closings

DOE announces 9 more school closures in biggest round yet

In the most sweeping round of school shuttering this year, the Department of Education announced today that it intends to phase out nine more schools, eight of them high schools and three of them opened under Chancellor Joel Klein.

The schools slated for closure today include large high schools in every borough except Staten Island. Paul Robeson High School in Brooklyn, Norman Thomas High School in Manhattan, Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx, and Beach Channel High School in Queens all will not accept new students for next year, provided that the city school board approves the closures next month. Together, the four schools have nearly 6,000 students.

Beach Channel received attention in 2007 after students and teachers complained about a destabilizing influx of students who had not chosen to attend the school but were placed there. Those students included many who would have been zoned for Far Rockaway High School, a large school nearby that has since begun to phase out.

Today’s proposed closures also include three schools that were opened by the current administration: New Day Academy and Global Enterprise Academy in the Bronx and Brooklyn’s MS 334, which opened in 2005 to replace a failing school in the same building that later closed.

Today’s announcement brings to 17 the total number of schools so far slated for phase out after this school year. The department proposed two sets of closures last week, one of which included another large high school in Queens, Jamaica High School.

According to the school governance law passed in August, the proposed closures must be given public hearings and approved by the city school board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy. The panel has never rejected a DOE policy proposal.

The full list of schools and the city’s bullet-pointed reasoning behind the closure of these schools, taken from an e-mail sent to reporters by DOE spokesman William Havemann, is below:

Phase-out of Beach Channel High School (27Q410)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of Beach Channel High School, a high school in Queens that currently serves students in grades 9-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The graduation rate at Beach Channel has consistently remained below 50%:
    • In 2007-08, the graduation rate was 46.1%.
    • In 2008-09, the graduation rate was 46.9%.
  • Credit accumulation rates are also low:
    • In 2007-08, only 52.1% of first-year students accumulated 10 or more credits.
    • In 2008-09, that figure fell to 50.8%
  • Demand for the school is low and declining:
    • In 2008-09 1,522 students enrolled in the school.
    • In 2009-10 this number fell to 1,345.
  • Beach Channel received a C on the 2006-07 Progress Report, a C on the 2007-08 Progress Report, and a D on the 2008-09 Progress Report, including an F in the Progress and Environment sub-sections and a D in the Performance sub-section.
  • Parents, teachers, and students expressed widespread dissatisfaction with the school on the 2009 Learning Environment Survey:
    • Only 59% of students believe that their teachers inspire them to learn, and only 56% of students feel safe at school.
    • Only 56% of teachers believe that order and discipline are maintained at the school.
    • Only 68% of parents believe their child is safe at school.

Phase-out of Paul Robeson High School (17K625)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of Paul Robeson High School, a high school in Brooklyn that currently serves students in grades 9-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The graduation rate at Robeson High School is well below the citywide average and has declined while most other schools have made progress:
    • In 2007-08, the graduation rate was 56.7%.
    • In 2008-09, the graduation rate fell precipitously to 40.1%.
  • Credit accumulation rates are also low:
    • In 2008-09, only 58.4% of first-year students accumulated 10 or more credits.
  • Demand for the school has remained consistently low:
    • In 2008-09 1,049 students were enrolled in Robeson.
    • This year, Robeson enrolls 1,020 students.
  • Robeson received a C on its 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008-09 Progress Reports. In 2008-09 it also received an F in the Environment sub-section and a D in the Performance subsection of the report.
  • Last year, average attendance at Robeson High School was 69.2%.
  • Parents and students expressed widespread dissatisfaction with the school on the 2009 Learning Environment Survey:
    • Only 64% of students feel that their teachers inspire them to learn, and only 64% of students feel safe at school.
    • Only 66% of parents feel their child is safe at school.

