Once again, a large group of New York City public schools will close their doors, their staffs will be fired and replaced, and new schools will open. Among the schools that will be closed are Flushing High School, reputed to be the oldest school in the city, and John Dewey High School, once highly regarded for its progressivism but now burdened by a steady influx of low-performing students. (http://www.nytimes.com/schoolbook/2012/04/26/with-panel-vote-once-venerable-city-schools-will-close/).
Some schools were saved by last-minute expressions of interest by the Borough President of Queens, Helen Marshall, and the chair of the State Assembly Education Committee, Cathy Nolan, which apparently sufficed to save Grover Cleveland High School in their borough.
As the closing of “failing” schools becomes an annual ritual, along with the opening of brand-new schools (some of which will eventually join the ranks of “failing” schools), it is time to ask about where accountability truly lies.
I wonder if it ever occurs to anyone in the New York City Department of Education that their own policies of closing schools and shuffling low-performing students around like checker pieces on a checker board have actually created “failing” schools. Every time they close a large high school with large numbers of low-performing students, those students are then pushed off into another large high school (like Dewey) that is doomed to “fail.”
Why doesn’t the leadership of the DOE ever take responsibility for helping schools that have disproportionate numbers of students who enter ninth grade with low test scores, including students with disabilities, homeless students, and students who are English language learners? Their methods of “reform” look like 52-pickup: Just throw the cards in the air and hope that somehow you come up with a winning hand.
Instead of providing resources, technical support, extra staff, or whatever the school needs to help students, the DOE declares that the school is “failing.”
Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools in 2002. His reforms were put in place in September 2003. We are now in the ninth year of mayoral control with no checks or balances. The students in the “failing” schools started school when the Mayor was in charge. At what point can we say that the Mayor’s reforms have worked? Every time a school fails, the responsibility and accountability belong to the New York City Department of Education, which proves each time that it has no idea how to help schools improve.
No wonder that New York City voters (and public school parents) expressed their dissatisfaction with the Mayor’s policies in the latest poll. New Yorkers are tired of the parade of school closings and openings. (http://www.nytimes.com/schoolbook/2012/04/24/poll-new-yorkers-want-new-city-school-policies-from-next-mayor/)
Accountability starts at the top. If school officials don’t know how to help schools, they should get out of the way and stop wrecking what is left of the public school system.