School closures

New York

Seven things you need to know about last night's PEP meeting

Seven takeaways from last night's marathon Panel for Educational Policy meeting, for those who don't have time for 6,000-plus words, minute-to-minute updates, or actually traveling to Brooklyn Tech in the storm: 1. Bloomberg's agenda was unsurprisingly approved: 10 schools will phase out, four new co-locations will occur. But on the panel, opposition now comes from more members than simply the Manhattan and Bronx appointees. Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan borough president's appointee, is no longer the sole voice of opposition on the panel. And while Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr.'s appointee has been making opposition known for a while now, the other borough representatives are beginning slowly to join. Only mayoral appointees, for instance, voted in favor of proposals that would benefit the Success Charter Network schools run by CEO Eva Moskowitz, a former City Council member and perennial mayoral hopeful. Besides 'no' votes, another manifestation of opposition to Bloomberg came in the form of a skirmish. From 9:53 p.m.: Audience members told Anna that they saw Sullivan push Morales from behind. Then Tino Hernandez, the panel’s chair, and Deputy Chancellor Santiago Taveras got between them and escorted Sullivan back to his seat. Sullivan then told the audience that one of the mayoral appointees on the panel had approached him to "taunt" him, kicking off the clash. He proposed that the panel postpone their votes to another day on account of the bad weather, but this motion failed. When the parents behind Anna saw the tussle begin, they started yelling: “Security! Where is security?” A few security guards did edge onto the stage but then backed away, Anna reports. Sullivan told the Daily News that he was just tapping Morales on the back. 2. Families reached out across the closure aisle, sometimes poetically. From Anna's 9:12 p.m. report: … some MCA [Metropolitan Corporate Academy, slated for closure] kids are rapping about racism and school closure. The charter school kids and parents are clapping the beat.
New York

Closing Schools: Myth and Mystery

A few weeks ago I sat in the library at Christopher Columbus High School and listened to a Department of Education official explain to our confused and upset parents that closing our school would actually benefit their children. The official argued that the school's closure would actually increase students' chances of graduating, rather than damage them. This seemed a counterintuitive idea to me, so I decided to dig into the data. The DOE keeps a wonderful public archive of graduation and dropout data in longitudinal reports. I looked at what happened to students at Bronx high schools Roosevelt and Taft during the years they phased out, and compared them to Columbus and John F. Kennedy along with city averages. Why did I focus on these schools? I began my career as an English as a Second Language for seven years at Kennedy. In 1999 I was invited to become a staff development specialist for the DOE's Office of Bilingual Education (later the Office of English Language Learners) and for two years I visited Roosevelt every Tuesday and Taft every Wednesday to support their bilingual and ESL teachers. Then in 2002 I moved to Columbus, where I've worked as teacher and UFT Teacher Center staff. Looking at these four schools provided me a glimpse into the sad unraveling of the places I spent my career. First, I took a look at the 7-year longitudinal studies — those showing the ultimate outcomes for students who entered Taft and Roosevelt in the last four years the schools admitted students. In both cases, graduation declined for the first couple of years by a small amount, with the final two cohorts doing significantly worse. Roosevelt graduated only 17.6 percent of the students who entered in 2002, and Taft graduated just 29.5 percent of them. These outcomes did not compare favorably with either the citywide average for those years, or schools currently on the chopping block, Columbus and Kennedy. Conversely, I took a look at dropout rates for the same cohorts. Here we see rates in the closing schools rising to the point where, in the final cohort, over 80 percent of the final cohort at Roosevelt dropped out, and over 70 percent of the final cohort at Taft.
New York

How Not To Close A School

Melissa Kissoon is an 18 year old graduate of Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn and a youth leader with Future of Tomorrow and the Urban Youth Collaborative. This post originally appeared at EdVox, a blog featuring members of UYC and the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice. I was a victim of high school phase out. My first two years of high school at Lane were great. There were clubs and extra credit activities to help students get ahead or to help struggling students pass. I had some teachers I really liked and there were many teachers who had been in the school for over 15 years. Overall it was a great school despite its reputation and as a student, I would say it was improving. Then one day in 2007 the principal and deans got us together to tell us our school is phasing out, which meant that they would be putting another school into our building and would no longer accept any new students or freshman. Also, the building would be incorporating not one school but FOUR. Do you know what it's like to have four new schools come into your school building? Once the four new schools came, it was hard to be proud of a school that was no longer ours. I was a cheerleader for my school, so school pride was something that was very important to me. The four schools came and took the fourth floor in our building and we weren't allowed to set foot on the fourth floor anymore. Then when the next year came, and there were more students in the new schools and fewer in our school, the DOE split the rest of the floors in halves. So, if your classroom was around the corner, you could no longer just walk over to your room, you'd have to go upstairs and around and back down stairs to make it to your class. As a result of this, many students became late for their classes. Students missed class time and got in trouble because our school was chopped up and our building was divided! Now, all the great teachers we once loved have either switched to the other schools in the building or have just gone to another school completely. Now, there is no money for the last year of students within my school. For example, there is no longer a library! Lane doesn't have enough money for a library and the other four schools have small budgets, so none of the students have a library. Students with essays due and no printer or computer can't print-then they struggle to figure out how to pass their class. Almost all the after school activities belong to the other schools, including the sports and the ROTC. Two of my friends are in their last year at Lane this year, which is also Lane's last year open.
New York