Phase-out of the Middle School for Academic and Social Excellence (17K334)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of the Middle School for Academic and Social Excellence (MS 334), a middle school in District 17 that currently serves students in grades 6-8. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new sixth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The school has failed to help students make the progress they need. Math and ELA scores lag significantly behind district averages:
    • Only 39.7% of students are proficient in math, compared with 75% district-wide.
    • Only 30.0% of students are proficient in ELA, compared with 62.4% district-wide.
  • The school’s performance is well below that of MS 354, a middle school located in the same building as MS 334 that serves a similar student population and shares MS 334’s zone.
  • The 2008-09 Learning Environment Survey found dissatisfaction with the school among all constituents, and especially among students:
    • Only 76% of students say their teachers inspire them to learn, and only 61% of students feel safe at school.
    • Only 43% of teachers feel order and discipline are maintained at the school.
    • Only 75% of parents reported satisfaction with the education their children have received.

Phase-out of Metropolitan Corporate Academy (15K530)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of the Metropolitan Corporate Academy, a high school in Brooklyn that currently serves students in grades 9-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The graduation rate is low and declining:
    • The 2007-08 graduation rate was 48.0%.
    • In 2008-09 the graduation rate fell to 47.1%.
  • The percentage of students earning Regents Diplomas is very low:
    • In 2007-08, the Regents completion rate was 16.8%.
    • In 2008-09, the Regents completion rate was 25.3%.
  • The school earned a C on the 2006-07 and 2007-08 Progress Reports. The school’s grade fell to a D on the 2008-09 Progress Report, including a D on the Performance sub-section.
  • The school earned an “underdeveloped” on its 2008-2009 Quality Review.

Truncation of the Choir Academy of Harlem’s high school grades (05M469)

  • The Department of Education is proposing to truncate the high school grades of the Choir Academy of Harlem, a middle and high school in District 5 that currently serves students in grades 6-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The school’s graduation rate has declined below the citywide average:
    • In 2007-08, the graduation rate was 73%.
    • In 2008-09, the graduation rate fell to 57.5%.
  • First-year credit accumulation is also declining significantly:
    • In 2007-08, 79.3% of first-year students earned 10 or more credits.
    • In 2008-09, that figure declined to 61.5%.
  • Demand for the school is very low:
    • Choir Academy only has 40-50 students in each high school grade, a student population that is too small to constitute a viable high school.
    • The availability for seats in performing arts programs citywide exceeds the level of demand for such seats.
  • The Choir Academy middle school earned an A on its 2008-09 Progress Report, but fewer than 40% of eighth-graders continue on to the high school. Only 25% of Choir Academy ninth-graders attended the Choir Academy middle school. The school’s current configuration is not fulfilling its primary purpose, which is to provide a seamless educational experience for students from grades six through twelve.
  • The Choir Academy’s high school received a D on its 2006-07 Progress Report, a C on its 2007-08 Progress Report, and a D on its 2008-09 Progress Report.

Phase-out of Christopher Columbus High School (11X415)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of the Christopher Columbus High School, a high school in the Bronx that currently serves students in grades 9-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • Columbus’ graduation rate is low:
    • In 2007-08, the graduation rate was 36.9%.
    • In 2008-09, the graduation rate increased slightly to 40.3%, still 20 points below the citywide average of 60%.
  • First-year credit accumulation is also low:
    • In 2007-08, only 48% of first-year students accumulated 10 or more credits.
    • In 2008-09, that figure increased slightly to 49.4%.
  • Demand for the school is low:
    • Columbus is a zoned school, but only 11% of students zoned for the school attend it. Just 46% of the students attending Columbus are zoned for the school.
  • Columbus received a D on the 2008-09 Progress Report, down from a C in 2006-07 and 2007-08.

