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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Bari Brower Wins Her Article 78, Vacating Her U-Rating For The 2006-2007 School Year

Matter of Brower v New York City Dept. of Educ.

Matter of Brower v New York City Dept. of Educ. 2015 NY Slip Op 04764 Decided on June 9, 2015 Appellate Division, First Department Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431. This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.

Decided on June 9, 2015
Acosta, J.P., Saxe, Moskowitz, Richter, Feinman, JJ.
14835 113843/10 100594/13

[*1] In re Bari A. Brower, Petitioner-Appellant,


New York City Department of Education, Respondent-Respondent. 
Noah A. Kinigstein, New York, for appellant.
Zachary W. Carter, Corporation Counsel, New York (Diana Lawless of counsel), for respondent.
Judgment, Supreme Court, New York County (Manuel J. Mendez, J.), entered January 21, 2014, denying the petition to annul respondent's determination, dated December 20, 2012, which sustained the issuance of an unsatisfactory rating (U-rating) of petitioner's performance as a teacher for the 2006-2007 school year, and dismissing the proceeding, unanimously reversed, on the law, without costs, the petition granted, petitioner's U-rating for the 2006-2007 school year vacated, and the matter remanded to respondent for further proceedings consistent herewith.

Petitioner was certified by the State of New York as a public school teacher for grades 1 through 6 in September 2006. On August 31, 2006, she was appointed as a probationary kindergarten teacher with the Department of Education (DOE), and was assigned to P.S. 1 in the Bronx. She received a satisfactory rating in her first formal observation, on November 21, 2006. However, she received an unsatisfactory rating after an "informal observation" on January 10, 2007.

Later in January 2007, the principal discovered that petitioner, who was only licensed to teach grades 1-6, was teaching out of license at the kindergarten level, and reassigned her to a first-grade class. Although respondent asserts that the transfer occurred in January, petitioner states that it occurred in March, seven months into the school year. In any event, it was a mid-year transfer into what petitioner describes as a "very difficult class." She alleges, inter alia, that five teachers had been assigned to the class in 2006-2007 and all had been reassigned or resigned; that many of the children in the class had severe behavior problems; and that the class was in effect "an unspecified special education' class."

On April 17, 2007, shortly after petitioner had been transferred to the new class, an assistant principal conducted a formal observation of petitioner's first-grade class, and rated petitioner unsatisfactory. The observation report found, inter alia, that during the lesson, two students were running around the room, and one ran out of the classroom; that petitioner did not "address the needs" of two named students; and that petitioner "did not bring the lesson to summation" when the period ended.

A third and final formal observation for the 2006-2007 school year was scheduled for June 12, 2007, but never occurred. In a June 14, 2007 letter to petitioner, the principal related [*2]the relevant events and concluded that petitioner "impeded [the observation] process from taking place" by twice rescheduling and postponing the dates set for her pre-observation conference, as well as for the formal observation, claiming illness and failing to follow the proper procedure for absences.

On June 15, 2007, petitioner received and signed her annual review for the 2006-2007 school year, which rated her unsatisfactory in 17 of the 23 categories listed on the rating sheet. The review further showed that petitioner was absent from school 11 times during the school year.

By letter dated June 15, 2007, the Community Superintendent for District 7 informed petitioner that her file would be reviewed for a determination of whether her services as a probationary teacher would be discontinued and whether her teaching license would be terminated as of the close of business on July 15, 2007. The letter stated:

"The consideration of your discontinuance is based on professional attitude and professional growth; attention to records and reports; unsatisfactory classroom performance; poor planning and preparation; skill in adapting instruction to the individual needs of the students; evidence of pupil growth in knowledge and skills."

This letter constituted the charging document that was the basis of the ensuing hearing. Notably missing from the charging document was any mention of excessive absences.

By letter dated July 16, 2007, the Community Superintendent for District 7 informed petitioner of the "reaffirm[ance of her] Discontinuance of Probationary Service and Termination." On November 20, 2007, an officially designated Chancellor's Committee, composed of three members, conducted a review of the decisions to issue petitioner a U-rating for the 2006-2007 school year, to discontinue her probationary service, and to revoke her New York City teaching certificate.

After considering the documents and testimony presented at the review, the majority of the Chancellor's Committee concurred as to the recommendation to discontinue petitioner's probationary service. However, "[r]ecognizing that [petitioner] is young and inexperienced and that she had to take over a new class, which may have been more of a challenge than she could handle," the Committee "reached unanimous[] non-concurrence on the recommendation to terminate all license(s)/certificate(s) held by [petitioner]."

