NY Mayor Bloomberg To Close Poorly Performing Schools

Michael Rinerip writes in The New York Times Closing of New York City Schools Was Predetermined: They knew how the script was going to end. Still, on Thursday night, 2,000 students, parents, teachers and union officials filed into Brooklyn Technical High School, voicing their frustration for five hours. When the schools chancellor, Cathleen P. Black, opened her mouth, she was drowned out by people yelling (“Cathie’s gotta go” and “Black is wack”); ringing cowbells; blowing whistles; and in the case of one woman, M. Ndigo Washington, pounding a drum. It was the second long night of hearings this week to decide whether 25 low-performing New York City public schools would be closed. The outcome was never in doubt. The decisions on school closings are recommended by the chancellor and voted on by the Panel for Educational Policy. Under mayoral control of the schools, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appoints the chancellor and a majority of the 13-member educational panel: eight people who never fail to deliver for him.

The schools scheduled for closing are evaluated in good part by test scores. How dependable are the scores? In 2009, when the mayor was running for re-election, he cited skyrocketing scores as one of his most important achievements: 69 percent of city students scored proficient in English, 82 percent in math. And then, last summer, the state announced the tests were too easy and the results needed to be rescaled. Suddenly, 54 percent of city students were proficient in math and 42 percent in English.

Charm Rhoomes, president of the Jamaica High PTA, arguing that instead of closing the school, the Education Department should finance it better. She described how her son Shawn started in an honors math class last fall, but after one day, the teaching position was eliminated and Shawn was switched to a standard math class. Ms. Rhoomes argued that Jamaica High had a disproportionate share of children with challenges, skewing test results. The high school has 23 percent English language learners, much higher than the three small schools in the building. The High School for Community Leadership and Hillside Arts and Letters each have 12 percent English language learners; Queens Collegiate has 6 percent.

Commentary: I say close the schools immediately, and close more and more of them where test results show students lack proficiency in math and English.

When I read reports like InsideSchools report of Jamaica, I want to close all New York City Public Schools immediately. Yes, close them all down now.

Here is the report:  “Like many large, city schools, Jamaica struggles with truancy and a low attendance rate, roughly 77 percent ….. Two teachers are assigned the difficult, fulltime task of tracking down truant students and their parents. “The problem is that the parents of truant kids are also truant,” Andre said. “We tried to have workshops for them, but they didn’t show up.” ….. We observed one parent being told in person by an attendance teacher that her son was cutting school and failing in every class. The parent seemed more annoyed with the teacher for mischaracterizing the student’s 65 in gym as failing (it’s the minimum passing grade) than with her own son for not attending school and failing everything else. ….. The school’s suspension rate is nearly three times the average citywide, which Principal Jay Dicker attributes to his policy of zero tolerance. “I don’t deal with perceptions. I deal with reality. We have a lot of suspensions, but it works,” said Dickler. “Most kids get the message the first time they’re suspended and the students feel safe.”

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