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April 20, 2012
Exit strategy for a closing school's principal: Relocate upstairs
Supporters of Washington Irving High School protested its planned closure in December. Two new schools are coming to the Washington Irving High School campus this fall, but Mayor Bloomberg mentioned only one when he visited the building this week to tout 54 new small schools opening in September. The principals-to-be of the venture capitalist-backed Academy of Software Engineering and dozens more new schools stood by Bloomberg’s side as he touted the city's success at replacing large, dysfunctional high schools with smaller schools. The other new school, Union Square High School for Health Sciences, will share more than a street address with Washington Irving, which the city is closing due to poor performance. Its focus is a spinoff of one of Irving's programs, and its proposed leader, Bernardo Ascona, has been Irving’s principal since 2008. Ascona says he applied to lead the new school shortly after the city announced that it was considering closing Washington Irving. Now, some students and teachers say they feel slighted that he sought a way out even as they rallied to keep the school open. They also question why, for the second time in four years, the city has offered a plum new job — the same salary for fewer students and a clean slate — to an Irving principal. "It's unfair, particularly when the management hierarchy always seems to land on their feet," said Gregg Lundahl, Irving's union chapter leader. "The staff at Washington Irving work very, very hard. [Ascona] was only expecting us to do what he had been told to tell us to do, and as we can see it didn't work out so well." "He failed to make this school successful," said Anna Durante, a junior. "Once you have a game over, you don't get an extra token to restart."
January 26, 2012
Report finds lasting graduation rate gains at city's small schools
The Bloomberg administration has long touted the small high schools it created as outperforming large schools closed to make way for them. But a new report finds, for the second time, that the schools also post higher graduation rates than other city schools that stayed open. Being randomly selected to attend small high schools opened under the Bloomberg administration made students significantly more likely to graduate, even as the schools got older, according to the report, conducted by researchers at the nonprofit firm MDRC. The researchers updated a 2010 study that examined "small schools of choice" that opened between 2002 and 2008 and did not select students based on their academic performance. Of the 123 schools that fit that bill, 105 had so many applicants that the schools selected among them randomly, through a lottery. The lottery process enabled the researchers to compare what happened to two groups of students that started out statistically identical: those who were admitted to the small schools and those who lost the lotteries and wound up in older, larger schools. That type of comparison is considered the "gold standard" in education research. The original study found that the small high schools had positive effects on their students — but it looked only at the schools' very first enrollees. The new report looks at those students in the fifth year after they enrolled and also at the second set of students who enrolled at the schools. It finds that the higher graduation rate — 67.9 percent, compared to 59.3 percent for students who were not admitted — continued for the second group of students who enrolled and cut across all groups of students, regardless of their race, gender, family income, or academic skills upon enrollment. Students at the small schools were also more likely to meet the state's college readiness standards in English, though not in math. "Small schools for a variety of reasons, I always felt, were going to succeed in certain ways," said Richard Kahan, the head of Urban Assembly, a nonprofit that started a handful of schools included in the study. "But I would not have predicted the impact."
December 5, 2011
More city principals, but not many, sign on to evaluation petition
Geraldine Maione, principal of William E. Grady High School, has signed onto a petition opposing the state's new teacher evaluations. The newest signatories to a petition against the state's new teacher evaluation system include one of the few principals who actually has experience with the new evaluations. Geraldine Maione heads Brooklyn's William E. Grady High School, which is among 33 "persistently low-achieving" city schools that are using the new evaluations in exchange for additional federal funds. She told me that she opposes the new evaluations because they are so formulaic that they leave little room for principals to exercise discretion. "When I walk in a classroom, I know when children are learning and teachers are teaching," she said, adding that tougher evaluations aren't necessary if principals push struggling teachers either to improve or move on. "No teacher has a forever job if the principal is doing her job," Maione said. Maione is among about 30 city principals who have signed onto a position paper arguing that the state's evaluation requirements — which require a portion of teachers’ ratings to be based on their students’ test scores — are unsupported by research, prone to errors, and too expensive at a time of budget cuts. That's a sharp rise from last month, when hundreds of principals statewide had signed on but only two active city principals were on the list.
