As hard as it is to believe, it now seems that the initial reports we received from the field actually understated the complete lack of educational integrity in this development. We have now been told that not every PLA school was told it would close; rather, for purely political reasons, some schools will not be slated for closure. Incredibly, while a school such as Maxwell which received an ‘A’ on their School Progress Report was told it would close, there are reports of a school which received an ‘F’ being passed over. No wonder Tweed has not published a list of all the PLA schools it is closing.
Much like the brief torrential rain which drenched New Yorkers on Thursday morning, Mayor Bloomberg’s Thursday afternoon State of the City Address received a deluge of media attention. Today, the print and electronic media feature talk of his jeremiad against the UFT, of his attempted resurrection of ‘market reforms’ such as merit pay which have been discredited even in ‘reform’ circles, as study after study has shown them ineffective, and of his claims that he will introduce a new evaluation system by fiat. Tellingly, nowhere will you read an account of what the Mayor’s proposed imposition of closure under the Turn-Around model would mean for the PLA schools, were he to be successful in implementing it.
Consider what is happening to just a few of the PLA schools. Note that we use here the performance data that, the DoE insists, informs their decisions on the future of schools.
Maxwell Career and Technical H.S. in East New York. Over the last two years, the principal and staff have taken a school which had a ‘D’ on its 2008-09 School Progress Report and was slated for closure by the NYC Department of Education and led it to grades of ‘B’ on its 2009-10 and ‘A’ on its 2010-11 School Progress Reports. The DoE’s now wants to remove that principal and half of the staff that produced that real turn-around, all without the slightest bit of help from Tweed.
Fordham Leadership Academy for Business and Technology. For three years, the DoE left in place the principal of this school who was found by his own superintendent to have engaged in sexual harassment, and was the subject of continued sexual harassment complaints from female staff and parents. The school was finally given a new principal and a chance to turn itself around this past September, but now the DoE wants to remove that principal and half of the staff.
Unity Center for Urban Technologies. DoE Deputy Chancellors consider this school to be a paragon of a school turn around. Unity received an ‘A’ on both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 School Progress Reports, but now the DoE wants to remove the principal and half of the staff it has touted so widely. Talk about the Tweed ‘kiss of death.’
Long Island City High School. For many years, LICHS had done a credible job of teaching a high needs student population before it ran afoul of federal and state benchmarks that demanded it produce the same graduation rate as Stuyvesant High School. Far from being given the additional funds, supports and resources which it had been promised to allow it to improve its instructional program, LICHS has been radically destabilized by Tweed since it became a PLA school, as decisions made at the highest level of the NYC DoE have created turmoil and disrupted the educational program. The schools has had three principals over the last three years, and the imposition of closure under the Turn Around Model would require a fourth in September. The school’s administrative capacity had been so deteriorated by these frenetic changes, that the school was forced to introduce a third entirely new class schedule and program in November, in the third month of a five month term: half of the term had been lost to administrative mismanagement. Despite this sabotage by Tweed, LICHS still pulled a ‘C’ on its last School Progress Report, but now the NYC DoE says it wants to further destabilize this school by removing 50% of its staff.
Bushwick Community H.S. and Harlem Renaissance H.S. As transfer schools, both Bushwick and Harlem Renaissance teaches students who had dropped out of other high schools. They ended up as PLA schools not just because they were held to the same graduation standards as Stuyvesant H.S., but also because they were given as little as one or two years to have their students pass 5 Regents exams and acquire 40 credits. The Regents are now considering changes to the performance metrics for transfer schools so they can be more fairly assessed. With these extraordinarily long odds against them, Bushwick scored a ‘C’ and Harlem Renaissance scores a ‘B’ on their last School Progress Reports. But the NYC DoE wants to fire the principals and half of the staffs that accomplished this, against all odds.
Queens Vocational and Technical High School. Queens Voc is a school that has been placed on the PLA list only because there is a full year’s lag in the data the state uses for these decisions: by the time it was added, its graduation rate was already well above the cut-off line. It had an ‘A’ on its 2009-10 School Progress Report and a ‘B’ on its 2010-11 School Progress Report. How could such a record deserve closure under Turn Around? And what will happen to the many high needs students at Queens Voc when the school leadership and 50% of the school staff that has served them so well are forced out?
The list can go on and on. Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School, Cobble Hill School of American Studies, Franklin D. Roosevelt High School, William E. Grady High School, the School for Global Studies… All good schools with strong leadership and a solid track record of educating large numbers of high needs students. Each school received a ‘B’ on their 2010-11 School Progress Report. And each is now scheduled to lose their principal and half of their staff.
Could there possibly be more damning evidence of how decisions are made by the Mayor and his lieutenants at Tweed, without the slightest concern for what happens in schools to students? Like the cavalier military officer who dismisses civilian deaths as ‘collateral damage,’ Bloomberg and Tweed see the harm that will come to schools and students as the necessary cost of their political blitzkrieg.