Approximately 2 ½ years later, by letter dated June 22, 2010, the Chancellor's designee informed petitioner that he had "reviewed the report of my Committee concerning the recommendation that all your teaching certificate(s)/licenses be terminated . . . and that your probationary service as a Teacher of Common Branches be discontinued," and had determined to sustain the recommendation. Accordingly, all of petitioner's licences/certificates to teach in New York City were terminated effective July 16, 2007. As petitioner notes, this determination was made notwithstanding the unanimous view of the Chancellor's Committee that the recommendation to terminate all her licenses/certificates held by petitioner should not be adopted.

This is petitioner's second CPLR article 78 proceeding. In the prior proceeding, the court concluded that the petition to review the termination of petitioner's probationary employment was time-barred, but granted the proceeding to the extent of annulling the unsatisfactory rating and revocation of petitioner's teaching license and remanding the matter for a new hearing on [*3]petitioner's unsatisfactory rating and the imposition of a penalty (see Matter of Brower v New York City Dept. of Educ., 38 Misc 3d 291 [Sup Ct, NY County 2012]).

In the prior proceeding, the court also found, inter alia, that respondent failed to give petitioner adequate notice that absenteeism was a basis for its considering adverse action against her and thus that its reliance on petitioner's attendance record violated due process. Nevertheless, on remand, respondent again relied on evidence of absenteeism, as did the court in upholding petitioner's U-rating in the instant proceeding.

We find that respondent acted in a manner that was arbitrary and capricious. While the evidence of pedagogical deficiency — apart from the evidence of absenteeism — might, by itself, be sufficient to warrant the U-rating, that is for respondent to decide.

If, on remand, respondent declines to sustain petitioner's unsatisfactory rating, respondent is free to reconsider the termination of her probationary employment (see Matter of Brower v New York City Dept. of Educ., 38 Misc 3d 291). If, on the other hand, respondent sustains the unsatisfactory rating, it is precluded from imposing the penalty of revocation of her teaching license because the judgment in the first article 78 proceeding directed that the penalty, if any, should be something less than revocation of petitioner's license, and respondent did not appeal from that judgment.

Petitioner here presents a much stronger case than that of the petitioner in Matter ofBrown v Board of Educ. Of the City School Dist. of the City of N.Y. (89 AD3d 486 [1st Dept 2011]), which involved a single improperly considered document that ostensibly related to the same issue — i.e., pedagogical quality — the evidence of which we ultimately found adequate. Here, the disputed evidence relates to a different issue. Further, it is notable that both the post-hearing report of the ALJ on remand and the decision in the second article 78 proceeding paid considerable attention to the question of absenteeism. It is also noteworthy that, as the article 78 court in the first proceeding noted, the U-rating was based in large part on one formal evaluation during petitioner's short time as a first grade teacher. While there was certainly evidence supporting the U-rating, it should be noted that petitioner was transferred from the class that she had been teaching since the start of the school year to a new class sometime between January and March. Finally, it is significant that the wrongful admission of evidence in this case occurred after a specific direction from the court that evidence of absenteeism was not authorized, based on the charges.

Accordingly, we remand the matter to respondent for reconsideration of petitioner's performance rating for the 2006-2007 school year based solely on the evidence related to the charges of which petitioner received proper notice.



5846, 113658/08

89 A.D.3d 486 (2011)
932 N.Y.S.2d 64
2011 NY Slip Op 7908


Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, First Department.

Decided November 10, 2011.


Petitioner was a probationary teacher in the New York City school system for three years. He was terminated at the end of his third year in 2008. Pursuant to a review procedure set forth in the parties' collective bargaining agreement, petitioner appealed to the Department of Education's Office of Appeals and Reviews.

At a hearing, petitioner's supervisors, Principal Weissbrot and Assistant Principal Bausch, were called as witnesses by the Department of Education (DOE). They both similarly testified about petitioner's poor performance in class management and engagement of students. DOE also presented petitioner's Annual Professional Performance Review and Report on Probationary Service of Pedagogical Employee (APPR) for the period of August 30, 2007 to June 2008. The APPR, which was signed by Principal Weissbrot, reflected a "U-rating" in that calendar year for petitioner. Besides cross-examining DOE's witnesses, petitioner pointed out that the APPR was deficient in several respects, namely that no documentation was annexed to the APPR as required by the rating handbook promulgated by the Chancellor, and that sections of the report were left blank.

