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School Closings and Phase Outs
The Bloomberg administration has closed more than 140 schools since mayoral control began in 2002 with no evidence that the administration’s closure policy has improved outcomes for our students in New York City's struggling schools. Studies from Chicago indicate that the students in closing schools do not improve academically in their new schools. Several New York City studies suggest that the new small schools that are designed to replace large failing high schools , do not enroll the students who would have attended those large schools had they not been closed. As a matter of fact past reports including one form the CEJ found the new schools serve a less needy population. Research focused on high schools undergoing closure (the process in New York City involves a four-year phase-out) suggests a higher dropout rate as well as large numbers of unaccounted for students. This year the city moves to close a record 62 schools. Interestingly enough many of the schools being suggested 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 Educational Policy will approve any list, since a majority of its members are appointed by the mayor. The decision to close/phase out schools is sometimes based on the Department of Education report card called a progress report. The big problem is there is no consistency or transparency on the selection of schools. Progress Reports 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 Reports grade 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 the most 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 a sensible 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 policy creates and the lack of evidence that these closings improve student outcomes many parent entities as well as non-profit organizations related to education, have called on the DOE to stop concentrating highneeds students in struggling schools and, instead, develop interventions and supports to help all schools build their capacity to effectively educate these students. At the numerous "pre-engagement" hearings that are held for schools the DOE is looking to close, the DOE offers wonderful support and programs while phasing 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 to improve. 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 about a 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 the Bloomberg administration, school closure has substituted for a real, comprehensive strategy to improve struggling schools serving the city’s highest needs students. Approved by CPAC
Proposal: A moratorium on new closings until the following has occurred: 1. Redesign the progress report to reflect performance at a higher percentage than growth and remove the peer group.
2. The DOE should develop and implement an inspection system to provide early warnings of
deteriorating school performance to complement the newly revised progress report.
3. All support offered to these phase out schools should be offered to them at the first sign of low performance to support them in their endeavors to become successful and it should be targeted support. Once the above is addressed, all proposals to close/phase out NYC public schools must be approved by the district Community Education Council in which the school resides. Before a vote can be taken, the CEC shall solicit advice from the affected School Leadership Team(s), District Leadership Team, the district Presidents Council and other community organizations in that community. In the case of high schools, the district CEC shall also consider the advice of the Citywide Council on High Schools, in addition to the organizations listed above.
Norm Fruchter, the senior policy analyst at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, a nonprofit educational research and policy group, said the group analyzed the elementary and middle schools on the city’s list and found they had much higher percentages of black and Latino students than the city average, as well as much higher percentages of pupils qualifying for free lunches than the city average. Also, “they have a higher percentage of special ed, a higher percentage of English-language learners and a higher percentage of special education students in self-contained classes.”“It looks like these schools got these extra percentages in the years before they were tapped for closing,” he said. “They are closing the schools that have the most challenges, rather than trying to intervene to end the cycle of just closing the school and sending the kids somewhere else, and then when they get the same results they will just close that school.” (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/07/city-names-17-schools-slated-to-close/) The research is clear: Closing New York City’s lowest-performing schools is not and has not been effective. Just as teachers must develop their capacity to differentiate instruction for students with varying needs, the DOE must develop the capacity and ability to support improvement efforts differentiated for the specific needs of struggling schools. Instead of setting up these schools to fail and then closing them, the DOE should implement a policy of strategic, systemic interventions backed by resources and supports. With ineffective school closures occurring all over the country, New York City which is the largest school district in the country , has the potential to become a nationwide model for how to improve struggling schools rather than close them. The administrations of schools should be answerable to the Superintendent, the teachers answerable to the administration and the schools answerable to the community but the DOE is answerable to all and we believe that the support to schools should be first and foremost a priority.
REFERENCES:  When Schools Close: Effects on Displaced Students in Chicago Public Schools, Julia Gwynne and Marisa de la Torre;(Chicago: Chicago Consortium on School Research, 2009)
Approved by CPAC
,Do New York City’s New Small Schools Enroll Students with Different Characteristics from Other NYC Schools? ] Jennifer L. Jennings and Aaron M. Pallas; (Providence, RI: Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University, 2010); Alternatives Needed to New York City Department of Education School Closure Policy, Norm Fruchter; April 26, 2012 http://schools.nyc.gov/Accountability/tools/report/default.htm http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/07/city-names-17-schools-slated-to-close/ http://www.nyccej.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/school-closures-report.pdf
Approved by CPAC