September 13, 2011
After a year of reflection, assessing a small school that fell short
First, for four years, Collin Lawrence lived the tumultuous life of a teacher at a small high school with spotty leadership. Then he relived it…
January 26, 2011
Internal report stokes questions about city's closure strategy
A high school's size and its concentration of low-achieving and overage students strongly predicts its graduation rate, according to an internal Department of Education study obtained by GothamSchools today. The 20-page report, prepared for the city by the consultant firm Parthenon Group in 2008, gives fodder for both supporters and critics of the city's strategy of closing low-performing large high schools and replacing them with new small schools. The presentation shows that large schools struggle to serve large concentrations of challenging students. But it also suggests that the Department of Education knew about this problem years ago but continued to allow many large schools to be flooded with low-performing students. Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters and an outspoken critic of the city's school closure efforts, provided the report to GothamSchools. The report examines how a students' chance of graduation varies widely depending on the type of high school he or she attends. For example, a hypothetical black or Hispanic girl with the median city test scores and middle school attendance and no special needs would have an 83 percent chance of graduating from a small school with a low concentration of challenging students. The same student would have just a 55 percent chance of graduating from a large high school with much higher percentage of students with special needs.
October 6, 2010
Large high schools still find favor in Queens, if not at Tweed
Rejecting small schools with themes like social justice or green jobs as "boutique schools," parents in central Queens are demanding that the city build them a large, comprehensive high school. And, after years of the city closing big schools and championing those boutiques, city officials have agreed. At a meeting in central Queens last night, Executive Director of School Improvement Alex Shub said the Department of Education intended to build a 1,100-seat school building in Maspeth. The school will open in 2011 or 2012, depending on how quickly the city finds and hires the right principal, Shub said. But when it does, it will be one school, not several small high schools housed in a single campus as has become the norm. "People want one large comprehensive school. You don't want a bunch of boutique schools, a dance school, a school for lawyers," Shub said to the parents assembled at P.S. 58. "It sounds like people speaking now are interested in a comprehensive school that is going to give your kids every opportunity for success. And I can guarantee you a school that can do that."
February 17, 2010
Report on small schools finds more choice, but modest interest
A new report on the rapid proliferation of small schools in New York City finds that while the schools have expanded students' options, most students choose to attend larger schools. Commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the report is one of four that will eventually be released in order to study how the schools have multiplied, who is attending them, who is teaching in them, and whether they're succeeding. The Gates Foundation popularized and funded the small schools movement in New York, fueling the growth of nearly 200 small schools with a $150 million investment. A New York-based research group, MDRC, conducted the report, which does not look at the schools' academic record — that analysis will come out in spring — but focuses on the schools' enrollment and demographics.
September 23, 2009
Among new small high schools, enrollment patterns vary
The students who enroll at new small schools are not always just like those who enrolled at the large high schools they replaced, a new study has found. The study, by Aaron Pallas, a professor at Columbia University's Teachers College and Jennifer Jennings, an assistant professor at New York University, confirms Jennings' earlier analysis of student enrollment patterns on the Evander Childs High School campus. But it also suggests that when it comes to who enrolls, not all new small schools are alike. "New small schools don't look that different overall. But the ones that replaced large schools do," Pallas said last night at a presentation sponsored by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform.
June 17, 2009
Klein: Small high schools still succeeding, and more are coming
The high school report released today shows that the Gates Foundation's support for small schools was worthwhile, according to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. His statement contrasts with the foundation's own evaluation of its small schools spending, which it said last year had not produced the academic gains it had hoped. Bill Gates himself said in November that while New York City's small schools have done better than others his foundation started, the schools still do not adequately prepare students for college. Delivering introductory remarks before a panel discussion about small schools this morning, Klein said the Center for New York City Affairs report "confirms the work of the Gates Foundation," which provided much of the funding that allowed the city to open small schools. Today's report "carefully documents" that the schools have gotten better results than the large schools they replaced, Klein said — and with the same type of students, contrary to the charges by critics who say the small schools' students start off better prepared. (In the schools' early years, they enrolled students who were slightly less at-risk, but they now admit their fair share of overage students, students with disabilities, and students who are learning English, the report concludes.) Despite his generally favorable review, Klein disputed some of the report's findings, especially around graduation rates.