The Chancellor's Committee Report issued in September 2009 unanimously agreed with the principal's recommendation to deny petitioner his Certification of Completion of Probation effective August 28, 2008. In this article 78 proceeding brought by petitioner, Supreme Court found that the determination to discontinue petitioner's employment was rationally based. Nevertheless, the court granted the petition on the ground that the APPR was not in strict compliance with the procedures set forth in the rating handbook promulgated by the Chancellor. We now reverse.

Petitioner has failed to demonstrate that his termination of employment as a probationary teacher was arbitrary and capricious or in bad faith. Indeed, petitioner does not dispute that the evidence adduced at the hearing from the principal and assistant principal provided ample ground for his discontinuance. The principal and the assistant principal described petitioner's poor performance in class management and engagement of students. Significantly, their individual assessments were based on their personal classroom observations. Under these circumstances,
[89 A.D.3d 488]

any deficiencies in the APPR do not render the determination to discontinue his employment arbitrary and capricious since the hearing testimony provided ample grounds for his termination (see Matter of Sorell v Board of Educ. of City School Dist. of City of N.Y., 168 A.D.2d 453 [1990]).


A Look Back to March 2015, When Bill de Blasio Said That Teacher Accountability= Admitting You Are a Subpar Teacher (ATR), and You Should Leave the DOE

Most ATR teachers who left system since new contract took buyouts, retired

By Geoff Decker and Sarah Darville
Steps of Tweed, DOE Headquarters, 52 Chambers Street in Manhattan

In his fight to fend off the education policy proposals being pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said his administration is already cracking down on subpar teachers.
In particular, he has pointed to 290 or so teachers who have left the school system entirely between April 2014 and this February. They left the costly and controversial absent teacher reserve pool, and represent as many exits as the Bloomberg administration saw during the previous two years combined, city officials said.
“My administration is serious about teacher accountability,” de Blasio told state lawmakers last month while defending his plan for struggling schools. “We have moved 289 teachers out of the Absent Teacher Reserve – and out of the system – since April.”
New figures released Friday, along with documents obtained by Chalkbeat, offer new insight into why those teachers departed. They show that disciplinary processes, including new ones created by last year’s teacher contract, played a fairly small role, with only 21 of the teachers terminated after missing job interviews or for other reasons.
De Blasio has said recently that his administration prefers different strategies. Nearly 200 of those 289 teachers — who lost their permanent positions and couldn’t find new ones, but remained on the city’s payroll as substitutes — took buyouts last summer or retired this school year. Another 18 resigned, and 53 agreed to leave while facing charges of misconduct or incompetence.
In addition, no teachers had faced charges under a new, expedited termination process as of December 2014, according to a department document obtained by Chalkbeat. (That process requires a teacher to have logged formal complaints from two separate principals, something that could be unlikely to happen in the first months of the school year.)
The new figures brought renewed calls from advocates of Cuomo’s plans to change to state law that sets out the procedures for teacher termination.
“Instead of being part of the solution, this administration has thrown its hands up and resigned itself to working around a broken system,” said Jenny Sedlis, executive director of StudentsFirstNY.
But the absent teacher reserve has shrunk under de Blasio, in part because he did not close any schools last year. Under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the pool ballooned with teachers excessed from closing schools, costing the city an estimated $105 million in 2013.
City officials says the pool had about 1,000 teachers this February. More than 500 teachers were hired for full-time positions in the fall, according to the department document, and the pool had 280 fewer members at the start of this school year than last.
Now, the de Blasio administration is facing the same complicated process of removing the pool’s longtime members that has frustrated city leaders for years.
Testimony given in 2013 by Lawrence Becker, the department’s CEO of human resources, illustrates some the challenges. More than 300 teachers in the pool then had incompetence or misconduct charges against them substantiated, but were not allowed to be terminated. More than 200 had recently received an unsatisfactory rating, and more than 150 were licensed to teach “esoteric” subjects, making them difficult to place in schools. Formal disciplinary proceedings can last months and sometimes years.
On Thursday, de Blasio said that the best way to get around those problems is by avoiding formal procedures altogether. Instead, principals and department officials should focus on counseling subpar teachers to leave on their own, a strategy that Chancellor Carmen Fariña told Capital gives them an “opportunity to leave gracefully.” Some of the recent retirements and resignations were likely the result of that kind of strategic pressure, officials said.
“If you can counsel someone out voluntarily, skip all that process — ‘You don’t belong here anymore, you’re a good human being but you don’t belong here anymore, you’re not into it, you’re burned out, you can’t do what we need you to do in this day and age,’ whatever it is — if that person goes along willingly, that is the most efficient way to resolve the problem,” de Blasio said.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, a close ally of de Blasio’s, has also acknowledged that the process for matching excessed teachers to schools that need them still needs work.
“The entire ATR process was so mismanaged by the Bloomberg administration that it will take years to sort out,” Mulgrew said.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