Phase-out of Norman Thomas High School (02M620):

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of Norman Thomas High School, a high school in Manhattan that currently serves students in grades 9-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • Fewer than half of Norman Thomas students graduate on schedule:
    • The 2007-08 graduation rate at Norman Thomas was 41.7%.
    • The 2008-09 graduation rate was 42.7%.
  • The school has persistently failed to help students progress toward graduation. In 2008-09, the school had 109 registered twelfth-grade students and 945 registered ninth graders – meaning that half of the total student body was in the ninth grade.
  • The 2009 Learning Environment Survey indicates low satisfaction with the school among all constituents, especially among students:
    • Only 57% of students feel that teachers inspire them to learn and only 64% of students feel safe at school.
    • Only 68% of teachers feel that order and discipline are maintained at the school.

Phase-out of New Day Academy (12X245)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of the New Day Academy, a middle and high school in District 12 that currently serves students in grades 6-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new sixth and ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The New Day high school received a D on its first high school Progress Report in 2008-09, including Fs on both the Environment and Progress sub-sections. The graduation and credit accumulation indicators from the 2008-2009 year are low:
    • The 2008-09 graduation rate was 56%.
    • For two consecutive years, fewer than 55% of first-year students accumulated 10 or more credits – a key predictor of future academic success.
  • The New Day middle school received a C on its 2007-08 and 2008-09 Progress Reports, with low ELA and math proficiency rates:
    • In 2008-09, 40.8% of students were proficient in ELA and 34.3% were proficient in Math.
  • Demand for the school is low:
    • 2008-09 enrollment is 461 students.
    • Only 30% of the New Day eighth grade students continue to ninth grade, where they represent about 30% of total ninth-grade enrollment.

Phase-out of the Global Enterprise High School (11X541)

  • The Department of Education is proposing the phase-out of the Global Enterprise High School, a high school in the Bronx that currently serves students in grades 9-12. Under this proposal, the school would stop accepting new ninth grade classes starting in September 2010.
  • The graduation rate at Global Enterprise High School is low and declining:
    • In 2007-08, the graduation rate was 52.7%.
    • In 2008-09, the graduation rate fell to 50.9%.
  • First-year credit accumulation is also low:
    • In 2007-08, only 55.8% of first-year students accumulated 10 or more credits.
    • In 2008-09, 63.6% of first-year students accumulated 10 or more credits.
  • Demand for the school is low:
    • Global Enterprise participated in the supplementary high school admissions round, indicating that the school did not get enough matches during the main high school admissions round to fill its ninth grade class.
  • The school received a C on the 2007-08 and 2008-09 Progress Reports, down from a B in 2006-07.

To and Through

Newark’s post-grad paradox: More students are entering college, but few earn degrees

PHOTO: Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka wants 25 percent of residents to have college degrees by 2025, up from 19 percent today.

When it comes to college, Newark faces a good news-bad news paradox.

More students than ever are graduating high school and enrolling in college, according to a new report. Yet fewer than one in four Newark students earns a college degree within six years of graduating high school — leaving many with limited job prospects in a city where an estimated one-third of jobs require a four-year college degree.

Now, city officials are promising to build on the report. They want to ramp up the rigor of high-school classes and create more early-college programs to increase the odds of students entering college and leaving with a degree.  

“How do we teach our children to perform — to graduate?” Mayor Ras Baraka asked at a press conference Wednesday to mark the official release of the report of Newark students’ college outcomes. “We got them in the door,” he said of students who attend college. “Now how do we make them stay?”

The city’s plans, to which Superintendent Roger León is lending his support, reflect a growing recognition that simply getting students into college is not sufficient — and can even backfire if they drop out before graduation, leaving them with college debt but no degree.

Until recently, the charge given to high schools in Newark and across the country was to foster “college-going cultures.” And these efforts showed promising results: On average, 51 percent of Newark Public School students who graduated high school between 2011 and 2016 immediately enrolled in college, up from 39 percent who did so between 2004 and 2010, according to the report by the Newark City of Learning Collaborative, or NCLC, and Rutgers University-Newark’s School of Public Affairs and Administration.

