School Closings and Phase Outs
The Bloomberg administration has closed more than 140 schools since mayoral control began in 2002 withno evidence that the administration’s closure policy has improved outcomes for our students in New YorkCity's struggling schools. Studies from Chicago indicate that the students in closing schools do not improveacademically in their new schools.
Several New York City studies suggest that the new small schools thatare designed to replace large failing high schools , do not enroll the students who would have attendedthose large schools had they not been closed. As a matter of fact past reports including one form the CEJfound the new schools serve a less needy population.Research focused on high schools undergoing closure (the process in New York City involves a four-yearphase-out) suggests a higher dropout rate as well as large numbers of unaccounted for students.
Thisyear the city moves to close a record 62 schools. Interestingly enough many of the schools beingsuggested for closure are the new schools created to solve the issue of our existing failing schools. The Mayor has unilaterally made these decisions, as there is little question that the Panel for EducationalPolicy will approve any list, since a majority of its members are appointed by the mayor. The decision toclose/phase out schools is sometimes based on the Department of Education report card called a progressreport. The big problem is there is no consistency or transparency on the selection of schools. ProgressReports are supposed to help parents, teachers, principals, and school communities understand schools'strengths and weaknesses but ultimately are used to judge a school by a final grade. Progress Reportsgrade each school with an A, B, C, D, or F and are based student progress (60%), student performance(25%), and school environment (15%). These final grades are use as a tool, to close and phase out schools.Scores are also based on comparing results from one school to a peer group of up to 40 schools with themost similar student population and to all schools citywide, according to the DOE.(http://schools.nyc.gov/Accountability/tools/report/default.htm ) These peer groups have never followed asensible formula and often group schools with others school with different demographics, total number of students, different areas, and different sub group make ups.Given the damage and disruption the city’s closure policycreates and the lack of evidence that these closings improve student outcomes many parent entities aswell as non-profit organizations related to education, have called on the DOE to stop concentrating high-needs students in struggling schools and, instead, develop interventions and supports to help all schoolsbuild their capacity to effectively educate these students. At the numerous "pre-engagement" hearingsthat are held for schools the DOE is looking to close, the DOE offers wonderful support and programs whilephasing out the schools as opposed to offering this support at first discovery of struggling.Certainly, there are instances in which closure is the best option for a school that is too dysfunctional toimprove. There are many tools at the DOE's disposal such as PPRs (Principal Performance Reviews),Principal and Assistant Principal Observations and data inquiry teams which can tell us many things abouta school's functionality. We also have District Leadership Teams (DLTs) to support our School Leadership Teams (SLTs) that can help us in determining if a school is dysfunctional or not. However, under theBloomberg administration, school closure has substituted for a real, comprehensive strategy to improvestruggling schools serving the city’s highest needs students
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