New Blue Book Reflects Improvements Recommended by City Agencies, Public and Charter Schools, Advocacy Organizations, and Community Councils
NEW YORK— Chancellor Carmen Fariña today announced important changes to the 2013-2014 Blue Book that incorporate recommendations from the recently established Blue Book Working Group. The new changes are the first step towards helping to improve planning and reduce conflicts between schools over space. Over the coming months, the Working Group will continue to meet and additional changes will be made to the Blue Book for next year’s issue.
The Blue Book is the DOE’s annual report on enrollment and capacity used to assess utilization for all buildings. In February, Chancellor Fariña announced the Blue Book Working Group, a collection of community stakeholders including families from public schools, charter schools, advocacy organizations, principals, and community councils, tasked with improving the Blue Book. Today’s changes incorporate feedback from the community, making the 2013-2014 report a more accurate and straightforward depiction of school space and capacity.
“Our families, students, parents, teachers and community members need access to a transparent, accurate, and easy-to-understand Blue Book – and today’s changes demonstrate a great first step in achieving this,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Bringing together key members of the community to collaborate is a vital part of ensuring that we take advantage of school space responsibly and respectfully in a way that allows our students to thrive.”
Among the new Blue Book changes:
• Accounting for our commitment to remove Transportable Classroom Units (TCUs) over the next five years by not including them in a school’s capacity. With this change, the Blue Book will have a fairer representation of overcrowding in schools with TCUs. The change will help the Department and communities better understand what steps need to be taken to eliminate trailers while not creating more overcrowding. Total enrollment for the school will reflect not only the number of students in the main building but also those who attend class in TCUs.
• Division of the report into two distinct sections: an organization report, and a building report. The organization report will detail capacity, enrollment and utilization numbers for an entire school organization, which may include multiple buildings. All the buildings that are utilized by that organization will be grouped together. For example, if a school has three separate buildings, total enrollment and capacity across its different locations will also be listed. Families and communities will have a more accurate representation of conditions within their school organization. The building report will document the information on a certain school building, making available in one location information about all school organizations utilizing a building.
• Release of two Blue Book versions: one with our target calculations and one with our historical calculations. Previously, both calculations were included in one book, but families and community members found this confusing and burdensome. The Target Calculation book reflects aspirational goals for school buildings, including reduced class sizes. The Historical Calculation book provides a consistent comparison with historical statistics.
“School overcrowding is a serious concern in our city, particularly in my Lower Manhattan community. It is my hope that these changes will lead to improved planning for opening new schools and less crowded classrooms, which will benefit children throughout the city. I applaud Chancellor Fariña for taking the initiative to make much needed improvements to the Blue Book and I look forward to continuing to work with the DOE to reduce overcrowding,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
“The Blue Book is intended as a resource for families, educators, and elected officials as we work together to make our schools true harbors of learning and growth for our children. These changes to the Blue Book reflect feedback and recommendations from communities around New York City and will lead to a more complete understanding of how we can best use school space to students’ educational advantage. I thank Chancellor Carmen Fariña and the Department of Education for engaging with New Yorkers to make these meaningful changes,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
“I commend the Department of Education and School Construction Authority for their efforts to produce a more transparent and user-friendly Blue Book,” said City Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “Breaking down information two was – by school and by building, including all co-located schools – will improve transparency. Including students taught in trailers in the main building’s enrollment figures will provide a more accurate picture of overcrowding. I look forward to the ongoing efforts of the Blue Book Working Group to make future editions of the Blue Book even more reflective of conditions in our schools.”
“I am pleased to see the Department of Education make progress in dealing with the city's vital space issue, both by re-examining the Blue Book and taking steps to eliminate trailers. I look forward to working with them to resolve these issues,” said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.
“As a Council Member that represents a district with severely overcrowded schools, I’d like to thank Chancellor Fariña and the Department of Education for taking a very important first step towards a more transparent and comprehensive Blue Book,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras. “Furthermore, I stand by the administration’s commitment to remove TCUs over the next 5 years and applaud the decision to not include them in a school’s capacity thereby allowing us to have a better grasp of overcrowding in our schools – making the Blue Book a more accurate and important tool for me and my district.”
The Blue Book provides critical data for the Department that allows it to identify areas in need of additional seat capacity, recognize schools that have the capacity to expand, and locations that have the potential to open new schools in current buildings to better meet student needs.
The capacity calculations for school buildings are based on information provided by principals in the Principal Annual Space Survey (PASS). The survey is conducted by the School Construction Authority (SCA) and verifies the usage and size of rooms within each building. Over 1,700 principals completed the survey for the new Blue Book, officially known as the 2013-2014 Enrollment, Capacity and Utilization Report.
A “What’s New” page is also included in the 2013-2014 Blue Book to summarize the changes that have been implemented as well as provide a brief explanation on how to use the new Blue Book.
The Working Group will also continue to focus on methods to further engage parents in the decision-making process and anticipate long-term space needs more fully, including the space needed for schools to have robust arts and physical education programs.
Families, educators and interested community members can access the new Blue Book online.