School closures

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.
New York

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.
New York

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.
New York

City argues appeal of closure suit before panel of skeptical judges