APPR, Rebuttals, and Appeals

All members of the UFT subject to observations must write rebuttals and send these statements to the person observing you and, if this person is not the principal, to the principal of your school. ADVOCATZ can assist in writing a polished rebuttal.

Any UFT member who receives an APPR end-of-year rating which is not correct or does not reflect  his/her performance accurately, must, in my opinion, file for an Appeal. You may lose this Appeal, but this step is an important part of the process you must take to clear your record and/or name. The UFT owns this part of the Appeals process.

The UFT website has the information you need to appeal. READ AND FILE!!

Betsy Combier

Process for teachers to appeal an Ineffective rating for 2014-15 school year


Two kinds of appeals

There are two different types of appeals in the new evaluation system: chancellor’s appeals and panel appeals. All teachers are entitled to a chancellor’s appeal. After talking to you and reviewing your forms and supporting documentation, the UFT will determine whether your case may be appropriate for a panel appeal.

Chancellor’s appeals

A hearing officer from the DOE’s Office of Appeals and Review, the same office that hears U rating appeals, will hear your case. Unlike the U rating appeals process, which can drag on for months, the DOE hearing officer has 30 days to issue a decision in a chancellor’s appeal.

Panel appeals

The union can identify up to 13 percent of all Ineffective ratings each year to challenge on grounds of harassment or reasons not related to job performance.

These cases will be heard by a three-member panel comprised of a person selected by the DOE, a person selected by the UFT, and a neutral arbitrator.

Cases that the UFT selects for panel appeals may require a follow-up meeting with a UFTadvisor.

All returning teachers covered by the new evaluation system should receive their year-end rating for the 2014–15 school year via Department of Education email. Hard copies of ratings will be provided when they return to school on Sept. 8, according to the DOE.

For those who receive a rating of Ineffective, there is a process in place to appeal the rating. Regardless of the reason you may feel the rating is unfair, the first steps you should take are the same.Call your UFT borough office to make an appointment to file your appeal. At that time, aUFT representative will guide you through the steps you need to take prior to the appointment.

To prepare for your appointment and your appeal, you need to be proactive and organized. You must submit the specific, detailed reasons for your appeal as well as all of the documents you plan to use to support your arguments. The UFT has posted online a checklist of materials that you should gather in preparation for your appeal. These include your Overall Rating Report, Observation Reports, Learning Measure results, documents related to your Teacher Improvement Plan (TIP), if applicable, and any other documents that you feel are pertinent.

In addition to the documents, you must provide the reasons your rating should be overturned. In order to help you, we have created forms that the borough office will email you when you contact them to make an appointment. The borough office will also provide you with an email address to which you can send the completed forms. Before your appointment, fill out all the forms you receive electronically and save them on your computer. Attach the forms to an email and send them to the email address provided by your borough office when you made the appointment. Include any supporting documentation that you are able to send electronically, such as your rating sheet and observations.

Bring hard copies of your completed forms and all your documentation with you to your appointment.

At your appointment, your intake advisor will review your forms and documentation for completeness, objectivity and clarity. The intake advisor will let you know if you are missing any documents or if you need to flesh out information on your form.

The UFT must submit electronically to the DOE the forms and accompanying documentation for all teachers filing appeals. This means that in order to ensure your case is filed, you must complete and submit your appeal package to the UFT by Monday, Oct. 26. We cannot guarantee that members who contact us after that date will have their cases appealed.

The DOE will begin holding its appeals hearings in late December or early January.

