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Lindsey Whitton Christ
The DOE has announced that they will close (or phase out) more schools this June. Below is the current list, with links to our reviews and the most accurate information we have on what will happen to current students . Controversy over how the decisions were made - and how they were announced - continues to swirl.
- PS/IS 72 (D19) will phase out the upper grades and be replaced by separate elementary and middle schools.
- PS 27 (D15) In September 2009, the elementary school will be replaced by a new school. The middle school will be phased out. High school students must transfer to other schools to graduate.
- PS 150 (D23) will be phased out.
- MS 399 (D10) will be phased out.
- PS 90 (D90) will be replaced by two new elementary schools. In September 2009, the new schools will serve grades K-2.
- PS 198 (D12) will phase out the upper grades, and in September 2009, students in the lower grades will enroll in a new school in the same location.
- PS 2 (D9) will phase out the upper grades and, in September 2009, students in the lower grades will enroll in a new school in the same location.
- MS 44 (D3) will be phased out, and in September 2009, new students will enroll in a new school in the same location.
- MS 321 (D6) will be phased out.
- PS 194 (D5) will phase out the upper grades, and in September 2009, students in the lower grades will enroll in a new school in the same location.
- PS 225 (D27) will be split into separate elementary and middle schools. In September 2009, the middle school will open with a 6th grade, and the elementary school will open with PK-3.
Some semi-heartening news this week: American students seem to be improving in math, according to the world’s largest survey of math and science achievement, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timss). Since the 1990s, Asian countries like Singapore and Japan, have dominated international reviews of math and science skills, which can predict a nation's future economic and scientific health. But despite noticeable improvements in American math scores this year (U.S. 4th graders outscored 23 other countries and tied with students from the Netherlands, Lithuania, Germany and Denmark), the same 4th grade mathematicians lagged behind students from Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Kazakhstan, Russia, England and Latvia. And American science performance continues flat, with no improvements since the survey was last published four years ago. Science teachers are unsurprised: No Child Left Behind and local policies emphasize math and English performance, leading to diminishing classroom hours devoted to other subjects. In conversations about school performance in the city, science is rarely mentioned.
The Timss survey took a focused look at how 4th and 8th graders in two American states compared to their international peers. Students from Massachusetts and Minnesota outscored students from almost every other nation on both the science and math assessments, which officials from each state attributed to their respective education reform efforts. But while only students from Singapore and Taiwan topped students from Massachusetts in 8th grade science, the Timss study doesn't uncover the nuances behind the numbers, like how particular schools, neighborhood, or demographics performed. Researchers from Massachusetts and New York's own Eduwonkette are careful to remind that achievement gaps still persist, even within the high achieving super-states. Deeper analysis of these results will help drive substantiative conversations on curriculum emphasis, educational values, and performance.
This week was filled with bad news for schools and students, but on the same day that the DOE announced it would close three schools, nine other city schools were lauded in US News as among the nation’s best. The news magazine also interviewed Chancellor Klein, who has just wrapped up his tour Down Under, sponsored by Australia’s education ministry. The Chancellor had plenty to deal with upon his return: one of his deputy chancellors had to be reminded of the department’s ethics code; Brooklyn residents are concerned that the city will use eminent domain laws to gain property for a new school; and the DOE had apparently advised principals to “keep the [school] surveys away from toxic person(s)” who might rate the schools unfavorably.
The Times editorial board argue that bad teachers need to be “ushered” out of the system, but one school leader can’t praise her teachers enough; Pamela Taranto, the principal of Brooklyn International, who received the highest grade among all the principals in the city on the progress reports, said she will spend some of her hefty bonus on taking her teachers out to dinner. Another city principal, of John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx, plans to remake his school into a “Digital Academy,” hoping that it will improve the school’s lackluster academic reputation. The settlement of a lawsuit challenging policies at Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn brought by Insideschools’ parent organization, Advocates for Children, grants students who had been pushed out of school options. But many high school dropouts are finding they don’t have as many options anymore as the waiting lists grow for GED and literacy programs. And many of the students at Newcomers High School in Queens gave thanks for the opportunities of immigration while empathizing with the pilgrims’ struggles -- a good lesson for all.
Last week, a woman posted a comment on this blog asking us to “move beyond descriptive stats [on the achievement gap] and focus on what makes some kids resilient (both in public and independent/parochial schools) where others fail.” She said that although she had been raised by a single parent in
Her question is a perfect springboard into the first Insideschools’ book club choice, Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and
Paul Tough, who writes about education for the New York Times Magazine, tackles hefty social science quandaries – like what causes poverty and how it can be alleviated -- within the narrative of Geoffrey Canada’s dramatic, ongoing struggle to change the lives of Harlem's children.
After five years of reporting, Tough describes
Good news for teachers this week: most educators who participated in the experimental bonus program last year have elected to continue with the program this year, and the Department of Education agreed to a deal that will encourage principals to hire excessed teachers, despite the budget cuts. Randi Weingarten, head of both the New York teacher’s union and a national teachers’ union, spoke out in support of new tenure requirements and merit-based pay programs. And as other sectors suffer from the economic downtown, teachers maintain relative job-security. Employees of the Department of Education have not been so lucky – layoffs have already begun.
In lawsuit news, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity may go back to the courts if the state cuts more from city schools; a student, whose forehead was apparently bloodied by a school safety officer, filed a suit; and after a judge found that the city had illegally built schools on a toxic site, the city’s lawyers claimed the judge had misunderstood two conflicting state laws.
Some downtown families may be sending their kindergarteners to the DOE headquarters at Tweed Courthouse next year. But despite a developer’s offer, it doesn’t seem the DOE wants a new elementary school at the South Street Seaport.
And all of that time that teenagers spend online? According to a new study – it may be an important part of their 21st century socialization and education.
