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January 18, 2011
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.
December 23, 2010
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.
December 15, 2010
Union may take effort to stop school closures to Albany
UFT President Michael Mulgrew speaks to teachers gathered outside DOE headquarters at Tweed Courthouse to protest the city's plans to close 26 schools. In the opening shot of this year's battle over the city's plan to close 26 schools, teachers union chief Michael Mulgrew vowed to take the fight all the way to Albany. State law gives the city ample leeway to close schools, and the union's successful lawsuit that last year blocked the city from closing 19 schools was based primarily on process questions rather than a policy challenge. This year, Mulgrew said, the union plans to fight to change the policy and will lobby for changes to the law if necessary. In the first of what he vowed would be many protests, Mulgrew accused city officials of neglecting their responsibilities to help schools improve. "Their job is not to sit back and monitor data," Mulgrew said. "Their job is to come in and say, 'what can we do?'" Teachers from across the city rallied outside the Department of Education's headquarters at Tweed Courthouse, with the protest beginning on Chambers Street and spilling around the corner onto Broadway. Mulgrew criticized Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his aggressive school closure policies, which the union president characterized as "bragging" about how many schools the city has shut down. In a speech last year, the mayor promised to shutter the lowest-performing 10 percent of city schools. "The only way to do that is to sit back and not give the schools the support they need," Mulgrew said.
December 7, 2010
City adds 14 schools to planned closure list, bringing total to 26
The city announced plans to shutter an additional 14 schools this morning, making a total of 26 schools that may either close entirely or begin…
December 6, 2010
City announces plans to close 11 district schools and 1 charter
City officials announced plans today to close 11 schools and said they will recommend that the state shutter a charter school for poor performance. More school-closure notices will be handed down tomorrow when the city announces which of the remaining 44 schools on its endangered list will be phased-out. That list includes the 19 schools the city tried to close last year, but was barred by a union lawsuit, as well as others that were identified after progress reports for last year came out. Officials said today that they will ask the state Board of Regents not to renew the charter for Ross Global Academy — the city's lowest performing charter school. During the five years since it opened, Ross has gone through six principals. City officials said they were already working on proposal for new schools to replace the ones they phase-out or close this year. Of the eleven district schools named today, the city hopes to phase-out ten, meaning that next year they will keep their current students, but not enroll any more. One school, KAPPA II, will close at the end of this school year if the citywide school board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy, approves this proposal. Currently, it only has 36 sixth and seventh graders enrolled.
December 3, 2010
City and union officials are "in talks" over school closures
City officials have been holding on-again-off-again meetings with the teachers union to discuss the fate of the nearly 60 schools that could be closed or have their principals removed this year. A source familiar with the meetings said they've been going on throughout the fall and have been spearheaded, on the DOE's side, by Deputy Chancellor John White. A union official said part of the reason for the talks is that the city is eager to avoid another lawsuit like the one last year that barred the planned closure of 19 schools. "I think they're making a real attempt to avoid what led us to win that suit against them," said the official. "I don't think it's any glasnost, there's no kumbaya here. But they're making an effort to avoid getting sued." City and union officials would not comment on the substance of the discussions. As early as next week, city officials will begin announcing which schools they plan to keep open, which will close, and which will undergo one of several "turnaround" models mandated by the federal government. City officials are also trying to iron out an agreement with the principal's union that will let them use the turnaround method in some schools, according to the Council for School Supervisors and Administrators spokeswoman Chiara Coletti.
November 10, 2010
School officials anticipating busy months of closure hearings
School officials are battening down the hatches as they prepare for an onslaught of public hearings about school closures. Just hours after the city released the latest round of high school rankings, Sharon Greenberger, the Department of Education's chief operating officer, sent an email recruiting top-level deputies for an "all hands on deck" effort for the hearings, which could start as soon as this month and last through March. "Be prepared to maintain a very flexible evening schedule in January," Greenberger wrote to a small group of high-level deputies in Chancellor Joel Klein's cabinet. She also asked each of them to designate several staff members to help at the hearings, which are required by state law when the city seeks to close a school. Last year, the city held hearings for 19 schools that it tried to close. Many went late into the night, and the January meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy, which had to approve the closures, finished at 4 a.m. This year, the city has signalled that it wants to close even more schools. The high school progress reports released last week added nine more schools to the already record-high list of 47 schools that the city has said it might try to close.