If you receive an Ineffective rating for the 2014–15 school year, you will be given a Teacher Improvement Plan this school year designed to pinpoint weaknesses and support you in addressing them. (Teachers rated Developing may also be given a Teacher Improvement Plan.) A trained Peer Validator, who is a fellow New York City public school teacher, will also observe you three times over the course of the year and review the fairness of your rating.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Pre-K Registrations Rise, Except From Those Who Need It The Most

Mayor de Blasio at PS 130

Come from Poorest ZIP Codes

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s universal pre-K program has seen registrations increase by 12,000 children in its second year of operations, with double-digit percentage increases across income levels except for one group: those who need it the most.
New data obtained by ProPublica that compares pre-K registration with a student’s home ZIP code shows that the program added only 195 kids from the bottom 20 percent of ZIP codes by household income.
That is an increase of just under 1 percent for families that make less than $38,000 a year. All other income groups saw large percentage increases from 27 percent to 43 percent.
The stark contrast between those at the very bottom and everybody else is important because decades of academic research have shown that children from low-income families who attend pre-K benefit immensely, but those benefits decrease as you move up the income ladder and may even disappear beyond the middle class. The universal pre-K program was a hallmark of de Blasio’s campaign to make free pre-K education a right for every New Yorker and to narrow achievement gaps, which start very early in child development.
“I honestly don’t see how the mayor will narrow early disparities in children’s learning until he focuses more directly on poor communities, lifting low-income families,” said Bruce Fuller, a UC Berkeley professor who has analyzed the city’s universal pre-K program and provided ProPublica with his analysis of the newest numbers.
Students in the lowest 20 percent of ZIP codes are still the most represented across the program. They make up almost a third of this year’s 65,000 registrations. And city officials said they expect their numbers to go up. Last year, the Department of Educationfirst announced 51,500 registrations, but an additional 1,620 students ended up enrolling. If history repeats itself (and assuming every single new student comes from the bottom group), enrollment growth in the poorest ZIP codes would reach nearly 9 percent this year. But even this hypothetical percentage growth would be three to five times less than the growth of the other income groups this year. It’s also 15 times less than the bottom income group’s growth in 2014 when it expanded by 138 percent.
“Once you successfully engage the first layer of poor income families it gets harder and harder to engage the deeper and deeper layers of families,” Fuller said. “You are now talking about going to the housing projects and knocking on doors, reaching out to the families in Spanish and Cantonese. You are talking about reaching immigrant families who might be mistrustful of government.”
This is exactly the kind of outreach city officials say they are doing.
“We have over 20 full-time people that are dedicated to reaching out to communities all over the city, who speak many languages,” said Josh Wallack, Deputy Chancellor at the city’s Department of Education who directly oversees the pre-K program. “And they have reached out to tens and tens of thousands of families, not only with live phone calls but by attending community events all over the city.” Wallack’s remarks are from an interview that took place last week before these registration numbers were obtained.
Harry Hartfield, the department’s deputy press secretary, stressed the same point in a statement prepared for this story. “We knocked on doors, called families directly, and went to community events across [low-income] neighborhoods to tell families about our free, full-day, high quality programs,” he said. “And we got the message out: two thirds of all students enrolled in Pre-K for All are from households below the median income.
A separate analysis of the data was featured in a story published Sunday. The article touted the mayor’s program with a similar statistic, reporting that 62 percent of children registered this year come from ZIP codes that are below the city’s median income of $51,865. This is true, but left unmentioned were the disparities between those who are close to the median and those who are very much below it.
Overall, eight out of the 12 ZIP codes that saw the largest drops in enrollments since last year fall within the bottom 20 percent. Officials note that in some of these ZIP codes, enrollment in mandatory kindergarten has also decreased, which could mean there are fewer children living in the area. Only four of the 40 ZIP codes that saw the largest increases this year were in the lowest income group.
While an analysis of median income by ZIP code provides only a proxy to understand who is actually making use of universal pre-K, this is the data that the city has been willing to release. It has not released income data for the particular families who enroll in pre-K.
Update, Sept. 18, 2015: After publication, de Blasio’s deputy press secretary Wiley Norvell offered the following comment:
“This is a 2-year expansion, and the first year was heavily focused on low-income communities that benefit most from high quality pre-K. In the ten lowest-income communities, enrollment more than doubled last year. And that focus continued this year, where we pushed and successfully enrolled more than 1,000 children whose families were in homeless shelters. Professor Fuller's bizarre allegation that low-income families aren't served by this new system has been rejected by early education providers and experts over and over.”
Related stories: For more coverage, read ProPublica’s previous reporting onuniversal pre-K.

