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Tweed’s Three-Card Monte: At-Risk Kids and Closing Schools

Concentration of Students Entering Overage, Neighborhood New Vs ClosingConcentration of Students Needing Self-Contained Classes, Neighborhood New vs ClosingIn Queens, the two large schools the DoE has targeted for closure admit overage students at about four times the rate of new schools in the same neighborhood. In Brooklyn, the rate is three to one, and in the Bronx it is double.1 If we look at a second very high-risk group (students in self-contained classes), the disparities are even greater.

These are huge differences in very at-risk populations, yet they are undiscussed by DoE and unknown to the press. These differences are all the more astounding because DoE has claimed it closed older schools and opened new ones to serve these very students. Over and over, the justification is the same: large schools are failing the students most at risk, and those students deserve a smaller school.

Yet here we are a few years down the line, and in neighborhood after neighborhood we find that the new schools do not admit the students they were supposedly designed to serve.

To be clear, virtually all schools in NYC serve high-need students, and that includes our newer schools. But some obstacles to academic success are greater than others. Schools that admit large numbers of overage students are admitting students who are already off track for graduation and who bring with them a wide array of challenges. The same is true for schools that admit students who need the intensive support of self-contained classes. 2 Teachers in our new schools are prepared to welcome these students, but policies created by the DoE around high school admission and transfer seem to have been designed to keep them out.

And, while DoE hoodwinks the public into believing that the only difference in these two sets of schools is the quality of the programs and the staff, it conveniently ignores the very differences most likely to influence success.

Let’s look more closely at the three boroughs illustrated above.


Paul Robeson is a closing high school in central Brooklyn where several large schools have already closed, including Prospect Heights and Wingate. Prospect and Wingate served large numbers of overage and self-contained students. Here is a comparison between the new schools that replaced them and Robeson (as well as Met Corp, another closing school).3 This first chart compares the concentration of students that are admitted overage.

Percent Entering Overage New Neighborhood vs Closing

Eleven of the thirteen new schools (in blue) have less than half the overage concentration of Robeson where one in every three students enters overage.

Here is the same group of schools and their concentrations of self-contained students:

Percent Self-Contained Neighborhood New vs Closing

Students who need self-contained classes are virtually non-existent in the newer schools. Only three have concentrations greater than 1%, and only one serves these students in concentrations comparable those of the closing schools.

Note that I have also marked the four schools in this group that received an A on their Progress Reports. All of these schools have low (or non-existent) concentrations of both self-contained and overage populations. It is also worth looking at the Progress Report grades of the few new schools that have somewhat higher concentrations of either overage or self-contained students. The two new schools (Youth/Community and Hospitality/ Tourism) with higher concentrations of overage students received a C and D respectively. Brooklyn Collegiate with self-contained students received a C. Robeson, serving high-risk populations in both areas, also got a C.


The situation is about the same in Queens where schools have closed and Beach Channel and Jamaica are next in line.3 Here are the concentrations of students entering overage…

Percent Overage New Schools vs Closing

…and here are the same schools showing the actual number of students who were admitted overage:

School Number Overage
Scholars’ 0
Young Women Leadership 1
Comm Arts Tech 6
York Early College 6
Med Tech 7
Queens Collegiate 8
Channel View 11
Infor/Research/Tech 28
Beach 374
Jamaica 406

Leaving FDA VI aside for just a moment, the other eight schools combined admitted about 65 overage students, while Jamaica and Beach Channel admitted close to 800.

The chart below shows the concentrations of self-contained students in the Queens schools:

Percent Self-Contained Neighborhood New vs Closing

Channel View, co-located in Beach Channel’s building serves no self-contained students. The same is true of Queens Collegiate, which is co-located with Jamaica. Queens Collegiate is too new for a Progress Report, but Channel View received an A. FDA VI, meanwhile, with somewhat larger concentrations than the other new schools was punished by a low Progress Report grade. Communication Arts Tech with the highest concentrations has not been in existence long enough to be graded.


The large closing schools in the Bronx comparison are Columbus and JFK. Global is one of the rare new schools that admits high concentrations of both overage and self-contained students, and it too is closing 5. Here is the overage comparison:

Bronx Percent Entering Overage

And here are the concentrations of self-contained students:

Bronx Percent Self-Contained

If you examine all six charts carefully you will find that of the thirty five new schools spread across large neighborhoods in three different boroughs, only two seem to admit overage and self-contained students in concentrations similar to the concentrations of closing schools. One is FDA VI in Queens, and it is already being punished with low grades on its Progress Report. The only other is Bronx Academy/Health. This school did receive an A on its Progress Report in spite of the high concentrations. But here too, the grade seems influenced by demographics. The population is female by a 3-to-1 ratio (72% female), while Columbus and JFK are predominantly male. At JFK, two-thirds of the population is boys. The graduation rate citywide is about 12 points higher for females than it s for males and this would of course influence the outcomes. Bronx Academy/Health may very well be a wonderful school, but it also works with different population.

Different concentrations of students lead to different graduation rates and ultimately influence a school’s reputation. That is no small matter for schools that are forced to advertise to parents on the one hand and avoid closing on the other. But the greatest damage is done not to schools but to the students themselves. Rising concentrations overwhelm schools and place in front of struggling students yet one more hurdle to overcome. DoE knows this. Yet wrapping itself in the mantel of civil rights, the DoE has created a series of policies around closures, admission and transfer that have exacerbated the concentration of students at high risk for dropping out. And that has allowed DoE to call its reforms a success, when all that is has really done is segregated students and kicked its own abundant failure down the line.

