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Vulnerable and Facing Long Commutes, Students with Disabilities Struggle

Over at Gotham Schools, Christine Rowland has posted an important analysis of the effect of travel time on the achievement of self-contained students at her school. According to Rowland, self-contained students who live less than 15 minutes from her school have an average attendance rate of 86%. The rate drops to 74%, however, for students traveling more than 30 minutes. And while 69% of those in the first group earned five or more credits this fall, that was the case for only 22% of the students who came from far away.

Rowland’s school is Christopher Columbus HS and it is currently slated for closure. A full 103 of the 180 students in the analysis were traveling 30 minutes or more.

Which leads one to wonder (as Rowland does) why so many students with very high needs were traveling such long distances in the first place. In a system of choice was this indeed their (or their family’s) choice?

It would be impossible to answer that without interviewing every student, but surely one significant factor influencing their enrollment at Columbus is the DoE’s penchant for closing the schools that serve these students and then opening ones that do not. Columbus draws self-contained kids from the South Bronx where high school zone schools no longer exist. The schools that replaced them take few of these students. With few choices available, it seems that students who already struggled in school now had to cross the borough for an education that was no longer a real option locally.

I already suspect that the DoE is punishing the schools that accept self-contained students by grading them in a flawed formula and then closing them (see here and here). Now we have some evidence that DoE policy might be punishing students too.

Who is held accountable for this mess?