Last night, the Community Education Council for District 3 passed a controversial resolution which rezones three large apartment buildings on the Upper West Side from the popular PS 199 to lower-performing PS 191. Residents of these buildings, including one man who has yet to father his first child, spoke out during the public comment portion of the meeting, saying that they had invested in the neighborhood, assuming their children would attend PS 199.
The resolution also recommended that the DOE move the Center School out of the overcrowded PS 199 building. Center School parents, students and administrators staged a protest rally before the meeting and walked out before the vote. A large corps of police officers stood by throughout the evening.
The debate has gotten ugly during the past two weeks, and Center School parents vowed that it wasn't over last night since the Department of Education makes the final decision on whether or not to move a school. There have been allegations of racism, since Center School has a more diverse student-body than PS 199, but Insideschools blogger and CEC3 member Jennifer Freeman wrote that such accusations are unfounded.
"I am really, really angry," a seventh grade student from Center School said, as she handed out fliers at the door to the meeting. "Nobody at my school wants to move. I want to spend my last year in middle school in the building I started in."
Parents from the Computer School who also spoke at the meeting, expressed concern that the resolution to move citywide gifted and talented school Anderson into their building might lead to future overcrowding.
"Are we going to be in the same situation as Center School in a few years?" one parent asked. Officials from the Department of Education told her not to worry; they believe that all of the moves on the table are long-term solutions.
As parents slog through the application process for the city's gifted and talented programs, today there's a chance to step back and consider the evolving definition of what 'gifted' means. EdWeek.org is hosting a conversation with three leading experts in the field, whose book, The Development of Giftedness and Talent Across the Life Span, will available soon. Submit your questions now, and check back at EdWeek between 4 pm and 5 pm for answers.
Meanwhile, tell us what you think about giftedness: Do you agree with recent developmental theories that it's not a static, innate condition but a trait that can be nurtured and developed? What about social and emotional intelligence? Giftedness beyond the academic realm?
After my dog Maggie graduated from the Good Dog training program for therapy animals last week, my husband and I were asked to choose her first volunteer project. As we scanned a long list of nursing homes and hospitals that use therapy dogs, we noticed several reading programs at public schools and libraries. I must admit – when I first heard of dogs serving as reading-assistants last year, I dismissed it as a ridiculous, only-in-New-York idea. Unlike a sick child in need of distraction or an elderly person who needs companionship, it did not seem as obvious to me how a furry, slobbery “therapist” might benefit a struggling reader. But last spring, after reading two articles about these canine-led reading programs, I was convinced that the idea had merit.
Studies show that struggling students can overcome their fear of reading aloud when their audience is a non-judgmental pup. The evidence isn’t just anecdotal – the dogs have been proven to lower some young readers’ blood pressure and heart rates. Curling up with a pet helps some students forget that they thought reading was boring or intimidating, and the dogs have led students to choose reading clubs over the more typical popular choices, like basketball or cooking.
Unfortunately, our Maggie's only free to volunteer on the weekends, so she won’t get to try out the theory. But one of Maggie’s co-graduates, a big, friendly black lab, has already been signed up for the reading program by his owner, who was a reading specialist in the public schools for the past 30 years. Seems that sometimes these "crazy" ideas may be able to offer certain students just what they need to be able to learn.
Education is apparently fifth on President Obama's list of priorities, which Nicholas Kristof thinks is too low. Chancellor Klein knows people in high places;, will he be the next Secretary of Education? Half of the city high schools that opened in September don’t have enough students, and school psychologists spend so much time doing paperwork that they don’t have enough time to actually talk with kids. And in the wake of a problem-riddled, centralized pre-k process, the DOE has announced that they won’t centralize kindergarten admissions as planned.
Earlier in the week, Governor Patterson sliced and diced the school budgets, angering education advocates, especially since 20 percent of U.S. school districts have already laid-off staff since September. Families have begun to defect from expensive private schools (but not those showcased in a new 'anthropological' documentary), and school bus routes will be back on the chopping block come September. Despite all these cuts, the DOE still plans performance bonuses, even though a new report that shows how expensive all of New York’s accountability measures are.
High school progress reports were released this week. The author of a study on the progress reports defended them in the Post, and the Daily News claimed that the high grades this year were a strong defense of mayoral control. The study, however, shows that receiving a low grade doesn't initiate a significant improvement in a school.
Mayor Bloomberg renamed a school in Harlem in memory of Terence D. Tolbert, the DOE lobbyist and Obama staffer who passed away on Nov. 2. The new capital plan doesn’t do enough, say parents in Riverdale, and parents in Chelsea are worried about overcrowding in a building the DOE proposes turning into a school. Schools sharing one building in the Bronx still don't have a library, and on Long Island, a Jericho school makes an effort to get Asian parents to participate. The original Blue Man Group has opened a school designed to foster creativity, called Blue School, complete with black lights, plastic tubing, and a “wonder room” with a light-up floor. Hopefully the shrinking economy won’t doom other creative educational experiments.
Tonight's CEC 3 meeting might include a showdown between parents and administrators from two different schools that share one overcrowded building, wrote Insideschools.org alumna Philissa Cramer on Gothamschools today. A CEC 3 proposal released last week suggested that the Center School, a small, unzoned middle school, move 14 blocks north to alleviate overcrowding in PS 199, a popular zoned elementary school, but parents and administrators at the Center School staunchly oppose the plan. The disagreement has taken a nasty tone, with fliers appearing outside the building calling the principal of Center School "a dictator, " and Center School families claiming that racism might have motivated some PS 199 parents to push the middle school, which has a more diverse student body, out of the building. See the Gothamschools blog post, last week's New York Times article or attend the meeting tonight to find out more.