Bushwick Community High School Should Not Be Closed, It Should Be Honored and Replicated

Do you get “stopped and frisked” regularly by the cops?

Can you name friends who have been shot and killed on one hand or two?

Do you ignore gunfire in your neighborhood because it’s so commonplace?

Have you spent some time “on the inside”?

Did you get fed up with school and either drifted away or tossed out?

Are 17 or 18 years old and light bulb went off … you really need a diploma?

Welcome to the students at Bushwick Community High School.

East New York or Bushwick or Brownsville or South Jamaica may be less than an hour away on a train; they might as well be a continent away.

The 2006 Parthenon Report reports, ” …including in and out-of-school youth, there are approximately 138,000 overage and under-credited youth in New York City at any given point in time.”

138,000 kids on their way to dropping out of school.

The response of the Department was sinister … the number of GED seats was sharply reduced and transfer high schools refused to take kids until they had already passed a few regents exams and had enough credits to be in sight of graduation.

Transfer Schools accept students who have been enrolled in high school for at least one year and choose to make a change. Each Transfer School determines admissions criteria individually.

Transfer schools, like all schools, are measured by data and data means credit accumulation, passing regents and graduating within six years of entering your original school.

Bushwick is the exception.

They hold out their hands to kids with as little as ten credits, kids with virtually no chance of graduating in six years. Some kids struggle and can’t hack it, for others, they stick to it … and in spite of a hardscrabble life … they earn a high school diploma.

The Department should be opening more seats for the kids on the edge of the abyss. Instead, they slot Bushwick for closing.

Michael Powell in a heartrending piece in the New York Times writes,

A majority of the students fail to graduate within six years, which is one of the city’s inviolate metrics. Right-o. If a young man wanders into this high school at 18 with five credits to his name, the odds are strikingly good that he will not graduate within six years of his freshman year.

The Panel for Education Policy could vote to let the school remain untouched. That’s unlikely. Mayor Bloomberg’s education officials have recommended shutting down 140 schools, and this panel has voted in the mayor’s favor 140 times.

They make the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles look like independence-minded bleeding hearts.

We live in an era of educational mantras become dogma; we are convinced that everything within a school’s walls is measurable. An art teacher teaching pottery; an English teacher on the joys of Maya Angelou? All can be reduced profitably to a number.

On Thursday night the Mayor’s clones will vote to close the next raft of schools. The bottom line is unless Tweed takes a school off the list it is doomed, as are the students struggling to survive.

Board of Regents members Tisch and Cashin visited and praised the school. Ira Schwartz, the State Ed data expert included a special section in the ESEA Waiver to address “unusual circumstances” that apply to Bushwick. Shael Suransky, the Department # 2 was obviously impressed at the school closing meeting and gave a glimmer of hope.

Ultimately it’s up to the mayor. Everything is political.

Some neighborhoods in this city have more in common with Afghanistan than Manhattan. We have watched a generation of kids fall to the plague of crack. The Republicans in Washington seem determined to continue to drive the poor deeper and deeper into poverty and despair.

We should ask: how can we create more opportunities for kids no matter how much school they’ve missed, no matter whether they were suspended or incarcerated.

We should do everything possible to keep hope alive.

Slamming doors on kids fighting to get in and stay in school is cruel.


2 responses to “Bushwick Community High School Should Not Be Closed, It Should Be Honored and Replicated

  1. Eric Nadelstern

    I’m not familiar with this school, except what I’ve read in Powell’s article and yours. Together, you make a convincing argument.


  2. Olivia Koppell

    What can we do????? Let’s get some kind of public event going to force the Mayor to do the right thing!


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