During the Bloomberg Administration's tenure many of the large comprehensive high schools have closed and many more are in danger of closing. To replace these now closed or closing schools are almost 500 small schools, many of them with themes such as preforming arts, sports, or journalism, just to name a few. While the Bloomberg Administration has hailed them as a success because of an artificially higher graduation rate, the truth is very different. What are the problems with these small schools for many students? let me count the ways.
All small schools have less than 500 students and there is usually a limited curriculum consisting of the core subjects, a selected Advance Placement course or two and electives that are connected to the school's theme. In other words, a rigid and limited schedule. Many students regret going to these schools because of the lack of flexibility in course selection and are frustrated about the "one-size-fits-all" approach in scheduling.
Lack Of Extracurricular Activities:
One of the most recurring complainants by students in small schools are the limited number of extracurricular activities available in the school. Some of the more fortunate schools that are located in a campus of a closed large comprehensive high school, pool their resources to have a PSAL sports team. However, the majority of the small schools do not have that luxury and PSAL sports programs are usually limited to two or three sports teams compared to the twenty or more PSAL sports teams at the remaining large comprehensive high schools. Furthermore, the small schools lack funds for clubs and only a few clubs are available to the students and the lack of variety of these clubs leave many students on the outside looking in..
The Budget And Bureaucracy:
While the Bloomberg Administration made sure that these small schools receive their full funding, unlike the large, comprehensive high schools, the budget is still limited and a significant amount of school funds go to the Children First Network (CFN) Bureaucracy. One Principal complained privately that over 15% of the school budget goes to unwanted and unnecessary programs that his CFN imposed on his school. The bottom line is that too much money of an already tight budget goes for non-classroom programs and the result is that principals can't or won't hire experienced teachers to mentor the many inexperienced teachers who struggle with classroom instruction and management, because of their salary and this is especially true of the small schools. Is it any wonder that the students quickly get disenchanted with their small school?
The bottom line is for the small schools to really succeed, the DOE must increase their budgets to provide more curriculum choices and extracurricular activities, eliminate the CFN's that siphon much needed funds for programs that do not work, and encourage not discourage the hiring of experienced teachers to improve the overall quality of classroom instruction at the schools.