Among 24 schools city says it could close, some familiar names

Seven high schools that the city tried in vain to close last year are among the two dozen that the Department of Education might move to shutter this year.

Department officials announced today that they had added 24 high schools to the list of schools they are considering closing. The schools join 36 elementary and middle schools already slated for “early engagement” meetings, the first step in the city’s school closure process. The department named those schools in October but postponed the meetings because of Hurricane Sandy.

The high schools were culled from 60 whose progress report scores made them eligible for closure under the city’s rules. Their test scores, attendance, graduation rates, and readiness for college do not measure up to city standards, according to Deputy Schools Chancellor Marc Sternberg, the department official who oversees school closures, who said the schools’ presence on the early engagement list indicates that they have deep problems to address.

“What we see in a school that can’t demonstrate the capacity to improve dramatically and to improve quickly is a calcification of the systems that lead to good schools,” Sternberg told reporters in a briefing on the reports this afternoon. “The adults are not communicating clearly and well with each other, there’s a lack of collaboration, a lack of organizational alignment that will enable the kind of instruction we know is important and necessary to lead to good outcomes.”

To keep off the official closure list, the schools will need to show officials they have “a way forward,” Sternberg said. That could come in the form of a dramatic leadership or staffing change, or the addition of new programs meant to address the department’s concerns. Typically, the department moves to close around half of the schools selected for early engagement.

A quarter of the schools potentially on the chopping block this year were there just a few months ago. Early this year the city’s Panel for Education Policy voted to close five schools on the new list through a stringent federal school reform process called “turnaround.”

At the time, city officials said those schools and 19 others lacked the institutional culture, leadership, and systems necessary to improve without being closed over the summer and reopened in the fall with new names and many new staff members. The schools escaped closure in July when the city lost a lawsuit filed by the teachers and principals unions over the plan, but officials warned that they still needed dramatic interventions.

Other former turnaround schools escaped the chopping block this year by posting higher scores. Among them are John Dewey High School, which rose from a C to a B this year after a tumultuous spring of student and teacher protests and the abrupt removal of longtime principal Barry Fried.

Several schools that were removed from the original turnaround proposal on the basis of last year’s city grades netted a second year of high scores. The School for Global Studies, W. H. Maxwell Career and Technical Education High School, and William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School all earned Bs.

Other schools on the early engagement list did not face turnaround last year, but have still struggled in recent years to help their students meet graduation requirements and go on to college. They include Brooklyn’s Boys and Girls High School and the Bronx’s DeWitt Clinton High School, which both received their second F in a row this year. And five of the schools on the list remained open after undergoing the early engagement process last year, including Brooklyn’s Juan Morel Campos Secondary School.

Department officials compiled the shortlist by looking at schools’ progress report grades, their Quality Reviews, the results of state evaluations, and the efforts they’ve already undertaken to improve. During the early engagement meetings, the department aims to learn why the schools are struggling and whether other efforts could help them. Last year, 21 high schools underwent early engagement during the regular closure process, and the city ultimately moved to close nine of them.

High schools that the department is considering closing:

High School of Graphic Communication Arts Coalition School for Social Change Academy for Social Action: A College Board School Choir Academy of Harlem Bread & Roses Integrated Arts High School Holcombe L. Rucker School of Community Research Herbert H. Lehman High School Leadership Institute Bronx High School of Business Jonathan Levin High School for Media and Communications West Bronx Academy for the Future (only grades 6-8 will undergo early engagement) Fordham Leadership Academy for Business and Technology DeWitt Clinton High School Bronx Regional High School Freedom Academy High School George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School Juan Morel Campos Secondary School Foundations Academy Boys and Girls High School W.E.B. Dubois Academic High School Sheepshead Bay High School Flushing High School Law, Government and Community Service High School Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School