen Fariña, the schools chancellor, have disappointed school diversity advocates by failing to make integration a priority. The set-asides plan, approved by Ms. Fariña in November, was the first attempt at addressing the issue across multiple schools.

All of the schools involved enroll children by lottery, rather than having a school zone.

In its early years, Arts and Letters was more than 90 percent black and Hispanic, reflecting the Brooklyn neighborhoods around it, including Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill and Fort Greene. More than 80 percent of its students qualified for free or reduced lunch.

 

But the school gained a reputation for its humanities curriculum, its science lab and its focus on the arts. And newcomers changed the demographic mix of its surrounding blocks. In Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill and Fort Greene, the white population rose 120 percent from 2000 to 2010 and the black population fell by 30 percent, according to the Center for Urban Research at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Now, Arts and Letters has become one of Brooklyn’s hottest schools. Half of the school’s kindergartners are white; a mere 12 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch. That has its principal, John O’Reilly, worried.

“I love the fact that so many white affluent families would want to send their children to my school,” he said recently, before rushing off to give another tour. “But I know the impact it has on the diversity of my school.”

Mr. O’Reilly is one of a group of principals — including Julie Zuckerman at the four-year-old Castle Bridge School in Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, where 21 percent of the students are white, and Arthur Mattia, who recently retired from the Children’s School in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn, where the student population is now 59 percent white — who said they had hoped to create schools where no one race or socioeconomic group was dominant.

Instead, their schools are becoming magnets for middle-class families moving into gentrifying neighborhoods who prefer them to their local zoned schools. The principals are concerned that their schools will “tip” over into majority white, middle-class schools.

They hope the new program will help them maintain more balanced populations.

Ms. Soto, second from right, at a conference with parents. Ms. Soto says the level of integration at Brooklyn Arts and Science so far is encouraging, giving all her students a broader understanding of the world around them. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

“This is a very important step,” said David Tipson, the executive director of New York Appleseed, which works to create more integration in city schools. “This is the first time that this D.O.E. — under de Blasio — has begun truly addressing the effect gentrification has on our schools.”

In 2014, the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles released a study showing that New York City has one of the most segregated school systems in the nation. That and discomfort among educators and activists about the high number of racially and economically isolated schools in the city has generated intense discussions about integration.

 

But educators in New York and across the country are not in agreement about what integration should look like. In 2007, a United States Supreme Court ruling declared school sorting by race unconstitutional in two school districts, Seattle and Louisville, Ky.

Around that time, under Mr. de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg, the department discontinued a “controlled choice” plan in District 1, in Lower Manhattan, designed to create diversity in schools. Racial set-asides were done away with at the Brooklyn New School in the 1990s, when race-based admissions were coming under fire nationally.

In 2013, the city approved a plan that allowed Public School 133 in fast-gentrifying Gowanus to set aside seats for English-language learners and students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. Those criteria are generally used as proxies for race in trying to achieve integration. Many advocates believed this would lead to more set-aside plans.

That did not happen.

A strong body of research, beginning in the 1960s with the now-famous Coleman Report, suggests that low-income students do better academically when exposed to middle-class ones. Numerous other studies suggest that middle-class students do not see a decrease in achievement when they go to school with poorer students, and may in fact benefit in nonacademic ways.

But how best to integrate remains up for debate.

Richard D. Kahlenberg, a noted voice in the school-integration movement and a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, posits that low-income students do best when they are in schools that are majority middle class.

Julie Zuckerman, the principal of the Castle Bridge School in Washington Heights, challenges the notion that her school needs a large percentage of middle-class families to turn it into a successful place of learning. Credit Bryan R. Smith for The New York Times

Mr. O’Reilly, the Arts and Letters principal, has accepted that as a benchmark. He will give priority to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch for 40 percent of his seats.

But Ms. Zuckerman, the Castle Bridge School principal, challenges the notion that her school needs a large percentage of middle-class families to be a successful place of learning. “I’m good with 20 to 25 percent,” she said.

At Castle Bridge, students from households in which a family member is incarcerated get priority for 10 percent of the seats, and low-income students get priority for 60 percent.

The principals say the set-asides are needed, because once a school is viewed as desirable by middle-class families, their networking capabilities and social capital are far more powerful than any outreach the schools can do to attract lower-income families. All it takes, they say, is a few posts on Facebook, some word of mouth at cocktail parties, preschool fund-raisers and neighborhood playgrounds for a school to be inundated with applications from high-earning families. Those can far outnumber the ones coming from lower-income minority families, so even though seats are given out by lottery, the population can quickly shift.

