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October 25, 2011
Among low-scoring schools, familiar names and dashed hopes
Yesterday's high school progress reports release put 60 schools on existential notice. Fourteen high schools got failing grades, 28 received D's, and another 14 have scored at a C or lower since at least 2009 — making them eligible for closure under Department of Education policy. In the coming weeks, the city will winnow the list of schools to those it considers beyond repair. After officials release a shortlist of schools under consideration for closure, they will hold "early engagement" meetings to find out more about what has gone wrong. City officials said they would look at the schools' Quality Reviews, state evaluations, and past improvement efforts before recommending some for closure. Last month, they said they were considering closure for just 20 of the 128 elementary and middle schools that received low progress report grades. The at-risk high schools are spread over every borough except for Staten Island and include many of the comprehensive high schools that are still open in the Bronx, including DeWitt Clinton High School and Lehman High School, which until recently were considered good options for many students. They also include two of the five small schools on the Erasmus Campus in Brooklyn and two of the three small schools that have long occupied the John Jay High School building in Park Slope. (A fourth school, which is selective, opened at John Jay this year.) They include several of the schools that received "executive principals" who got hefty bonuses to turn conditions around.
October 24, 2011
Fewer top scores on more robust high school progress reports
Nearly half of students who started ninth grade in 2006 are enrolled in college right now, but only a quarter of them were ready for it, city data shows. The numbers were revealed today when the Department of Education released high school progress reports for last year. For the first time, the reports include data about each school's course offerings and college enrollment rate, although that information will not be factored into schools’ grades until next year. Schools that receive a grade of F or D, or get three C grades in a row, could face closure. This year, 41 schools received D's or F's, an increase over last year, while fewer high schools received A grades than in any year since the progress reports were created in 2007. Speaking to reporters this morning, Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief academic officer, attributed those changes to a tougher set of requirements around student performance on state tests, credit accumulation, and documentation for student discharges. "I think we're tightening things up and we've gotten a more precise result," he said.
September 26, 2011
Diverse approaches to admissions labyrinth on view at HS fair
Eighth-graders and their parents began queuing up outside Brooklyn Technical High School on Saturday an hour before the annual citywide high school fair's start time, and by 9:45 a.m. a long line of families wrapped around the block. When the doors opened at 10 a.m., they poured into the stuffy building, some of the tens of thousands of families that passed through the fair this weekend. Inside, Brooklyn Tech's eight stories were something of a labyrinth — but no more so than the high school admissions process itself. Parents and students that we met outlined varying strategies for navigating the fair and the journey to high school. Laura Napiza with daughter Samantha, left, who wants to be a teacher Laura Napiza and her daughter Samantha tried traversing the hallways but seemed completely lost. “We just got here and it’s very overwhelming,” Laura Napiza said. “We’re looking for a high school with a strong academic program that also has something that she’d be interested in. Right now she wants to be a teacher.” They said their goal was to visit the Queens High School of Teaching, Liberal Arts, and the Sciences and Maspeth High School — if they could find those tables. Saying they planned to inquire about graduation rates, student-to-teacher ratios and extracurricular options, the mother and daughter disappeared into the melee. Spencer Jackson and Beverly Brailsford creating a plan of attack for the fair Beverly Brailsford and her son Spencer Jackson came in with a clear plan of action: Head straight to the seventh floor and methodically work downwards, hitting only the schools with strong academic programs and track and field teams. First, though, the pair found a quiet hallway where they could sit down and prepare. With the high school directory in her lap, a pen in her hand, and a notebook turned to a fresh page, Brailsford took notes on schools such as Aviation High School and Medgar Evers College Preparatory School while Jackson played on his phone. “I think it’s more of a mom thing,” Brailsford said of the process. “As long as they have what he’s into, it works for him.”
January 24, 2011
Scenes from three hearings: Jamaica, Columbus and Robeson
Jamaica High School students, teachers and parents cheer a speaker at the school For the past two weeks, education officials have spent nearly every weeknight holding public hearings at each of the 25 district schools the city wants to close next year. Seventeen of the schools are in this for the second go-around, after a union lawsuit foiled the department's attempt to close them last year. As a result, this year's hearings are both formatted differently — part of an attempt to better explain the closure decisions and avoid another lawsuit — and less emotional, despite communities' still-simmering anger and frustration. GothamSchools reporters recently attended three of these hearings. Jamaica High School The group of students, teachers and parents that gathered in Jamaica High School's auditorium was smaller than the large, boisterous crowd that packed last year's hearing. But, as several students pointed out, the school is also smaller this year. After the courts blocked the city from closing Jamaica and 18 other high schools last year, the size of the incoming freshman class shrunk dramatically.