But entering college didn’t guarantee its completion. Of those students who started college straight after high school, only 39 percent earned a degree within six years, the report found.

As a result, educators and policymakers have begun to think harder about how to help students “to and through” college — to ensure they actually earn degrees. Toward that end, Baraka and the NCLC — which includes roughly 40 colleges, schools, nonprofits, and corporations — has set a goal of 25 percent of Newark residents earning college degrees or comparable credentials by 2025.

Today, just 19 percent of Newark adults have associate degrees or higher — compared to 45 percent of adults across New Jersey and 40 percent nationally.

Superintendent León, who began overseeing the city’s schools on July 1, said his main strategy for supporting these efforts will be to expose students to challenging work early on.

“If we don’t do something dramatically in classrooms to improve instruction and make it rigorous,” León said after Wednesday’s event, then students are “getting into college but they’re not completing it.”

Source: “Post-Secondary Outcomes of Newark High School Graduates (2011-2016)” report. Note: The four-year rate is an average of the classes of 2011 to 2013. The six-year rate is from the class of 2011. Graphic: Sam Park/Chalkbeat

For starters, León said he wants high schools to offer more college-level classes. In the 2016-17 school year, just 21 percent of Newark students were enrolled in one or more Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes — compared to 42 percent of students statewide.

He also vowed to raise the quality of instruction in the district’s traditional high schools. Only 14 percent of their graduates earn college degrees within six years, compared to 42 percent of graduates from the city’s selective magnet schools, the report found.

To do that, León said he will create specialized academies within the traditional schools modeled on the magnets, which have specialized themes such as science, technology, or the arts. The academies, which will partner with colleges, will most likely feature admissions criteria similar to those of magnet schools, which select students based on their academic and attendance records, León added.

And, for the first time, all ninth-grade students this academic year will take the Preliminary SAT, or PSAT, León said Wednesday. An additional 1,100 eighth-graders who passed at least one of their seventh-grade PARCC exams will also take the PSAT when it’s administered on Oct. 10.

Since 2016, the district has provided the PSAT to all 10th and 11th-grade students. But León said that giving the test to younger students will focus their attention on college and help identity those who are ready for advanced classes. The PSAT is designed to help students prepare for the SAT, which is used in college admissions, and to qualify for National Merit Scholarships.

The district, which was under state control for 22 years until February, is getting some assistance in its effort to improve students’ college outcomes.

For instance, KIPP, the national charter-school network with eight schools in Newark, is sharing its strategies for helping students choose the right college with guidance counselors at three district high schools.

And the higher-education institutions in the Newark City of Learning Collaborative, including Essex County College and Rutgers University-Newark, plan to create more “dual-enrollment” programs that allow high-school students to earn college credits, said NCLC Executive Director Reginald Lewis.

“We’re all going to do a better job,” Lewis said, “of making sure that once Newark residents get in our doors, that we help them persist.”

Time crunch

In victory for teachers union, Newark superintendent scraps longer hours for low-performing schools

PHOTO: Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat
Superintendent Roger León at Hawkins Street School, one of the schools that will lose its extended hours.

Newark’s new superintendent is eliminating a program that extended the hours of struggling schools, which the teachers union has long attacked as ineffective and unfair to educators.

Teachers at roughly 30 schools will no longer receive $3,000 annual stipends for the extra hours, a provision written into the current teachers contract, which extends to 2019. Instead, all 64 district schools will get extra funding for before and after-school programs, Superintendent Roger León said in an email to employees on Tuesday.

The changes will go into effect Monday, Sept. 10, resulting in new hours for the affected schools just days after the new school year began. The district is still working to adjust pickup times for students who are bused to school, according to León’s email. A few of the schools will phase out their extended hours later in the year, the email said.

“We will not continue to do the same things as before and be surprised when the results do not change,” León wrote, adding that cutting the extra hours would save the district $5 million.

