Some Bad Schools Get Good Grades

In the nearly three years that have passed since the city’s Department of Education gave principals greater control of their schools, several failing schools truly have turned around, according to a new report released Wednesday by The New Schools’ Center for New York City Affairs. But the annual A-through-F grades that city schools receive from the department don’t always accurately convey such progress, the report says.”You shouldn’t try to sum up complicated schools with one letter grade,” said Clara Hemphill, one of the report’s co-authors. “The city must recognize the limited value of the progress report [grade] and rely more on qualitative measurement, on human judgment and less on statistics.”During a forum held in conjunction with the report’s release, Hemphill illustrated the flaws in the grading system by citing the example of the school that scored highest during the 2008-09 school year, Manhattan’s High School of Hospitality Management. The school received an overall grade of “A”, but earned a “D” in school environment. Attendance at the school was low and a survey of parents indicated that the school had low expectations and didn’t engage students well, Hemphill said.She said there were other high-scoring schools where kids have their heads on their desks and teachers kick back reading newspapers and low-scoring schools where kids and teachers are highly engaged.The report says that in some cases, the system “rewards mediocrity and fails to recognize gains made by schools that are striving for excellence.”A DOE official who also spoke at the forum agreed that the grading system isn’t perfect, but said it’s necessary.

Vandals Deface LGBT Homeless Shelter For Youth

Two days after a New York State Senate bill that would have outlawed discrimination against transgender and gender-bending people was defeated in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee a Queens homeless shelter for gay and transgender youth suffered an attack.Sharon Stapel, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP), issued a press release denouncing the vote. “Given the rampant discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people in New York, AVP believes this bill is critical to protecting the rights of transgender people when seeking employment, housing, credit and using public accommodations,” the statement said in part.All 11 Republicans and one Bronx Democrat, Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr, voted against the bill, the Gender Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). The rest of the Democrats on the committee voted for it. Diaz, Sr., who is a minister according to his online biography, declined to explain his vote to City Limits. “I’m not talking about that.

Homelessness Strikes More NYC Children

The recession pushed an alarming number of New York City families, many of them with children, into homelessness in 2009, according to a new report by Citizen’s Committee for Children. The number of families applying to live in city homeless shelters increased about 27 percent to nearly 24,000 between 2008 and 2009, according to the annual report, Keeping Track of New York City’s Children .The trend mirrors the spike in adult street homelessness reported in March by the city’s Department of Homeless Services. Their annual one-night survey found a 25 percent year-over-year increase in the numbers of people living on the streets of New York, to about 3100 people.Keeping Track is a compendium of statistics describing the quality of life that New York City’s children enjoy. Many children enjoy little, the report notes.The number of children entering foster care declined almost every year between 1998 and 2008, the report shows, down more than half, to 16,200. And the city’s four-year high school graduation rate has steadily edged higher since 2005, increasing almost 10 percent.But several major problems persist, the report found:26 percent of all New York City children live in poverty.Children here are three times more likely to be hospitalized for preventable illnesses – such as asthma, pneumonia, and acute respiratory infections – than children in the rest of the state.The number of youth younger than 20 arrested on felony and misdemeanor charges was at a 12-year-high in 2008, with about 88,900 arrests.All indicators of child well-being in New York are worse among black and Latino children, the report found, with one of the greatest racial disparities being in the number of children born into poverty.

Emergency Preparedness Goes Grassroots

If New York City faces another catastrophe on the scale of September 11, city residents now are more prepared for the aftermath. The question is: Are our primary care health centers, churches, businesses and other community institutions charged with taking care of us? On June 2, that question brought together a spirited group of 36 community leaders and professionals living, working in or representing Manhattan’s Community District 5, which roughly encompasses the area south of Central Park between Lexington Avenue and 8th Ave from Columbus Circle to Union Square. During a six-hour meeting, the group drafted a plan–one of only five district-level plans that have been crafted in the city– to enhance the area’s emergency preparedness by coordinating the sharing of medicines, health professionals and other resources.”There should be criteria to access the resources so no one can hoard [them]” a middle-aged woman told the group, which sat clustered around her in a nearly empty auditorium. “There should be criteria for how you access what you need and organizations should be held accountable for the resources that they use.”A man who sat nearby – David Fortino, the Region II program manager of Citizen Corps, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that coordinates volunteer emergency response teams – raised an additional issue.

City Tightens Screws On Debt Collectors

In the past 45 days, New York City has adopted two new policies that stand to help residents counter unlawful debt collection practices. But advocates say very little is being done to penalize the debt collectors who for years have broken pre-existing laws.The majority of the 300,000 New Yorkers sued annually for bad debt have their wages garnished and bank accounts emptied on fraudulent grounds, after their debt collectors don’t take suitable steps to notify them they are being sued, said Johnson Tyler, an attorney for South Brooklyn Legal Services who helps low-income people fight illegal debt collection. The Department of Consumer Affairs has received 2,667 debt collection complaints in the past three years, according to a fact sheet the department displayed at a press conference this week. In some cases, the Bloomberg administration has helped debtors ensnared by bad collectors get restitution for their losses. In the past three years, DCA restored $4.2 million in wrongful debt, charging back on average $1,559 per violating company, according to the fact sheet.The New York attorney general’s office is seeking restitution for other debtors and DCA has forced some violating companies to pay fines or surrender their licenses.