November 3, 2010
More F's and fewer A's mark new high school progress reports
For the second year in a row, the city has awarded fewer top progress report grades to high schools. Nearly 70 percent of high schools received A's or B's on this year's reports, which are being released today, down from about 75 percent last year and 83 percent in 2008. And more schools will have to endure a year of having the letter "F" branded on their report cards. Last year, the city gave only one F, but this year nine schools got that grade, and another 23 received D's. Schools that receive a grade of F or D, or get three C's in a row, are at risk for closure. The city has indicated that it might try to close more schools this year than in past years. This year's high school grades were more stable than those for elementary and middle schools, which were released last month. Elementary and middle school reports are based almost entire on state reading and math scores, and lower scores statewide caused grades to fall this year at about 70 percent of schools.
October 6, 2010
Large high schools still find favor in Queens, if not at Tweed
Rejecting small schools with themes like social justice or green jobs as "boutique schools," parents in central Queens are demanding that the city build them a large, comprehensive high school. And, after years of the city closing big schools and championing those boutiques, city officials have agreed. At a meeting in central Queens last night, Executive Director of School Improvement Alex Shub said the Department of Education intended to build a 1,100-seat school building in Maspeth. The school will open in 2011 or 2012, depending on how quickly the city finds and hires the right principal, Shub said. But when it does, it will be one school, not several small high schools housed in a single campus as has become the norm. "People want one large comprehensive school. You don't want a bunch of boutique schools, a dance school, a school for lawyers," Shub said to the parents assembled at P.S. 58. "It sounds like people speaking now are interested in a comprehensive school that is going to give your kids every opportunity for success. And I can guarantee you a school that can do that."
August 16, 2010
Thirty six charter school leaders apply to open new NYC schools
Thirty six charter schools could open in New York City next fall in the first wave of new schools allowed under the charter school law passed in May. Legislators voted to more than double the cap on charter schools, permitting 260 new schools over the next four years, of which 114 could be in New York City. Today, the state announced that 47 school leaders applied this month to open new schools in 2011, 30 of them in the city. An additional six schools applied to open in New York City as part of SUNY's Charter School Institute's earlier summer deadline, bringing the total of schools looking to open in the city in fall of 2011 to 36. Ten of the new applicants want to open in the Bronx — most in the South Bronx — and another 10 want to open in Brooklyn. Eight have applied to open in Manhattan, one in Queens, and one in Staten Island. In a shift, 10 of the new applicants are high schools. Currently, just 13 city charter schools serve grades 9-12, although more are set to add those grades as they expand. Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch last year challenged charter school operators to open more high schools, saying that is where the need is greatest. One of the proposed schools would join Wildcat Academy as the only charter transfer schools. Another is Christopher Columbus Charter High School, the school proposed to reincarnate the Bronx school that's slated to close.
June 29, 2010
Tomorrow at GothamSchools, meet students who beat the odds
Sharmin Mollick GothamSchools readers might remember reading about Sharmin Mollick and Karina Melendez, two top high school students who overcame great odds to…
June 25, 2010
A city principal who favors change warily prepares for more
Graduating seniors celebrated today inside the Cobble Hill School of American Studies Today was a roller coaster for Kenneth Cuthbert, principal of the Cobble Hill School of American Studies in Brooklyn. At 1 p.m., he stood inside a new basement auditorium he excavated from a former garbage dump and watched more than 100 of his students graduate to shattering cheers. A few hours later, he learned that he might lose his job. Cobble Hill has been named one of the 34 city schools the state will attempt "turn around" as part of an Obama administration program. The news Cuthbert received this afternoon, in an e-mail message from Chancellor Joel Klein, is that Cobble Hill will undergo the so-called "transformation" model — the less severe model that preserves a school's teaching staff, but still endangers its principal. State rules say that all schools on the federal list should lose their principals, but city officials are considering appealing for some principals to stay, and the principals union is pressuring them to save these jobs. So far, Cuthbert doesn't know where he falls. "They need to do what’s in the best interest of the children," he told me this afternoon, after receiving the news. "I will be fine. God sends us here with gifts, talents, and abilities. What are you going to do? You play the hand you’re dealt. We’ve played it for the last several years." His mixed feelings reflect the fact that, for the five years that he's been principal, Cuthbert has seen himself as on a war path to improve the school — and he feels like he's made important steps. Last year's four-year graduation rate was 65 percent, up from 42 percent two years before. Since he came, the school has launched several new programs, including a law program that he said is behind increasing enrollment. (Achievement statistics on the school can be found here and here.)
November 16, 2009
75 percent of high schools given A's and B's on progress reports
Debuting the latest round of progress reports for the city's high schools, the Department of Education awarded 75 percent of schools A's and B's, a slight decrease from last year. That number reflects a rise in the percentage of high schools that were given A grades this year, and a decrease in the percentage with B's. Of the more than 300 high schools that were given grades this year, 45 percent received A's and 30 percent were given B's. In 2008, 40 percent of high schools were given A's and 43 percent were given B's. Following criticism that the overwhelming number of high marks given to the city's elementary and middle schools over the summer rendered the report cards meaningless, DOE officials said grades for the high schools would be more evenly distributed.
