In 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.
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:
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…
…and here are the same schools showing the actual number of students who were admitted overage:
|Young Women Leadership||1|
|Comm Arts Tech||6|
|York Early College||6|
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:
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:
And here are the concentrations of self-contained students:
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
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.