The Department, and the predecessor Board of Education have been closing schools since the late 80′s. Beginning with Andrew Jackson and Erasmus, whose iterations have also been closed, the State Ed Department (SED), using a dense metric, designated lowest performing schools as Schools Under Registration Review (SURR). A team appointed by the SED consisting of SED field staff, principal(s), teacher(s) and parent(s) spent four intense days in the school and wrote a report, “findings” and “recommendations,” a guide to school improvement .
In spite of the findings of the report the Department increasingly closed SURR designated schools. In some instances closing was the only option. Jefferson, Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, Canarsie and others had simply become dangerous schools; inept leadership at the school and district level, high student absenteeism and abymal graduation rates.
The culprit is the Board/Department who allowed schools to deteriorate for years.
The tradeoff of accepting billions in stimulus dollars (America Recovery and Reinvestment Act ) has a requirement: states must either close, convert to charter, redesign/transformation with 50% new staff, the lowest performing 5% of the schools in the state.
Until 2005 teachers in closing schools were excessed into other schools, under an agreement between the Board/Department and the Union excess teachers selected six schools in the geographic district for “priority excessing.”
In 2005 the Department stopped placing excessed teachers into schools and utilized the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool, a long established mechanism, excess teachers were placed in the pool and absorbed in positions unusually within the first few weeks of any term. Currently teachers are hired exclusively through the Open Market System, all positions are hired by principals (in new schools Article 18 of the Union contract requires priority hiring for 50% of qualified applicants from the closing schools). The ATR pool currently contains 1200 teachers, most of whom are teaching in temporary assignments. The ATR pool system is a major bone of contention in current contract negotiations.
The SED, within the last few weeks, has identified 57 schools that fall in the 5% of “persistently lowest achieving,” and the state and LEA will determine whether the school will be closed or redesigned/transformed.
Is there evidence that the mandated “remedies” (conversion to charter, close, redesign/transform) improved achievement for students?
We know that the replacement schools have higher achievement rates, but, are we simply “spreading” the lowest achieving students over hundreds of small schools?
Why is the small school data better than the predecessor schools? Is it more credit recovery, better data management (manipulation of data), lower numbers of handicapped and ELL students, intensive test prep or higher levels of instruction and leadership? Is the better data a Hawthorne Effect that will ebb as the school grows, or, have we embedded sustainable practices?
Why do we ignore schools in the lowest 6-10%, schools that are approaching the dreaded “persistently lowest achieving” category?
Who is “accountable” beyond the school? Why should the same Network Leader and the same Support Organization (SSO)/Partnership Support Organization (PSO) continue to support schools that have continued to falter?
Exemplar schools, SSO, PSO and Networks: Why are some schools and organizations succeeding more than others with similar kids?
The current NYC Department of Education is totally outcome-based, they appear to be uninterested in why some schools succeed and others do not. We know from the NYU Study that Leadership Academy principals do slightly better than others. Is the “answer” Inquiry Team work? The Department would like to think so, where is the evidence?
Is it the use of ARIS? Do “high-click” schools do better than others?
The debate over closing schools versus transforming schools is on-going (read a pro closing argument here and also read the comments, and the recent Chicago Consortium Study, casting doubt on school closings here), the Department of Education a foot in the “school closing” camp and the State Ed folks in the transform/redesign camp.
For the sake of the subject of this “experiment,” kids, we had better resolve it as soon as possible.