“There is a number of families,” said Sandra Soto, the principal of Brooklyn Arts and Science Elementary School, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. “I don’t know what that number is exactly. It doesn’t have to be a lot. But then you become the next place.” In 2012, Ms. Soto took over a failing school that had been more than 95 percent black and Latino, renamed it and overhauled the curriculum.

This school year, around 15 percent of the population is white and more than 5 percent is Asian. Last year, it had a Parent Teacher Association president who was white.

Principals at these schools say they know that middle-class families often bring with them higher test scores, making the schools look better on paper. But several added that chasing test scores was not what had drawn them into education.

Sean F. Reardon, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education who specializes in poverty and inequality, said it was a mistake to blame middle-class white parents for wanting the best schools for their children, even if the cumulative effect tipped the racial balance. The answer, he said, needs to be systemic, with the city’s creating scores of schools designed to be diverse in much the same way the Bloomberg administration developed small schools.

“We know it can be done,” Mr. Reardon said.

Administrators at the seven pilot schools say they are all motivated by their belief that classrooms that are racially and economically diverse are good for students, according to recent research, maybe even making them brighter.

Takiesha Robinson, the mother of a third grader and a pre-kindergartner at Ms. Soto’s school, said she appreciated the access her third grader had gotten to white and Asian families since the school reopened. Ms. Robinson, who is black, says her daughter now knows about Hanukkah, understands what a menorah is and knows the difference between being Pakistani and Chinese.

“I can really, really see the difference,” she said.

Still, Ms. Robinson and other parents said they did not want to see the school “turn all white.”

 

For some white parents at the school, that is understandable.

Emily Cowan, a freelance artist and social worker, said she was willing to even sacrifice her own kindergartner’s slot next year to “preserve that diversity,” though it would mean sending her son to a different school next year.

For others, it is a bitter pill.

The idea of keeping the school diverse “totally jibes with my politics,” said Mark Schwartz, the owner of a liquor store in Prospect-Lefferts Garden, Brooklyn, who also has a kindergartner at the school. “But what if it means we lose out on this opportunity?”

Correction: February 19, 2016

An article on Wednesday about an initiative by New York City’s Education Department aimed at maintaining a racial and socioeconomic balance at schools in fast-gentrifying areas included outdated information about Arthur Mattia’s connection to the Children’s School in Brooklyn, one of the seven schools taking part. Mr. Mattia is a former principal, not the current one. (He retired in January.)

Acting Ed. Secretary John B. King Jr.’s Confirmation: Four Things to Watch For

Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., should start researching the lunch options in House and Senate cafeterias—he’s going to be on Capitol Hill quite a bit this week. He’ll kick things off with a House education committee hearing on the budget Wednesday, plus another on the president’s latest budget request for fiscal year 2017 on Thursday morning.

But the highlight may come Thursday afternoon, with his confirmation hearing. King’s predecessor, Arne Duncan, sailed through his confirmation hearing in early 2009, with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., now the committee chairman, calling him Obama’s best cabinet pick.

Alexander promised President Barack Obama that if he nominated King, the former New York state schools chief would get a fair hearing. But that doesn’t mean his confirmation hearing will be quite the love feast that Duncan’s was, in part because relations between Capitol Hill Republicans (and some Democrats) and the Education Department have become strained over the past seven years.

King, who arrived at the department early last year, wasn’t around to help make many of the decisions that GOP lawmakers have criticized as federal overreach (like pushing teacher evaluation through test scores, and Common Core State Standards adoption through waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act).  But he could still take questions on those issues Thursday.

Here are four things that will almost surely come up in the confirmation hearing and, possibly, King’s other appearances this week:

Implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act: Alexander has said it’s particularly important to have an honest-to-goodness, confirmed secretary since the next person to head up the Education Department will get the ball rolling on implementation of ESSA, the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Alexander (and many other Republicans) thought Duncan overstepped his bounds in offering states waivers from the NCLB law. So there are huge sections of ESSA seeking to rein in federal power when it comes to testing, standards, teacher evaluations, and more. King, who has made it clear in recent speeches that he sees the law as including a clear role for the federal government in ensuring equity for all students, will almost certainly be asked about how he sees those prohibitions playing out.

King’s personal and professional background: King, who is African-American and Puerto Rican, has used his personal story—growing up in New York City as the orphaned son of educators—to prod states to keep the needs of disadvantaged front and center in policymaking. King may also play up his background as a teacher and principal. If confirmed, he’d be the first former principal to serve in the job, and only the third former K-12 teacher. (Secretaries Rod Paige and Terrel Bell were classroom teachers. So was another acting secretary, Ted Sanders.) What’s more, King is a former state chief—so he can talk about the federal-state relationship from both perspectives.

