study says...

Phase-out process linked to fewer Regents diplomas, more credit recovery, new report finds

PHOTO: Jessica Glazer

After a recent study found that the Bloomberg administration’s strategy of closing struggling schools didn’t hurt their students, a new report complicates that picture.

The report, released Thursday by the city’s Independent Budget Office, found that students enrolled when the closure announcements were made were less likely to graduate with a rigorous diploma and more likely to earn credit through remedial classes, at least at six large shuttered schools it examined.

Students at three of the schools — Samuel Tilden, South Shore, and Lafayette high schools, where closure announcements came in 2006 — graduated in four years at about the same rate as peers at similar schools. But at another three high schools — Bayard Rustin, Louis Brandeis, and Franklin Lane, where closure announcements came in 2007 and 2008 — students fared worse, with only about 44 percent graduating in four years, compared to 47 percent of similar students.

The IBO report also raises questions about the quality of the education those students received, whether they stayed at their closing school or transferred away.

Compared to their peers, the students from all six closing schools were more likely to graduate with local diplomas, not the more advanced Regents diplomas that have since become standard for students without disabilities.

They were also more likely to have earned class credit through “credit recovery” programs, which can be less rigorous than traditional classwork, and to have scored exactly a 55 or a 65 on their Regents exams. Those scores often raise eyebrows because they are the cutoffs for passing those tests to qualify for a local or Regents diploma.

Sarita Subramanian, the IBO analyst who wrote the report, said policymakers should note the possible negative effects of the phase-out process.

“People might think the benefits outweigh the costs” of school closures, Subramanian said. “But it’s good to know what the costs are, especially for the students enrolled at the schools.”

Subramanian cautioned that she did not examine the causes for differences in diploma types or credit recovery rates, but noted that staffers at closing schools could have felt pressure to ensure their students met graduation requirements by the time the schools dissolved.

The six high school closures the IBO analyzed were among dozens during Michael Bloomberg’s three terms as mayor. That strategy proved deeply divisive and inspired aggressive protest from the city teachers union and many parents and community groups. As students and funding left those schools, extracurricular activities, advanced classes, and school morale often disappeared as well.

Last month, the de Blasio administration announced its own plans to close three schools at the end of the school year, including one small high school. That school bears little resemblance to the large, comprehensive high schools examined in the IBO report, though, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has largely rejected school closure as a strategy for improving the city’s schools.

Instead, the city has poured additional resources into struggling schools through its “School Renewal” program, though officials have said they will move to close schools that are unable to improve.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that two of the schools the de Blasio administration wants to close this year are high schools. Just one, Foundations Academy, is a high school.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.