In an interview with Chalkbeat Thursday, León said the move is intended to create more uniformity among schools and the services they provide. Now, all schools will get additional money to pay for programs outside of the regular school day, which schools can tailor to their individual needs, though students who are struggling academically will continue to receive “intensive” support, he said.

“Ultimately, the idea would be by October having completely different after-school and before-school programming that meets the needs of each respective school,” León said.

The extended time was first included in the teachers contract in 2012 as part of a larger improvement plan for the targeted schools, which was developed by Cami Anderson, Newark’s former state-appointed superintendent. The plan also designated some low-performing schools as “renew” schools, where teachers had to reapply for their positions and work longer hours.

Anderson also closed some schools and gave principals new hiring authority. Both actions left dozens of tenured teachers without positions, so Anderson created a fund to pay those teachers to perform support duties in schools. In 2014, that fund for “employees without placement” cost the district $35 million out of its nearly $1 billion budget, though by last year the fund had shrunk to $8 million for about 100 unassigned teachers, according to officials.

León said in Tuesday’s email that he was also eliminating the fund, which he said would save the district another $6 million. The teachers union president said he believed all the unassigned teachers now have placements, but the district did not respond to a request to confirm that.

León is also removing the “renew” and “turnaround” labels from low-performing schools, citing their “progress and student achievement,” according to the email.

“I applaud everyone’s efforts at renew or turnaround schools and acknowledge what has been accomplished,” he wrote.

Now that León has abolished his predecessors’ school-improvement program, he will be expected to create his own. Many schools remain mired in poor performance, even as the district overall has made strides in recent years.

When the teachers union agreed to the extended hours in its 2012 contract with the district, it was hailed nationally as a major breakthrough in efforts to revamp troubled schools. But even as the union agreed last year to keep the provision in its current contract, union officials have assailed the turnaround effort as a failure.

NTU President John Abeigon told Chalkbeat on Thursday that the program had been a “scam” and “nothing more than extended childcare.” He added that the stipend teachers received amounted to about $7 per hour for the extra time they worked.

In 2016, a district-commissioned survey of 787 teachers at schools with extended hours found that two-thirds of teachers at schools where the extra time was spent on student instruction said the time was valuable. But in a survey the union conducted in April, the 278 teachers who responded gave the extended hours low ratings for effectiveness in boosting student achievement.

Some teachers in the union survey praised the longer hours, saying their schools used them effectively to lengthen class periods, run after-school clubs, or allow teachers to plan lessons or review student data. But others said the extra time was squandered, leaving staff and students exhausted with little evidence of improved student outcomes to show for it. (Students’ pass rates on state tests stayed flat or declined at most “renew” schools in the first years of the program.)

The union also has complained that many teachers felt compelled to work the extra hours because those who refused to could be transferred to different schools. Under the terms of the original extended-day agreement, teachers were required to work an extra hour per day and attend trainings during the summer and some weekends.

In León’s email to employees, he said every extended-day school had set different work requirements and “none are consistent with the original design.” The longer days may also be contributing to high teacher turnover in those schools, he wrote, adding that principals of schools with regular hours told him they did not want to extend their hours.

Abeigon, the union president, applauded León’s decision to scrap the extra work hours.

“He came to the conclusion that we expected any true educator to reach: that the program was not working and was never going to work,” he said.

León said Thursday that he is now working on a new turnaround program. Once it’s ready, he promised to share the details with affected families before publicly announcing which schools are part of it — an effort to avoid the student protests that erupted when Anderson identified her “turnaround” schools.

He also said he was still considering whether he would ever close schools that fail to improve or to reverse their declining enrollments. Anderson’s decision to shutter nearly a dozen long-struggling schools continues to fuel resentment among her critics even years later.

“I think the whole idea of how much time does a school get to correct itself is a very important one and I’m going to need to be really reflective on it,” León said. “I’ve seen what closing schools does with people who do not feel that they were aware of it or a part of fixing it.”