In New York, Violating Students’ Right to Essential Instructional Materials

Several months ago we released a groundbreaking report detailing the lack of basic educational resources in “high-need” school districts  throughout New York State. One of the key resource areas we studied was instructional materials (see p.50). Among our most glaring findings: for lack of adequate funding, students in some classrooms were forced to share textbooks, and, in a number of schools, couldn’t take books home because teachers had just one set of books for all their classes. This left many young people without the means to study for a test, catch up on reading, or review the material they learned during the school day.

IM_ImageBooks were not the only instructional materials in short supply. Some under-resourced schools were unable to assign homework that required certain math tools, like calculators, because neither the school nor students’ families could afford to purchase them. Other schools assigned such homework, though they knew that some students would not have the needed tools at home.

Our new user-friendly handout, Know Your Rights: Instructional Materials explains the constitutional requirement for instructional materials and details the violations we found in schools. We urge you to check out this handout, as well as our other Know Your Rights handouts, which we have started to release and will continue to publish.

recent article in the Epoch Times  provided a fresh reminder that violations of students’ educational rights under state law persist: students (and teachers) are still not equipped with the basic resources they need to meet state standards. According to one parent leader in Upper Manhattan, six schools in her district did not receive Common Core-aligned instructional materials until more than a month into this school year, though there were high stakes, like teachers and school evaluations, attached to Common Core aligned tests. “They didn’t prepare the students, they didn’t prepare the teachers, so it’s completely unfair,” she said.’”

New York State is generous with rhetoric about raising standards but too often M.I.A. when it comes to providing the resources needed for teaching and learning.

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Know Your Rights: Physical Education

You probably know that many students in New York City and other districts around the state lack adequate access to physical education. Our own research in 33 high-needs New York schools showed that almost half of the schools weren’t able to meet the state’s minimum requirements for instructional time in PE, largely because of a lack of enough funding for teachers and appropriate gym space.

phys_ed_imageOur findings were disheartening. We saw a school that had no gym teacher and one that could fit all of its PE equipment into one mesh bag. We visited schools with PE classes serving up to 70 students, and we witnessed students with disabilities doing phys. ed. class in public hallways. We saw high schools with exciting PE facilities like tracks, weight rooms, dance studios, and even swimming pools, but these were all off limits to students because of a lack of staffing.

This sad situation persists in spite of research that connects physical education to a host of improved outcomes for children and youth, including academic outcomes.

What you may not know is that New York State’s constitution requires the state to ensure that all schools have sufficient funding to provide all students a “sound basic education” and this includes sufficient instructional time and course offerings in physical education.

Our new user-friendly handout, Know Your Rights: Physical Education explains the constitutional requirement for phys ed. and details the violations we found in schools. We urge you to check out this handout, as well as our other Know Your Rights handouts, which we have started to release and will continue to publish. We hope this series will empower you – parents, advocates, policymakers, educators, and students – to become better informed about the state’s specific constitutional education obligations to students. We hope you will share it to help others better understand students’ legal rights.

The Campaign is excited to be working with a number advocacy and research groups, including Women’s City Club, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, and Phys Ed Plus, to ensure proper access to physical education in New York City. We hope you join in this important conversation.

Inequities in Access to the Arts Jeopardize Student Success

“Our city is home to some of the greatest public schools in the nation where innovation and creativity thrive. And yet we have hundreds of schools that are subpar, under-resourced in the arts, sciences and other areas, and generally not providing the rich and engaging curriculum that students deserve and parents expect,” writes the head of the Center for Arts Education in SchoolBook today. “This is problematic from an equity point of view, but is also counter-productive to our educational goals and ambitions as a city.”

We couldn’t agree more. Own research in high-needs schools statewide found that nearly half were not able to provide their students even state-required minimum course offerings in art.

Music and the arts impart to students critical skills such as the ability to innovate, critique and collaborate, according to numerous studies discussed in today’s SchoolBook article.  Studies demonstrate the connection between the skills gained from quality arts education and future career success. Further, unreleased research findings from an arts-in-education development program indicate that the arts program helped improve English and math scores on state exams compared to peer schools.

The state needs to ensure all schools have sufficient funding so all students can receive ample, quality arts experiences.