While I watch the once great comprehensive High Schools close (Jamaica, Beach Channel, Christopher Columbus, Washington Irving, etc), I am sent to the small schools that has replaced them. Being an ATR, I have a unique perspective of the small schools that have popped up throughout Queens and have found why many of them are destined to fail in a decade.
The reasons that this Bloomberg schools fail is that eventually the small schools end up with the same student population as the closed and closing large comprehensive high schools they replaced. Or as some would say it's like "rearranging the deck chairs". However, there are many more reasons that the small Bloomberg schools are destined to fail. Let's look at them.
- Poor Administration lead by a "Leadership Academy Principal".
- An inexperienced teaching staff with poor classroom management skills.
- Limited academic electives or extra-curricular activities.
- Pressure to keep student numbers up to ensure a continuous funding stream.
Let's look at each one of the problems.
Poor Administration: Many of the small schools have had "Leadership Academy Principals" in charge and quite a few of them lack the necessary classroom skills and mentoring to help their teaching staff. Furthermore, these principals have been taught to not collaborate with the teaching staff and will use intimidation tactics to get their way. The result is high teacher turnover and an unstable school environment. Finally, many of these principals tend to ignore student discipline issues and staff morale suffers. More than one Principal has told their staff that they will call in any student accusations to the investigative agencies OEO, OSI, and SCI no matter how frivolous it may seem to be.
Inexperienced Teaching Staff: Many of the small schools suffer from inexperienced teaching staffs, many of them untenured. Worse, a majority of these teachers come from the Teach For America and Teaching Fellows alternate certification programs and are not even certified! Is it any wonder that these small schools fail within the decade? While many of these teachers are enthusiastic, enthusiasm is not as important as curriculum knowledge and classroom management which these teachers lack.
Limited electives and extra-curricular activities: These small schools have limited or no electives that attract the well-rounded student and is usually the biggest complaint, even in the small specialized schools. The same goes for extra-curricular activities and many students feel cheated of a total high school experience without these necessary and important additions to the core subjects of the school.
Pressure to keep student numbers up: Many of the small schools are increasingly competing with each other for the diminishing amount of high achieving students. To ensure that the schools keep up their student numbers and funding, these schools are taking increasing number of students that are less than academically inclined. With only a few remaining large comprehensive high schools available, the high need and academically challenged students are finding their way into the Bloomberg small schools and the "student screening" that was allowed previously by the DOE is increasingly frowned on and those wonderful academic gains are rapidly disappearing and in some cases have disappeared altogether.
The UFT's Jackie Bennett did a study that showed that the "college readiness" of the small Bloomberg schools were lower than the larger schools and this shows very conclusively that the Bloomberg small schools are a failure and the sooner we go back to giving the children of New York City a total learning environment the better.