William Grady High School

New York

At HS fair, turnaround schools struggle to define themselves

Paul Heymont, a social studies teacher at Automotive High School, shows off the list of sports and clubs on offer at the Brooklyn school. It's hard to get students interested in your school when, according to the  city's "turnaround" plan, it might not exist in the fall. That's what Deborah Elsenhout, a guidance counselor at Banana Kelly High School, reasoned when droves of families walked right past her booth at last weekend's Round 2 High School Fair, toward the hallway reserved for new schools opening in the fall. As one of 33 schools proposed for the "turnaround" school reform model, Banana Kelly is waiting to learn whether it will shut down this June, to reopen in the fall with the same students but a new name and a staffing overhaul. Students who apply to the 25 high schools on the turnaround list would automatically be transfered to the new schools that would replace them. Elsenhout said she either glossed over the turnaround situation to families who did stop, or didn't mention it at all. But it's hard, she noted, to advertise a school without a name. "We do have a rigorous academic curriculum and a strong connection with the community," she said. "But there's a sadness, knowing people will be losing their jobs." Teachers at many of the turnaround schools have expressed persistent confusion about the plan and its implication for their students. They also found it posed a dilemma at the fair, where 270 schools were given a weekend to pitch their programs, new and old, to hundreds of eighth-graders who were not accepted at their top-choice high schools during the city's main admissions process. Some teachers reassured families their schools weren't going anywhere, but others said the schools were already gone.
New York

A student walkout starts week of "turnaround" protest at Grady

Grady High School students protest the city's "turnaround" plan after a walkout today. A new phase in school closure protests opened today as hundreds of students at William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School walked out of classes this afternoon to protest the city’s plan to “turn around” the school. The plan, which Mayor Bloomberg announced last month as a way to obviate negotiations about teacher evaluations with the teachers union, would require Grady to be closed and reopened with a new name and at least half of the teachers replaced. Grady is one of 33 struggling schools facing turnaround this year. Grady students were the first to hold a closure protest since Thursday’s massive Panel for Educational Policy, where thousands of protesters railed against 23 school closure proposals that were approved. Now the city’s attention is shifting to the turnaround schools, whose closures are likely to come before the panel in April. Department of Education officials explained the plan to confused students and parents at the Brighton Beach school late last month. There was little confusion today as students executed a protest that was tightly scripted by members of the student government. After a rally on the sidewalk outside the school, students marched around Grady on a path that abutted the Shore Parkway and passed a police substation. Their cries of "Save our school!" caused neighborhood residents to lean out of windows and elicited a honk of support from an ambulance driver parked outside a home for the elderly.
New York

At Grady, parents probe distinction between closure, turnaround

The entrance of Brighton Beach's William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School. Is the school being closed, or is it staying open? Parents repeated variations of that question often over the course of a two-hour-long meeting Department of Education officials held at William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School Monday evening to detail the city's plan to overhaul the school. The answer, they were told, was more complicated than a matter of semantics. "This school is not being closed," Aimee Horowitz, the school's superintendent, told families, teachers, and the School Leadership Team in three meetings at the school over the course of the day. But she also said a new school with a different name would be opening in the building in the fall, and just half of Grady's current teachers would remain. Those are the conditions of the school improvement model known as "turnaround," she explained. Mayor Bloomberg announced earlier this month that the city would use turnaround at 33 struggling schools so that they could continue receiving federal funds even if the city and teachers union do not agree on new teacher evaluations. Since 2010, Grady had been undergoing a different federally mandated overhaul process, "transformation," which relies on changing leadership, bringing in extra support services, and experimenting with longer school days and new teacher training. The details Horowitz outlined were puzzling for several of the 40 parents and students who crowded into Grady's cafeteria to learn about the turnaround plan. "First you say in your speech that the school was going to do transformation. And then as you go on you started saying things like, this is going to be a new school. So where are we, which one should we believe?" said Ade Ajayi, whose son is a junior. "A lot of things are going to change. Teachers are going to change. We don't even know if the name is going to be the same."
New York