A note on the research:

Most explanations are contained in the footnotes. In addition, I have eliminated the very small number of new international schools that are new but not comparable. The internationals serve recent immigrant students who are learning English. While these schools admit many overage students, they do not necessarily confront the same obstacles as overage students in other city schools, and the international schools are designed to address their specific difficulty. In addition, though these students may be overage, very few are special education students (3% compared to 14% citywide) and less than 1% are in self-contained classes.

1 The referenced large high schools are Beach Channel and Jamaica in Queens, Paul Robeson in Brooklyn, and Columbus and JFK in Brooklyn

2 For a fuller exploration of the impact of self-contained status on student achievement see here, here, and here.

3 For the Robeson comparison, I have included all new schools that have been in existence long enough to have a Progress Report and graduation rate. The included districts are 13, 15, 17, 18, 22, and 23, but not all have new schools.

4 For the Queens analysis, I have included District 27 and District 28 where the two closing schools are located. Unlike Brooklyn, Queens did not have many new schools that were in existence long enough to have a graduation rate and Progress Reports, so I included some that are less established. I have indicated the difference by labeling with Progress Report grades on all those that have one.

5 In the Bronx, I have included only those new schools in Districts 10 and 11 that have been established long enough to have a graduation rate and a Progress Report. JFK and Columbus are in Districts 10 and 11respectively.



  • 1 Joy Alexander
    · Apr 12, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    I have been a special education teacher for many years teaching self-contained (SC) for most of my career. When my high school was slated to phase out starting in 2004 I was hired by one of the new smaller schools opening in the building. It is now six years later and still no self-contained students. As the kids came in designated for SC classes we were told to change their IEPS to either Resource Room (RR) or Integrated Co-teaching (ICT) since that is what our school had, we are still doing this now. The kids who are supposed to be in SC classes are drowning. They fail ALL of their classes, roam the halls and will never graduate. What we do when they turn 18 is ship them off to VESID which will supply them with Vocational Training. Since they are transferred to another school they don’t show up on the progress reports as not graduating. As far as the other Special Ed kids go, on the regents and RCT’s we basically help them on these tests so they will graduate, giving us extra points on the progress reports. Everything with the DOE is for show. It breaks my heart!

  • 2 Jaime Dubei
    · Apr 12, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    As the principal of Queens Collegiate, I’m somewhat taken aback by those numbers.

    Regarding overage students, my data is coming directly from ARIS as of today.

    In the freshman class, 24 of our 104 students are overage.

    In the sophomore class, 30 of 94 students are overage.

    In our junior class, 16 of the 75 are overage.

    In the 6th grade, the percentage is lower with only 9 of 57 entering overage.

    In total 79 of 330 students are currently overage, for a percentage of 23.9%. The vast majority of these students entered at an overage status. Only a handful of the 79 are overage due to failure while at QC.

    Regarding self-contained students, we have actively worked to met student needs in the least restrictive setting. 36% of our students have moved to a less restrictive setting while at QC, a portion of which were previously self contained or self contained in a D75 setting. These statistics were shared at the joint hearing regarding Jamaica’s closing in January 2011.

    Here are a few other statistics from the joint hearing that you may be interested in:

    25% of our students are below grade level in math upon entry to QC.

    30% of our students enter QC below grade level in ELA.

    76.8% of our students receive free or reduced price lunch as of January 2011. This number has increased since due to new enrollments.

    In January 8% of our population was learning English. Since January, we have admitted increasing numbers of ELLs and have accommodated their needs.

  • 3 Susan Pulice
    · Apr 12, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Wow Jackie, that is some data you have there. I can only hope that you will send it to our new chancellor and that he will read it. Thank you for all of this information. I will share it with everyone I know!
    Susan Pulice

  • 4 Jackie Bennett
    · Apr 13, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    First, thanks to Ms. Alexander, for describing so well what I have heard over and over again about what happens when IEPS are re-written with school needs, rather than student needs, in mind. I suspect we’ll see more of that now that the DoE has released its latest tweaks to the Progress Reports and is giving schools extra credit – extra credit!! – on the Progress Report to move students to LRE. Is it even legal?

    And thank you also to Ms. Dubei – -always glad to know that principals are reading too. As I said in my post, all schools are working with high need students, and if Queens Collegiate is like our other schools then the staff is hard at work giving students their professional best. What’s more, your school’s survey indicates that yours is a school with a strong collaborative environment and that’s great, too.

    Regarding the statistics I used, they come right from DoE, from the CEP’s and Progress Reports for the 2009-2010 school year. I should have been clearer on my source, but this is the fourth in a series of posts on this topic, and, frankly I got a little lazy. The previous posts can be found here, here, and here.

    Regarding the incoming scores of students, the Progress Report lists the average incoming scores for Queens at 3.10, which puts it in the top 20% of all high schools. I cannot stress enough that that does not mean the students do not bring significant challenges. Our closing schools unfortunately are dealing with even higher challenges, and a bad rap from the very folks who should support them: Tweed.

    And finally, Ms. Pulice, thanks for the suggestion, and I know I will see you soon because you always, always show up!

  • 5 Tamam Tracy Moncur
    · Apr 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Check this poem out by a retired inner city teacher entitiled “Stop Bashing Teachers STop!”