Saturday, June 06, 2015

Bringing Back The Neighborhood High Schools Is The Only Answer In Improvimg Our Struggling Schools.


Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina have a program to improve the struggling schools called the School Renewal Turnaround Program.  They include targeted funding, better oversight, and more programs for the high schools to turnaround them academically.  However, there are some very serious problems associated with these schools that the De Blasio administration has failed to address and I question their prospects for success, especially when it comes to the DOE's misguided school funding policy known as "education on the cheap".. Let's look at the major problems facing the Mayor's renewal high school program.

Student Population The renewal high schools have a very similar student population distribution.  A poor minority student cohort with a high percentage of "high needs" students.  These "high needs" students whether they are homeless, special education. English language learners, or behaviorally challenged,  are associated with low academic achievement.  How does the Mayor's renewal program address that problem?  If you were a parent of a high achieving student, would you send your child to one of these schools?  I think not.

Enrollment:  Many of these renewal schools are under populated and struggle to keep enrollment up.  In a previous post, I showed how many vacant student slots are available in these schools.  The less students, the less money is available to the renewal schools to add courses, services, and hiring quality teachers. Limiting the "over-the-counter- students" for these schools is a double edged sword since less enrollment means less funds for the schools.

Fair Student Funding:  The renewal schools are still subject to the 800 pound gorilla in the room and that is the DOE's ill advised  "fair student funding" and that ensures that the principals will still be forced to hire the "cheapest and not the best" teachers for their students.  That means high teacher turnover and an unstable learning environment.

Small Schools:  There are just too many small schools that offer limited courses, few extra curricular activities, and suffer from poor leadership.  Worse, these schools are always experiencing high teacher turnover with too many "newbie teachers" who may not have the pedagogy or classroom management skills to be an effective teacher.  These schools are always competing for enough students to fill their schools and many should not exist as a independent entity.  The result is too many schools are competing for a dwindling amount of academically preforming students not selected by the better schools.

Class Size:  Most schools, to save on money and hire fewer teachers have class sizes near the contract limit of 34 students.  This is much too large for proper learning in these struggling schools but for the DOE its always been about the budget and not about what's best for the students.

Longer School Day:  The renewal schools will have a one hour longer school day.  However, the DOE and UFT have not decided on the payment rate for teachers who work the extra hour.  Furthermore, how will the extra hour affect the mandated Professional Development requirements?  In other words, its still a work in progress to schedule the extra hour and how to incorporate it into a daily schedule.

The solution is to reimpose high school zoning, recombine the small schools, have significantly smaller class sizes (20-25 maximum), and bring back the large comprehensive neighborhood schools.  This will allow for more course selection and a better learning environment.  Moreover, eliminating the "fair student funding" will free up the schools in hiring the "quality teachers" necessary to improve student academic achievement.  Finally, each school should have a program magnet that attracts the academically performing students back to the school and provide the school with a solid foundation for attracting experienced teachers to the school and reduce the unacceptably high teacher turnover in the renewal schools.


Bronx ATR said...

100% agree with you. Many ATRs grew up in the neighborhoods they taught in before being excessed, including myself. The families I knew in the neighborhood would come to me and ask me to get their kids into my school because it was close and I would watch out for them. The spring before I left I interviewed for a position in a new school that was coming in. The principal told me he wanted it to be a community school and I explained I knew many people in the neighborhood and could be a liaison for him and his school. He went on to tell me that the periods would be 90 minutes long, that the preps and professional periods would be for group planning, that all teachers would be expected to stay until 5, and that 2 Saturdays a month were mandated. I asked if per session was to be paid, he said unfortunately no - the budget didn't allow for it. He also said there would be constant observations to ensure that the vision of the school was being upheld. I politely declined the position by telling him he really didn't want teachers, he wanted slaves. All the 8th grade kids from the neighborhood I sent him he refused to admit and worse had them sent to different boroughs. I had screaming parents calling me all last fall while I was being shuffled weekly all over the Bronx.

Anonymous said...


The "Queens HS for Teaching" has two-way mirrors , and no one is saying anything......for years!

Will you at least post my comment? Expose this! Report this! I have pictures!


Anonymous said...

Christopher Cumbus High School in the Bronx was ruined. So many extra curricular activities gone. 75 years of neighborhood graduations gone. For what? Look at the data of the schools that replaced them. Scroll to page 16 on the performance piece of QR for Bronxdale HS and Language and Innovation HS. Regents pass rates of 15%, 22%, 27%, 34%, 37%, etc etc. These schools replaced Columbus? Why?

Anonymous said...

I agree, also. I have been saying this for years. Take Beach Channel for instance, had a great oceanography program, the only crew team in the city, various activities and programs. Student population was mixed and it felt like a real high school with homecoming dance and game. Funding cuts, far rock closes which leads to an excess of knuckleheads to Beach Channel and now you have a recipe for disaster. I saw all of this coming after beach channel was slated to close who was the next target well go up the coast and you get John Adams and so forth. What a sham and what we have now is quantity of students graduating, but they are lacking quality. The business model gone awry, what happens when you mass produce a product, it becomes crappy and no one wants it anymore. Crappy analogy, but I hope people get my drift.