October 28, 2010
Union, city spar over outreach to schools targeted for closure
Teachers union President Michael Mulgrew is charging that the city's new engagement strategy for schools that could face closure next year is too little, too late. City officials said today that they plan to ramp up communication with parents and staff at 47 schools that could face closure. The move is in part a response to a successful lawsuit the union brought last year, in which two courts ruled that the city failed to meet state legal requirements for notifying schools and their communities about plans for closure. But Mulgrew said today that the public notice and earlier meetings are not enough. Rather than helping the schools improve at the first signs of struggle, he said, the city let them get worse, until they became candidates for closure. "Engaging the community in the process I think is a good thing," Mulgrew said. "At the same time, if we know we have schools that are turning in the wrong direction, why are we waiting til now to reach out to them?"
October 28, 2010
City adds 16 schools to possible-closure list, bringing total to 47
The city is eyeing 47 schools for possible closure next year, including 16 that have not previously been targeted by the city or the state. On the watch-list, which education officials released today, are 19 schools that the city tried to close last year but were saved by a successful union lawsuit. It also includes most of the 23 schools currently on the state's list of lowest-performing schools that did not begin federally-mandated interventions this year. All 16 of the newly-identified schools are elementary and middle schools. City officials said today they had learned lessons from last year's thwarted closure process and are re-strategizing for this year. The city is hoping to avoid some of the confusion and shock that marred their efforts to close schools last year by announcing their plans early and by clarifying their rationale for shuttering schools, officials said. Last year a state appeals court ruled that the city failed to meet legal requirements for notifying the community about its closure plans. Officials have already posted their criteria for adding schools to their watch-list to the Department of Education's website: schools were tagged if they received three consecutive C's, or a single D or F, on their progress reports, or if they received anything below a proficient rating on their last Quality Review.
October 8, 2010
Union voices new concerns over city's school closure rules
After successfully suing to stop the city from closing schools last year, the city's teachers union is raising a new set of concerns that could pave the way for another legal battle. At last night's meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy, a United Federation of Teachers official outlined a dozen issues the union has with the city's new rules governing the kinds of information released about the schools it wants to close. Last year, the union sued the city for writing barebones education impact statements that didn't include enough data to comply with the state law governing how schools are closed. Now, the city has a new regulation that calls for more information to be released. This school year, education impact statements should include information about how schools will share space if they're located in the same building, as well as how a school's closure or loss of building space will affect special education students and English language learners. But the teachers union wants still more information. In his letter to the Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg, UFT president Michael Mulgrew called for the reports to include data on how class sizes will change and an explanation of what the city did to save the schools before it decided to close them.
July 16, 2010
Enrollment grows at saved high schools, but not by much
Enrollment numbers at high schools that the city had targeted for closure are on the rise, but still far below past years' levels. After a judge's ruling postponed closures at 19 schools — 14 of them high schools — many of the schools began reporting that they were severely under-enrolled. Metropolitan Corporate Academy had eight incoming ninth graders and Jamaica High School in Queens had 23 — a number so low the school's principal doubted he'd be able to have a freshman class. Now that the city has completed its second round of high school placements, more students are set to enter these schools next year. But the numbers are still extremely low. While there are now 23 students enrolled at Metropolitan Corporate Academy, the school traditionally saw an incoming freshman class of between 70 and 100 students. Many of these schools still have enrollments too low for them to support a ninth grade program. If the city does not assign them more students, they could be forced to phase out their ninth grades, skirting the court's ruling that the schools should remain intact. A spokesman for the Department of Education said the city expects the enrollment numbers to climb.
