Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Closing NY City High Schools

The NY Times has a story by Sharon Otterman on closing "persistently lowest performing" high schools. These are often the large, unscreened schools that serve, or try to serve, the hardest to educate students.

"Since 2002, the city has closed or is in the process of closing 91 schools, replacing them with smaller schools and charter schools, often several in the same building, with new leadership and teachers. This year, the city has proposed phasing out 20 schools, the most in any year. It is also the first year in which the city is required to hold public hearings at each school proposed for closing, as a result of a change in the mayoral control law that resulted from complaints about an insufficient role for parents. "

"The city’s Education Department says that on the whole, the closings have been a success. The small high schools created in the shells of old large high schools have average graduation rates of 75 percent, 15 percent higher than in the city as a whole and far greater than those of the schools they replaced."

"A study last year by the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School backed the chancellor’s argument that students at the smaller schools — which are organized around themes like science or community service — fare better. But the study also found evidence of a domino effect at the large high schools.
Because the new schools, at first, accepted relatively few special education and non-English-speaking students, those students began enrolling in greater numbers in the remaining large high schools. Overall enrollment increased at many large high schools, and attendance fell. “While a few schools were successful in absorbing such students, most were not,” the report said. "

"The Columbus student body is in constant flux. Because the school has unscreened admissions, it takes children expelled from charter schools, released from juvenile detention, and others on a near-daily basis: last year, 359 of its 1,400 students arrived between October and June. Even after the city proposed the school’s closing in December, it received 27 more students. ...
"The city does not dispute that Columbus has been dealt a tough hand, but it argues that other high schools with a similar population — 26 percent are classified as special education and 18 percent are not fluent in English — have had better results. Columbus was also included on New York State’s list of “persistently lowest performing” schools last week, which requires the city to produce a plan either for closing or for staff changes and reorganization of the school."

Update: January 27. City Panel Approves Closing of 19 Schools

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