July 29, 2009
An Obama nod inspires a recent grad to praise her city school
In a recent speech to the NAACP, President Obama name-dropped a New York City public high school, saying that more schools should emulate Bard High School Early College and push students to earn college credits in addition to their high school diplomas. A recent BHSEC graduate who now attends Williams College, Kesi Augustine, explains in a Huffington Post column what makes the small, super-selective school on the Lower East Side so special. (A replica opened last year in Queens.) It's not just that students can earn as much as two years of college credits before graduating, she writes: The most rewarding part of my experience at BHSEC, however, WAS more than just the Associate's degree. The school introduced me to critical thinking and writing about my place in the world. Our teachers did not give us the recipe for performing well on state-wide tests and SATs, although we performed well in that respect, too. Rather, our small classes thrived on student energy in open seminar discussions and debates about course material. ... If we are going to strive for the educational equality Obama calls for, every American student should have the education I did. I was more than prepared for success in "real" college, largely owed to what I learned at BHSEC.
June 17, 2009
Klein: Small high schools still succeeding, and more are coming
The high school report released today shows that the Gates Foundation's support for small schools was worthwhile, according to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. His statement contrasts with the foundation's own evaluation of its small schools spending, which it said last year had not produced the academic gains it had hoped. Bill Gates himself said in November that while New York City's small schools have done better than others his foundation started, the schools still do not adequately prepare students for college. Delivering introductory remarks before a panel discussion about small schools this morning, Klein said the Center for New York City Affairs report "confirms the work of the Gates Foundation," which provided much of the funding that allowed the city to open small schools. Today's report "carefully documents" that the schools have gotten better results than the large schools they replaced, Klein said — and with the same type of students, contrary to the charges by critics who say the small schools' students start off better prepared. (In the schools' early years, they enrolled students who were slightly less at-risk, but they now admit their fair share of overage students, students with disabilities, and students who are learning English, the report concludes.) Despite his generally favorable review, Klein disputed some of the report's findings, especially around graduation rates.
June 17, 2009
Report: City's small schools push damaged large high schools
The city's drive to open new small high schools has taken a serious toll on older, larger schools, and there are signs that the new schools' success could be short-lived, according to a report being released today. The report, an analysis of the small schools bonanza by the Center for New York City Affairs, concludes that the city must do more to support large high schools, which continue to enroll the vast majority of city high school students despite the proliferation of small schools, and which are straining under the burden of enrolling the system's neediest students. At the core of the report is the finding that as small schools opened, large schools nearby suffered huge jumps in enrollment, especially among low-performing students and students with special needs. Those schools have seen attendance decline, disorder increase, and graduation rates drop, according to the report. In some places, these shifts have caused the city to restructure the newly troubled large schools, displacing at-risk students once again, the report concludes. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein told researchers that he understands that his strategy of closing low-performing schools and replacing them with new options could inflict some collateral damage on large high schools. "This is about improving the system, not necessarily about improving every single school," he said about the strategy at the center of his reforms since he took office in 2003. The report backs up the city's claim that the small schools graduate their students in higher numbers, but it raises questions about how long the schools can sustain their success.
June 16, 2009
Report: High school closures hurt students learning English
The rise of small high schools has decimated programs for students whose native language is not English, making the students more likely to drop out. That's the conclusion of a report released today by two watchdog groups that look out for immigrant students, Advocates for Children of New York and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. The groups studied two large, low-performing high schools that the city decided to replace with small, themed schools and found that students who are classified as English language learners enrolled in smaller numbers in the new schools. Students who did enroll often did not receive the services they needed, the groups found. What's more, according to the report, most of the new schools are too small to offer a range of language services: State law mandates that schools create bilingual programs if they enroll more than 20 students in the same grade who speak the same native language. The DOE has interpreted this mandate to mean that parents of 20 students in the same grade who speak the same language must "opt-in" to select a bilingual program - and that merely meeting the numerical enrollment threshold is insufficient.
June 8, 2009
After criticism, HS students tackle diversity issue on their own
Ever since a Daily News column highlighted declining numbers of black and Hispanic students at an elite Manhattan high school, students there have been trying to figure out how to bolster diversity. Tonight, they are holding a forum to confront the topic head on — but their school won't be participating. Beacon High School has accepted fewer minority and low-income students every year since it adopted a selective admissions procedures in 2005, even as the total number of students has been rising, according to the May 15 column by Juan Gonzalez in the Daily News. The column reignited an ongoing conversation at Beacon about the school's changing demographics, a Beacon senior, Cory Meara-Bainbridge, told me. After it appeared, a group of about 15 students banded together to plan a forum to begin a tough conversation about how the school's unique admissions procedures might influence who applies and gets into the elite Upper West Side high school. Beacon requires not only high grades, strong test scores, and a portfolio of work, but also an in-person interview for admission. Current students sit on the interview committees. So far, students say, the school's administration has declined to participate in the discussion.
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