Black on city history, teacher turnover, and school closures

Chancellor Cathie Black showed what she has learned and what she hasn't in her first month on the job on NY1 last night. Chancellor Cathie Black's interview on Inside City Hall last night is worth watching in full. The interview exposes just how much Black has been able to absorb in her first month on the job — and how much she hasn't. In a moment first highlighted by NY1 education reporter Lindsey Christ on Twitter, Black declared, "The public school system in New York City has been unbelievably successful since the birth of our nation." She was responding to a question from host Errol Louis about why she chose to send her children to private rather than public city schools. Black did not elaborate, but the statement is confusing given that public schools in New York City did not emerge until the early 1800s. Another moment of exposure had to do with teacher attrition. After a discussion about the "last in, first out" policy, Louis asked Black if she was concerned that almost half of New York City school teachers leave after 6 years in the classroom (PDF link). Here's how Black responded: Well you have to know, like, what's really at the heart of the issue. I don't know that we know what's really at the heart of the issue. Teaching is a hard job. We want the ones who are committed. We want the ones who make a difference. We want the ones who want to work hard and really change the lives of these young people. They're there on a mission. So, you know, some are going to leave. She then returned to the "last in, first out" question, arguing that perhaps teachers would be less likely to leave if they weren't concerned about being laid off. "Right now there have to be a lot of teachers thinking, 'Maybe I don't have a job next year.' Can we afford to have thousands of teachers think to themselves, 'I have to leave the system now because I may not have a job in a few months?' That's going to be a catastrophe," she said. For years, researchers have asked why teachers leave schools — particularly struggling schools. A 2007 paper by a group studying New York City teachers, the Teacher Pathways Project, summarized the major findings this way: "Teachers are more likely to stay in schools in which student achievement is higher and teachers — especially white teachers — are more likely to stay in schools with higher proportions of white students." "Teachers who score higher on tests of academic achievement are more likely to leave," as are teachers from out of town. Less-qualified teachers are more likely to stay at a school than teachers with higher qualifications, "especially if they teach in low-achieving schools."
New York

Black makes first visit to school targeted for closure in Harlem

For the first time on Friday, Schools Chancellor Cathie Black visited one of the schools she's planning to close. Black spent Friday at I.S. 195, Roberto Clemente, a Harlem middle school that the city is trying to shutter this year. She also visited KIPP Infinity, a high-performing charter middle school located in the same building. The city plans to replace I.S. 195, whose progress report score dropped from a B to a D last year, with a new middle school. According to an internal space planning document (pdf) obtained by the New York Times, the city wants to install a new charter school in the building, possibly a replica of Democracy Prep. I.S. 195 is the first school Black has seen that received anything lower than a C grade. Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Black's appointment in November, she has visited 28 schools, spanning every borough and grade. Of those schools, 11 were given A's in the most recent round of progress reports. Nine of the schools received B grades and five received C's. Since she started visiting schools, Black has fielded questions over whether an itinerary so focused on high-performing schools has given her a realistic view of the challenges facing the school system. On her first official day as chancellor, a city spokeswoman said that while Black had not yet visited any of the city's lowest-rated schools, she planned to. I.S. 195 is also one of about 500 schools that Black announced will receive extra funds to tutor students who failed last year's math and reading tests. Black's visit to the school last week was unrelated to today's announcement, Department of Education spokeswoman Deirdrea Miller said.
New York

On his way out, Klein pushes for end to ATR pool, last-in first-out

The final installment of Joel Klein's weekly memo to principals In a nostalgic final missive to city principals this week, outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein suggested three things to do once he's gone. He urged lawmakers to end the last-in first-out process of teacher layoffs, pushed for an end to the Absent Teacher Reserve pool, and underlined his belief in the importance of closing struggling schools. Klein's statement that "we have to eliminate the ATR pool" ratchets up the city's position on the pool of teachers — city teachers who lose their positions, don't find new ones, but stay on the city payroll anyway. Previously, the city has asked the union, in contract negotiations, to add a limit to the amount of time a teacher can spend in the reserve pool. That would make the pool smaller, but it would not cause it to disappear altogether. Describing the costs of keeping those teachers on the city payroll as exceeding $100 million a year, Klein argues: We cannot afford it, and it's wrong to keep paying this money. It amounts to supporting more than a thousand teachers who either don't care to, or can't, find a job, even though our school system hires literally thousands of teachers each year. That's money that could be spent on teachers that we desperately want and need. Klein also describes teacher layoffs as a sure thing. "I wish it were otherwise, but the economics of our state and city make this virtually impossible to avoid," he writes. The Bloomberg administration has a history of being bullish on layoffs in order to push for the end of the state law regulating how teachers lose their jobs. Klein reiterates that case in his letter: If we have layoffs, it's unconscionable to use the last-hired, first-fired rule that currently governs. By definition, such a rule means that quality counts for zero. Our children cannot afford that kind of approach. They need the best teachers, not those who are longest serving. (If you had to have surgery, would you want the longest-serving surgeon or the best one?) This doesn't mean that many of our longest-serving teachers aren't among the best, but this is not an area for "group think." We need individual determinations of teacher effectiveness to decide who stays and who doesn't. Klein also quoted his favorite T.S. Eliot poem, "Little Gidding," excerpting four cryptic lines that seem to summarize his "odyssey" as something more complex than a straight line of a progress: We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time. Other curious lines from the poem: ... Either you had no purpose Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured And is altered in fulfilment. ... Klein has sent a memo to principals every week for years. Read the full letter here and below.