Thursday, May 17, 2018
Why NYC's Small School Miracle Is A Mirage.
In Monday's New York Times there is an article on the lack of Music in many of the NYC small high schools that were created from the 69 large comprehensive high schools that Mayor Bloomberg closed. While the article was accurate on the lack of a Music program, it only scratched the surface of the problems with the small school miracle that Mayor Bloomberg and his education reformer administrators at the DOE claimed. Let's examine the issues:
The first thing the education reformers will bring up is the small school graduation rate increased substantially. However, when you consider that the average small schools that came from the large comprehensive large schools had only accepted a maximum enrollment of half the students of the closed large school, which students do you think were left out of the small schools? The answer was the self contained Special Education students, the English Language Learners, and the students who had academic, behavioral, or attendance issues. Moreover, the DOE ensured a higher graduation rate in the small schools by allowing these schools to exclude "high needs" students and while most large comprehensive high schools suffered from budget cuts that resulted in some schools receiving as little as 78% (Flushing high school for one) of their fair funding, the new small schools were fully funded at 100% and in some cases received extra funding of up to 50% more that their fair funding. Finally, the DOE allowed these newly created small schools to keep their number of students down by excluding the "high needs" students and still be fully funded. It's little wonder the first few graduating classes had a higher graduation rate. The cohorts were different from the cohort of the closed down large comprehensive high school it replaced.
As mention previously, the small schools that replaced the closed down large comprehensive schools were fully funded while the large comprehensive high schools were funded at between 78% to 82% of their fair funding.
To keep up their graduation rate after the small schools were eventually required to take "high needs" students after a couple of years of excluding them. The small schools were still allowed to exclude self contained students and English Language Learners who traditionally had low test scores and graduation rates. The student cohorts became increasingly more like the large comprehensive schools they replaced. Therefore school administrators resorted in "academic fraud" to jack up the graduation rate by giving struggling students "credit recovery" courses. and administrative inspired "scholarship guidelines" that linked a teacher's effectiveness to meeting the goal. For example most school had a scholarship guideline of 80% passing of a teacher's roster, including no shows. Failure to meet that goal could result in a teacher being rated "ineffective" or "unsatisfactory". Furthermore, some principals would change grades from the teacher's failing to passing and would intimidate teachers, especially the untnured teacher to accept the changed grade. Finally, some schools go a step further by implementing a "blended learning" scheme that allowed all students to use online instruction rather than having a teacher instruct the student, they developed a blended learning program that had one teacher in charge of 50 or more students and the teacher was usually not certified in the subject and failed to provide adequate instructor.
The bottom line is that the first few years of the Bloomberg small schools they had a student cohort that was academically superior to the large comprehensive high school it replaced because the schools had small class sizes were fully funded, and excluded "high needs" students. However, once the small schools had to accept the "high needs" students, have full class sizes, and were funded like every other school, the small school miracle became a mirage. Even Bill Gates realized the small schools did not improve academic achievement.