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Closing a “Proficient” School:Who is Failing, Klein or Tilden?

The Department of Ed has announced the closing of five high schools, two small schools in Manhattan and three large high schools in Brooklyn.

The NYSun reports that one of schools slated for closing, Tilden High School, has been designated as “proficient” by the Department as part of the School Quality Review process. So, on one hand the Brits who are visiting and evaluating schools find Tilden “proficient,” and the denizens at Tweed decide to empty out the building.

Tilden is clearly a struggling school.

The School Report Card reports that student suspension rates are far above the average for similar schools: 163% for 2004 and 261% for 2005. Average daily attendance to date is 64%.

On the other hand the Department sends students well below standard: 50.1% of the 2005 entering class were overage and only 15.2% of the entering class met ELA standards and 16.5% Math standards. 14% of the students are Special Education.

Most disturbing is the school received $2,739 less per pupil than similar schools.

I don’t know whether Tilden should be closed. The Principal, in her second year is popular among the staff and students.

Klein is quick to laud some of the new small high schools. He raves about Bronx Aerospace – a small Empowerment High School in the Bronx. The School Report Card reports that only 17.4% enter the school overaged, 27.2% enter having met ELA standards and 38.1% Math standards. In addition the small high schools that are part of the Gates funded New Century High School project receive $1,000 per student in additional funding each of their first four years and substantial professional and operation support from the “intermediaries,” the not-for-profits who are the recipients of the Gates funding.

This is not a plea to keep Tilden open – I don’t really know enough – I do know when you send extremely needy kids to a school, and underfund the school you have created a recipe for failure.

Will the hundreds of small high schools survive and prosper as the years go by? What will happen when the Gates dollars end? Will Empowerment Schools have the capacity to meet the needs of their student and staffs? Especially with almost no external supports?

When Klein’s intellectual beau, Sir Michael Barber, addressed prospective Empowerment Principals last spring he urged Klein to make changes as rapidly as possible, and to make them “irrevocable.”

I don’t see a galaxy of 400 small high schools, divided into networks and “managed,” under performance contracts, by a revolving array of “educational management organizations” as the kind of “irrevocable” change that will benefit public children.

What I do see is a growing coalition: parents, teachers, unions, community activists and elected officials who question the “fad of the moment,” who question “experimenting” with the educational future of their children.



  • 1 jd2718
    · Jan 6, 2007 at 7:41 am

    There are enough small schools in Brooklyn, aren’t there? Adding a dozen more, when there is no clear demand for them, doesn’t make sense. Further, the top down creation of small schools has not worked in NYC (nor should it have).

    Let them support the remaining large schools properly.

    They won’t. The issue is not education. The issue is dividing us into smaller and smaller workplaces, so that it is harder and harder to keep our membership organized.

    Duty free lunch? Hit or miss in small schools. Compensation for extra time? Ditto. Four, five periods in a row? Mandatory afterschool meetings? We are on top of these issues in large schools. Small schools give Bloomberg’s chancellor new venues to challenge our rights.

    We should say no, and try to stop them.


  • 2 Marc Korashan
    · Jan 8, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Jonathan makes a good point about the way small schools treat teachers, but just as important is what they make unavailable for students.

    Small schools, funded on a per capita enrollment basis, cannot offer the wide array of electives and extra-curricular activities that are essential for motivating some of our most disaffected students.

    A small school cannot field a football team and may, in fact, have difficulty finding coaches for smaller teams such as basketball, wrestling, fencing or soccer. Small schools may not have the space or the faculty to support a drama program or a chorus. Small schools have dififculty offering music and art and a full range of sciences taught by highly qualified teachers.

    For many of our students, these activities are the reason to come to school. The small schools cannot make up for the lack of these options merely by offereing smaller academic classes where the pressure to achieve a test score is the only measure of success.

  • 3 jd2718
    · Jan 9, 2007 at 9:58 pm


    there are good small schools, too. And there are students who do better in that setting. The trade-off makes sense, for some students and some teachers.

    But the Board of Ed is demanding massive conversion to small schools – that’s not about benefitting New York City’s children. It’s about disorganizing our union (and, if I may say so, in particular disorganizing some of our union’s strongest chapters in large high schools.)