June 17, 2009
Report: City's small schools push damaged large high schools
The city's drive to open new small high schools has taken a serious toll on older, larger schools, and there are signs that the new schools' success could be short-lived, according to a report being released today. The report, an analysis of the small schools bonanza by the Center for New York City Affairs, concludes that the city must do more to support large high schools, which continue to enroll the vast majority of city high school students despite the proliferation of small schools, and which are straining under the burden of enrolling the system's neediest students. At the core of the report is the finding that as small schools opened, large schools nearby suffered huge jumps in enrollment, especially among low-performing students and students with special needs. Those schools have seen attendance decline, disorder increase, and graduation rates drop, according to the report. In some places, these shifts have caused the city to restructure the newly troubled large schools, displacing at-risk students once again, the report concludes. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein told researchers that he understands that his strategy of closing low-performing schools and replacing them with new options could inflict some collateral damage on large high schools. "This is about improving the system, not necessarily about improving every single school," he said about the strategy at the center of his reforms since he took office in 2003. The report backs up the city's claim that the small schools graduate their students in higher numbers, but it raises questions about how long the schools can sustain their success.
June 16, 2009
Report: High school closures hurt students learning English
The rise of small high schools has decimated programs for students whose native language is not English, making the students more likely to drop out. That's the conclusion of a report released today by two watchdog groups that look out for immigrant students, Advocates for Children of New York and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. The groups studied two large, low-performing high schools that the city decided to replace with small, themed schools and found that students who are classified as English language learners enrolled in smaller numbers in the new schools. Students who did enroll often did not receive the services they needed, the groups found. What's more, according to the report, most of the new schools are too small to offer a range of language services: State law mandates that schools create bilingual programs if they enroll more than 20 students in the same grade who speak the same native language. The DOE has interpreted this mandate to mean that parents of 20 students in the same grade who speak the same language must "opt-in" to select a bilingual program - and that merely meeting the numerical enrollment threshold is insufficient.
March 16, 2009
High teacher turnover draws hundreds to protest principal
Hundreds of Bronx teachers turned out on Friday to protest the high school principal they say is responsible for a 70 percent…
February 24, 2009
Concern emerges that Obama has picked a side in education wars
Has President Obama finally picked a side in the education wars? Three prominent New Yorkers are worrying that he is at least leaning — and that it's not in the right direction. Deborah Meier, the respected small schools pioneer, said President Obama's appointment of Arne Duncan as education secretary "leaves me sad." Today, Diane Ravitch, the NYU historian and Meier's blogging partner, described Duncan as "Margaret Spellings in drag." "This is not change I can believe in," she wrote in Politico. And on Saturday, Ann Cook, another small-school movement doyenne, said she is also concerned about Obama's choice of Duncan. All three women sympathize with the "Broader, Bolder" manifesto, which argues that schools alone cannot be expected to close the achievement gap and whose members are more suspicious of popular innovations such as charter schools and test-driven accountability systems. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein leads another camp, which strongly supports test-based accountability, the No Child Left Behind law, and charter schools. Klein's Education Equality Project circulated a rival petition. Obama made a point of not selecting a side in the debate. He chose two top education advisers, one from each camp. And he touted his chosen education secretary, Duncan, who had signed both petitions, as a pragmatist. But in the last few weeks, concerns about Duncan have begun to surface.
January 20, 2009
Federal civil rights office OKs DOE's high school admissions rules
When I reported last week about the total review of special education that is set to start soon at the Department of Education, I…
January 5, 2009
Small schools creator says sustaining innovation is difficult
One of the books I read during my blogging vacation was “Those Who Dared: Five Visionaries Who Changed American Education.” The new volume,…
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