As some schools protest turnaround plans, others wait and see

New York

More city principals, but not many, sign on to evaluation petition

New York

At Grady, transformation funds change school's look and feel

New York

Grad rate gains at some set-to-close schools outpace city's

The 14 high schools the city is trying to close this year posted lower-than-average graduation rates — but they are not all the city's worst. Now, teachers union officials are drawing attention to three other high schools approved for closure that posted graduation rate increases two times or more than the city's overall 2 percent gain. In the Bronx, Christopher Columbus High School's 4-year graduation rate rose by 5.7 percentage points, to 41.6 percent. Norman Thomas High School, in Manhattan, saw its 4-year rate go from 37 percent to 47.8 percent. Brooklyn's Paul Robeson High School saw a similar leap, to 50 percent from 40.4 percent last year. "We knew that we had increased our graduation rate last year by 10 percent and have been saying that since November but no one pays any attention," said Stefanie Siegel, a Robeson teacher who has been active in protests against the school's planned closure. "When our spirits were high after we won the court case last year, we made great gains in a short period of time," she said. That court case was the lawsuit the teachers union won to stop the city from closing 19 low-performing schools. Performance boosts at three of the high schools kept them off the chopping block this year. Two of the schools got higher progress report grades, 85 percent of which depend on graduation rates and students' progress toward graduation. The city said it was confident in a leadership change at the third school. The schools with oversized gains this year still lag well behind the citywide average 4-year graduation rate of 61 percent. And many of the other schools slated for closure continued to post dismal graduation figures.
New York

City banks on new leadership to transform a Brooklyn school

This school year, GothamSchools and WNYC reporters will follow three New York City high schools as they try to improve. The following is an introduction to one of those schools: William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School. For years, Brooklyn’s William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School struggled to break free from its reputation as simply a trade school. “The ‘vocational school’ stigma continues to be a deterrent to students who see themselves as college bound,” the school’s leadership team wrote in its educational plan for the 2008-09 school year. Staff laid out strategies to make the school more challenging — and posted some gains — but the school continued to limp academically. About a fifth of the school's 1,300 students were absent every day last year, and at the end of the year, not even half of the school's seniors graduated. Now, the city is hoping that millions of dollars in federal aid and a new principal will finally jumpstart Grady's renaissance. Earlier this year, the city announced the school would undergo the federal “transformation” model of school improvement. That meant the city had to replace Grady’s principal — Carlston Gray, who had headed the school since 2006 — and adopt new class schedules and bonuses for teachers who help their colleagues. In exchange, Grady would get as much as $2 million in federal funds per year over the next three years. For a new leader, the city turned to Geraldine Maione, who had been principal at Brooklyn’s 3,500-student Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School.
New York

3 reporters, 3 high schools, 3,000 students, one school year

More than 30 schools across the city are about to embark on an experiment to rapidly boost student performance. In a plan endorsed by President Barack Obama, the city will use millions of federal dollars to either resuscitate the schools, or shut them down and open new ones. This year, we'll be following three of these schools. A Brooklyn high school sees almost half its freshmen drop out before their senior year and struggles with safety, but staff hope that new leadership will revive the school. Another in SoHo draws students from all over the city and has a graduation rate of just 50 percent, but both teachers and students are optimistic that a longer school day and more training for teachers can forge a better future. At a third high school in the Bronx, the staff is fighting to keep the school open despite threats from Mayor Bloomberg, who urged parents not to send their children there. Those students who showed up this year anyway "will get a terrible education that...they'll probably never recover from," Bloomberg told reporters. Together, the three high schools serve over 3,000 of the city's neediest students. They are part of a group of schools targeted by both the mayor, who calls them "failing," and President Obama, who calls the worst among them "dropout factories." Both men describe the schools' resuscitation as crucial to solving poverty and improving the economy. But how should the schools get fixed? And what role should Obama's team in Washington, D.C., play? In this project, a collaboration of GothamSchools and WNYC that launches formally on Monday, we will follow three efforts to change three struggling schools.
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