Friday, September 18, 2015

New York City Council Will Hold a Hearing On The NYC DOE's Restructured School Support System on October 1, 2015


Hearing on DOE’s Restructured School Support System

The City Council’s Education Committee, chaired by Council Member Daniel Dromm, will hold an oversight hearing, “Oversight: DOE’s Restructured School Support System.  Below is information regarding the upcoming hearing:

Hearing on:    Oversight: “DOE’s Restructured School Support System”
Date:              Thursday, October 1, 2015
Time:              1:00 p.m.  (*public testimony is estimated to begin at or after 3:00pm)
Place:              Council Chambers – City Hall

In January 2015, Chancellor Fariña announced a new streamlined school support system, dubbed “Strong Schools, Strong Communities,” to align the responsibilities of supervising and supporting schools in the offices of the district and high school superintendents.  Under the new system, which takes effect in the current 2015-16 school year, there will be clear lines of authority and accountability under the direction of the superintendent.  The reforms to the structure also include the replacement of the 55 Children First Networks with seven geographically based Borough Field Support Centers (BFSCs).  The new, geographically-based BFSCs, which opened in July, are providing integrated supports to schools across areas of instruction, operations, including finance and human resource support, and student services including health resources and counseling, support to English Language Learners, and support to students with disabilities.  This oversight hearing would provide a better understanding of the restructured school support system.

We invite members of Community Education Councils, parents, students, educators, advocates, and all other stakeholders and interested members of the public to testify at this hearing.  Testimony will be limited to 2-3 minutes per person to allow as many as possible to testify.  Although the hearing starts at 1:00 p.m., the Administration (Department of Education), as well as other witnesses (such as elected officials) have been invited to testify and answer questions from Council Members at the outset, so we do not expect to hear from others until approximately 3:00 pm or later.  Please make sure you fill out a witness slip on the desk of the Sergeant-at-arms if you wish to testify.  If you plan to bring written testimony, please bring at least 20 copies.  If you are unable to attend the hearing and wish to submit written testimony, please email your testimony to

Please share this information with any interested groups or individuals. Thank you for your assistance and we look forward to seeing you on October 1st!  Please note - hearing dates and times are subject to change.  For information about hearings and other events, check the Council's website at or, if you'd like to receive email notices of upcoming hearings, you can sign up at the following link  All hearings are open to the public. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

EVENT Alert: Yvette Talley's 3020-a is Open and Public, Starts Friday September 18, 2015

Here is the information for anyone who wants to attend the 3020-a:

100 Gold Street (under the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge, across the street from New York Presbyterian Hospital downtown)
3rd Floor, NYC DOE

*save time to go through the security where you must show ID

the hearing starts at 10:00, so please plan to arrive on the 3rd floor no later than 9:45AM. Sit in the waiting room until a room is announced

The Respondent:      Yvette Talley
The Arbitrator is:     Mary O'Connell
DOE Attorney:        Matthew Riordan
NYSUT Attorney:    Paul Brown

You can write notes during the arbitration, but you cannot record anyone, and you cannot talk to anyone, including the Respondent while the hearing is going on.

Other dates (can change without notice, so check this blog)

9/21, 9/22, 9/27, 9/28, 9/29, 10/13

Gertrude Wilks And Establishing Regional School Integration

Gertrude Wilks (right), the daughter of Louisiana sharecroppers, moved to East Palo Alto and was
one of its most prominent leaders in the 1960s.

The problem in New York City is that nothing happens until somebody pays for
 it to happen, and some politician sees some benefits (political/financial) to doing 

Segregation in our public schools has never been fully addressed because no 
one put their political capital behind establishment of a new model.

We need this. 

Betsy Combier, Editor
President, ADVOCATZ

Charters without Borders: Using Inter-district Charter Schools
as a Tool for Regional School Integration

Halley Potter
The Century Foundation


In 1966, 
Gertrude Wilks, a black mother in East Palo Alto, California, was fed up with the inadequate teaching methods and scarce resources in her son’s predominantly black high school. Then she had an idea. Wilks started a grassroots “sneak out” movement that would send her son—and a hundred other children—to schools in the neighboring predominantly white and wealthy Palo Alto school district. Wilks and the other black parents partnered with white Palo Alto residents who lent their addresses to register the students. Twenty years later, this grassroots movement to fight the racial and socioeconomic segregation of school districts—and the unequal opportunities it created for students—led to the creation of a legal inter-district transfer program for East Palo Alto students that is still in place today.1 