Common Core: The standards are highly likely to come up at some point in the hearing. As New York state chief, King was a common core fan, but for the most part, he won’t be able to use his power as secretary to bolster common core—thanks to ESSA, he can’t tie adoption of the standards to flexibility or new money. (He can use the bully pulpit to tout the benefits of the standards, though.) But congressional Republicans aren’t happy with the Education Department’s recent messaging on ESSA standards. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., head of the House education committee, said at a recent hearing that the department has been making it sound like the new law continues to embrace common core. (In fact, ESSA calls for states to set standards that will prepare students to take credit-bearing coursework in college, but prohibits the department—or the post-secondary schools—from directing states to set specific standards. The department has said the law calls for “college- and career-ready” standards.)

Teacher’s Take: During his tenure as New York state chief, teachers’ unions and other advocates criticized King for, in their view, pushing too far, too fast on tying evaluations to new tests aligned to the common core. (More here.) And when King was selected to replace Duncan, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, expressed serious concerns about the choice. (She feels a lot better about King now that she’s seen him in action. More here). But not everyone is going to be assuaged—the Badass Teachers’ Association has been circulating a petition calling on lawmakers not to confirm King.

BONUS: King could be asked about Danny Harris, the department’s chief information officer, whose had some tax and conflict-of-interest issues detailed in a report by the department’s Inspector General—but that seems less likely now that Harris has announced his retirement.

Earlier this month, King testified when the House Government Reform and Oversight committee held a hearing on how the department has dealt with Harris’ behavior. King explained that—back in 2013—the Justice Department and the Inspector General concluded Harris didn’t violate law or policy. Plus, King, who has only been acting secretary for a couple months, counseled Harris about his behavior. But Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, still expressed concerns about King’s management, saying the new secretary was “failing.” Harris collapsed at the hearing and had to be taken to the hospital.

Last week, though, Harris announced his retirement, effective Feb. 29. (Hat tip: Politico). Harris, who has been a career employee at the department for more than 30 years, could have retired already, but decided to stick around to help the department improve cybersecurity, said Dorie Nolt, an education department spokeswoman in a statement. It’s unclear if Senate Republicans shared their House colleagues’ concerns about Harris—but his actions may not matter as much now that he’s on his way out the door.

Accountability Grabs the Spotlight at Senate ESSA Oversight Hearing

But there was less agreement about the extent to which that new latitude could be challenging for schools—or even detrimental to students, particularly historically disadvantaged ones.

Senators quizzed those testifying about how they were rethinking school accountability under ESSA, whether they felt like they will have enough time to create and finalize their plans in order to receive federal funds, and whether the U.S. Department of Education should use a light touch or be aggressive when regulating under the new law.

And it’s a safe bet that many of these same questions will come up in the Senate education committee on Thursday, when its members hold a confirmation hearing for acting Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate education committee, said in his opening remarks that ESSA represents a major and appropriate shift in control over education policy to the states, and an example of Washington actually working well. But those two things alone, he stressed, won’t necessarily mean the law would be carried out as he and other champions of ESSA intend: “A law that is not properly implemented is not worth the paper it’s printed on.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the committee’s ranking Democrat, stressed that ESSA contains important “guardrails” that are important for the Education Department to keep in mind as it develops regulations for the law. She also said civil rights groups and other like-minded stakeholders should be included in discussions and considerations about the law’s impact.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act—the current version of which is ESSA—”is at its heart a civil rights law,” Murray noted in her opening statement.

Two weeks ago, the House subcommittee on K-12 held its own oversight hearing on ESSA. On Thursday, the full House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold another oversight hearing on the new law.

Readiness of States and Schools

In prepared testimony, Wisconsin Superintendent Tony Evers (who might have received the most attention and questions from lawmakers) stressed the importance for balance under ESSA. He said that while he did not want “top-down mandates” and over-regulation from Washington, guidance provided by the Education Department on key issues has proven helpful to his state.

“In states like Wisconsin, we welcome oversight of the progress we are making, but it is important that states and local districts have the flexibility to identify how we achieve the goals we have set for students, the measures we include in our accountability system, the weight we give these measures, and how we design interventions that reflect the realities facing unique student populations across the state,” said Evers, who is also the president of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

And Gov. Gary Herbert, R-Utah, chairman of the National Governors Association (which heartily endorsed ESSA before it was signed), made a similar point, saying that “state solutions” would work best in order to leverage education as a tool for lifting children out of poverty. “Governors see ESSA as an opportunity to set high, but realistic, expectations for schools,” he said.