July 1, 2010
City plans to open new schools despite ruling's unclear impact
The city has no plans to fight an appellate court ruling that will keep open 19 schools marked for closure, Chancellor Joel Klein said today. But it does plan to open new schools in the same buildings. That's despite the fact that the same closure proposals that judges deemed inadequate were also used to justify opening 17 new schools in those buildings. Whenever the city wants to shut down a school or make several schools share the same building space, state law requires city officials to prepare "educational impact statements" (or EIS's) that examine how the changes will affect students and the surrounding community. The EIS's that the citywide school board approved in January included, in the same documents, both the plans to close the 19 schools and replace many of them starting next year. Today, five appellate court judges unanimously ordered the city to reissue those EIS's with more detail than what the court called "boilerplate information about seat availability." But Department of Education officials said today that ruling does not mean the city has to re-start the public approval process to co-locate the new schools in the buildings where they had planned to shut schools down. "The court's decision relates to the phase-out of failing schools, not the siting of new schools," said DOE spokesman Danny Kanner.
June 28, 2010
City replacing two Rikers schools with one smaller program
Teachers at the only two schools on Rikers Island learned today that their schools will close next year. In their stead, a new school will open — one with a smaller and possibly new set of teachers. The change is part of a wider attempt to end programs under the city's alternative schools office, known as District 79, that city officials believe are ineffective, Department of Education officials said today. Earlier this year, the city announced it was also closing its only school designed to transition students from detention back into mainstream high schools. "Despite some of our best efforts, we're not making the gains for the students in some of the specialized programs," said Timothy Lisante, District 79's deputy superintendent for corrections and detentions. In an interview today, Lisante and District 79 Superintendent Cami Anderson said that consolidating the two programs would allow for smoother day-to-day operations of the school. Restarting the program will also give the city the opportunity to redesign its placement process, directing some students towards coursework that will prepare them to return to their community high schools and giving others more vocational training. "The prime vision here is to do everything we can to create a program that will accelerate [student's] progress so they can return to their home school or, if they're older, go into a rigorous GED program," Anderson said. But teachers union officials are crying foul at the city's timing, arguing that the last-minute announcement was disrespectful to the school's teaching staff.
June 18, 2010
City axes program to move students from detention to school
The city is closing Community Prep High School, the only program here designed to transition students from juvenile prisons and jails to mainstream high schools. Launched in 2002, Community Prep works with the most struggling young people in the city, offering support and coursework for a few semesters before routing students into high schools and GED programs. On average, Community Prep students have attended seven different schools when they enter, a former director said. The program has successfully steered many students back into high school, but it has struggled to reach all its charges. The school's average monthly attendance this year was less than 50 percent. In the first semester of this school year, students earned only 40 percent of the course credits they attempted. The disappointing showing is the reason that Department of Education officials have concluded the program doesn't work, despite praise from juvenile justice advocates. "We know better options already exist," said spokeswoman Ann Forte.
May 13, 2010
City argues appeal of closure suit before panel of skeptical judges
City lawyers asked a panel of appellate court judges today to overturn a lower court ruling that halted the Department of Education's plans to shutter 19 schools. But in oral arguments, the judges seemed warmer to the arguments of lawyers representing the city teachers union, who sued to stop the school closings. If the appellate court overturns the initial ruling, the 19 schools could begin phasing out starting in the fall. If not, the city will have to wait to re-launch the school closing process until next year. Either way, the case will likely end up writing a sort of court-approved plan for how the city builds its case to shutter low-performing schools in the future. The lower court ruling, handed down by Judge Joan Lobis in March, found that the city's public process to close the 19 schools contained "significant violations" of state education law. At the time, city lawyer Michael Cardozo disputed Lobis' conclusion that the city had not followed the law's public notification and hearing requirements. But he did not argue with the justice's ruling that the DOE's statements analyzing the impact of shuttering schools on surrounding communities were inadequately detailed. Today, city lawyer Alan Krams made essentially the opposite claim: He agreed with the lower court that the city violated public hearing requirements, but disputed the idea that the DOE produced inadequate impact reports for each of the schools.
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