View Full Version : All NYC Closing Public Schools: A Truly Bad Idea

02-10-2011, 01:25 PM
This from the blog Bridging Differences (http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2011/02/closing_public_schools_a_truly.html) by Diane Ravitch:
Last week, the New York City Department of Education received permission from the city's Panel on Educational Policy, or PEP, to close an additional two dozen public schools (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/04/nyregion/04panel.html?_r=1&ref=panelforeducationalpolicy) because their scores are too low. The city has now closed more than 100 schools and opened hundreds of new ones. The consent of the PEP was never in doubt. New York City has a governance system for its public schools in which Mayor Michael Bloomberg has complete, unlimited power over every decision. He not only appoints the chancellor of schools, but appoints eight of the 13 members of the PEP, who serve at his pleasure. The mayor has made clear that he will fire any member of the PEP who defies his orders. Thus, when the department of education, which the mayor controls, makes a recommendation to the PEP, which the mayor controls, the outcome is predetermined.

Our mayor is now in his ninth year, in his third term, and his education policies are grounded completely in the idea of numbers, data, and accountability. Every school gets a letter grade, and schools that get a D or F more than once are on track to be closed. The letter grades themselves are based mainly on state test scores, which are unreliable. Only last June, the state education department acknowledged that its tests were too easy, and it deflated scores across the state, wiping out almost all of New York City's allegedly historic gains. Even though it is obvious that the state scores have no scientific validity, they determine which schools will live and which will die.

Since the mayor took control, the school system has been reorganized three or four times. At first, the schools were centrally controlled, with lockstep expectations for every minute of every class; now all supervision and middle management have been abolished; each school is on its own (this is called "empowerment") and is judged almost entirely by those dubious test scores.

Some years back, the mayor decided to stake everything on small schools and charter schools, and his department of education has been conscientiously undermining and killing off big high schools. Small schools and charter schools are permitted in their first few years to limit the enrollment of students with disabilities and students who are English-language learners. Thus the most challenging students are shuffled from school to school, the favored schools thrive, and the larger schools—which get disproportionate numbers of low-scoring students—are set up to fail by the department of education. The very process of identifying a school as "failing" is enough to frighten away many parents, thus hastening the school's certain death.

A study of the closing schools (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/schools-chosen-to-close-have-toughest-demographics/?pagemode=print) by the city's independent budget office found that these schools have disproportionate numbers of the city's neediest students. One begins to get the sense that students who are homeless, who don't speak English, who receive special education, or who have other high needs, are bounced around from school to school.

As the small and charter schools proliferate, the idea of choice takes root. The concept of the neighborhood school becomes obsolete. Parents and students are supposed to become smart shoppers, although quite honestly it must be hard for them to know how to choose between the High School for Leadership, the High School for Integrated Studies, the High School for Peace and Justice, the High School for Academic Success, the High School for Excellence, and hundreds of similarly named schools (these are made-up names, but not so different from the real ones).

read more>> (http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2011/02/closing_public_schools_a_truly.html)