(Remember, under ESSA, the old adequate yearly progress requirement is out, and states have more leeway to set academic goals for students, even though the former No Child Left Behind Act’s annual testing mandates for grades 3-8 and high school remain.)

Those remarks probably were music to Alexander’s ears. Just last weekend, in fact, Alexander made a pitch to the nation’s governors at an NGA meeting to use their extensive power under ESSA to reconsider or remake education policy as they see fit, and to build in state coalitions to help implement the law.

Teachers’ union leaders also praised new breathing room under ESSA, but put a different spin on it.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, for example, made a pitch to lawmakers to give teachers, in particular, and other school leaders time and latitude to help redesign accountability systems that measure what students need to know and what supports and resources teachers would need to help students realize those learning objectives. To help that process, Weingarten told lawmakers, there should be a pause on high-stakes accountability pegged to testing.

“We have gone through many, many reforms, where there is a rush to publish and a rush to create, and no attention paid to the implementation,” she said.

On teacher evaluations in particular, it’s an open question to what extent states will alter or toss out their current systems, since ESSA now gives the federal government no say over those evaluations. That’s a big change from the Race to the Top competitive-grant program and NCLB waivers, which included specific requirements regarding evaluations and their use of student performance.

However, to dismiss the important role the Education Department has under ESSA, and to minimize the progress minority students have made during the last 15 years under the NCLB law, would be a major mistake, Kati Haycock, the president of the Education Trust, told senators. Haycock stated that the track record of states and districts in protecting vulnerable students was “not a good one.”

“Recognizing the need for state and local decisionmaking does not mean, as some have suggested, that the only real role for the department of education is to cut checks,” Haycock said.

How Much Time is Enough Time?

Alexander asked Evers to what extent he thought states should be realistically expected to complete new plans to comply with ESSA by the summer of 2017 and put them into effect for the 2017-18 school year. Evers said he thought that deadline, roughly 18 months away, was a fair one. Evers said he planned to convene groups of stakeholders to discuss ESSA starting in the spring, for example. (Click here for more about the timeline for ESSA, including the development of regulations.)

And Haycock said that states’ initial approaches to accountability ESSA could evolve based on evidence. “As people learn more about what indicators are helpful in working on improvement, those can be added later on,” she told lawmakers.

Weingarten and National Education Association Vice President Becky Pringle, however, expressed concerns that without enough time, states wouldn’t take full advantage of the flexibility and options presented by ESSA to consider non-academic indicators and other factors in accountability. New and helpful indicators of students’ social-emotional status, which could have a significant impact on accountability under ESSA, could be productively examined, Weingarten noted.

By contrast, if states feel rushed, Pringle argued, “They will tinker around the edges” of accountability systems, losing the opportunity they have under ESSA, and failing students.

Alexander also asked Pringle and Weingarten the right way to approach teacher evaluations in states, given the newfound stability in federal policy and flexibility for states. Pringle responded that instead of evaluations that,  in the past, used a “test and punish” approach, new evaluations might consider new factors like teacher contributions outside the classrooms and in broader communities.

“We’ve got to root it in the idea that the evaluation is about improving professional practice, so that all students can learn. That’s a very different paradigm,” Pringle told Alexander.

In a similar vein, responding to a question from Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., about the place of testing under ESSA, Evers said that a lot of the overtesting was largely at the local level and not related to the volume of state exams: “The issue is more likely how the test results are used, rather than the amount of testing.”

Data and Services

Both Evers and David R. Schuler, president of AASA, the School Superintendents Association, stressed the value of good data, which was the subject of questioning by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who said that data is critical to ensuring that federal money is being spent appropriately. (Warren also made a pitch for federal officials “to strengthen accountability regulations, not weaken them.”)

And Schuler said the ability of states under ESSA to use college admissions tests instead of traditional state exams would help students, in particular.

However, Schuler also said that the Education Department, as part of what should be its not-overly-aggressive approach to ESSA regulation, should not place too much of a burden on districts, especially rural ones, when it comes to compliance with regulations and data-reporting. Federal officials, he said, should first see whether states have a lot of the data the Education Department might already be seeking as it provides guidance and regulations concerning ESSA, for example.

“Please do not duplicate your efforts,” Schuler said.

Pringle and Weingarten also discussed resource equity with Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. Weingarten made a pitch for connecting how more-equitable resources for schools, like additional incentives for teachers, could improve school turnaround efforts.