Nearly fifty years later, some parents still go to great lengths to escape segregated, low-performing school districts. In 2011, Kelley Williams-Bolar, a black mother living in Akron, Ohio, used her father’s address to enroll her children in the neighboring suburban school district of Copley-Fairlawn. In Akron, Williams-Bolar’s daughters were assigned to schools in which more than 95 percent of students came from low-income families and which were failing almost all of the state’s academic standards. In Copley-Fairlawn, no school had more than 16 percent low-income students, and every school in the district met state standards for all subjects and grade levels. Like Wilks, Williams-Bolar saw that crossing district lines could be the key to providing better options for her children. Her problem and her approach to solving it are not unique, but her story received national attention because of her dramatic punishment:Williams-Bolar was convicted on criminal charges for fraud and served jail time.2

Today—just like in 1966 or 2011—it is pretty much universally recognized that the school a child attends has a huge impact on that child’s educational opportunities.

Today—just like in 1966 or 2011—it is pretty much universally recognized that the school a child attends has a huge impact on that child’s educational opportunities, but the truth is that, for most families, there just are not that many options for escaping racially isolated, high-poverty, poor-performing school districts. The struggles for school integration that grew out of the civil rights movement have resulted in inter-district integration plans in a handful of American cities, and they have delivered strong results for students. But these programs are few and far between, they have long waiting lists, and they are for the most part struggling to retain funding and popular support in a political climate that has largely forgotten about school integration. We should support the continuation and expansion of these programs, but we also need more approaches to inter-district integration.

Charter schools can and should be part of the solution to addressing inter-district segregation. Although charter school supporters and school integrationists may seem strange bedfellows, there is a growing subset of charter schools committed to school diversity. Furthermore, the charter school model comes with flexibility, funding, and political viability that could be huge assets in the fight for integrated schools.

This issue brief provides an overview of inter-district segregation and existing inter-district integration plans, argues that charter schools should play a greater role in encouraging inter-district integration, and recommends policies and actions to further inter-district integration using charter schools.


More than sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, 
our public schools remain de facto segregated by race and class.3 In the Northeast, more than half of all black students attend hyper-segregated schools in which 90–100 percent of students are black or Latino. In the South, where the percentage of black students in 90–100 percent minority schools is now the lowest, still one in three black students attend hyper-segregated schools. The likelihood of Latino students attending 90–100 percent black or Latino schools is nearly as high. And black and Latino students are much more likely than their white and Asian peers to also attend high-poverty schools—a phenomenon that researchers from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA have dubbed “double segregation.” If you are a student in a 90–100 percent black or Latino school, there is an 80 percent chance that at least 70 percent of the student body is low-income. If you are a student in a predominantly white and Asian school (10 percent or less black or Latino), there is less than a 10 percent chance that your school has a poverty rate that high.4 

Importantly, the differences among school districts are more to blame for this stratification than the imbalances within school districts. According to one estimate, differences among school districts are responsible for more than 80 percent of the racial segregation in public schools.5 That is, individual school districts are much more demographically homogenous than broad regions that include multiple districts. Other research finds similar results.6 

Inter-district school segregation is in part a reflection of residential segregation. The concentration of poverty in neighborhoods has been steadily on the rise since 2000, with over 11 million Americans living in neighborhoods in which more than 40 percent of residents live below the federal poverty line.7 And the “double segregation” seen in schools is similarly rooted in neighborhoods. Controlling for family income, black and Latino families are more likely than white and Asian families to live in poor neighborhoods. The average black family earning $50,000 per year lives in a poorer neighborhood than the average white family earning just $20,000 per year.8 

However, segregation among school districts often goes beyond simply reflecting the realities of residential segregation. In the political battles that forge district lines, sometimes poor neighborhoods get pushed out, or rich neighborhoods get pulled in. The results of this process are visible in an interactive mapping by nonprofit EdBuild of the poverty rate for each school district in the United States, which highlights several particularly egregious examples of gerrymandered school districts. In Nebraska, for example, the district outline for Ansley Public Schools looks like a slice of Swiss cheese surrounded by a scattering of crumbs (see Figure 1). Ansley has a higher poverty rate than the other districts in the area, thanks to bizarre boundaries that tack on poorer neighborhoods in outlying areas as islands for Ansley and punch holes within Ansley’s main geographic area to send wealthier neighborhoods to other districts.9