Why Washington Irving High Must Close

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The final holiday parties are taking place, students are turning in their last assignments of 2011 and many of the private schools are already on vacation. On this last day before Christmas Eve, it is all about the winding down -- including at SchoolBook, which will take advantage of the coming lull to ratchet down its publishing.

Meanwhile the education news this Friday is already light. On Thursday, the city's Education Department responded to accusations made during a demonstration at Washington Irving High School on Tuesday protesting the planned closing of the school.

Marc Sternberg, the deputy chancellor for portfolio planning, said Washington Irving, which is at Union Square in Manhattan, has been failing for decades, and provides some statistics to address complaints that the school was "set up for failure." His response was added to Tuesday's SchoolBook post about the demonstration:

In 1995, only 43 percent of its students were graduating on time, compared to a citywide average of 51 percent. There was violence in the school, and many families did not feel comfortable sending their children there.

While the school has gotten safer, it has not improved student outcomes very much. Today, Washington Irving High School’s graduation rate is a full 17 points below the citywide average, and one out of every two students does not graduate in four years.

Mr. Sternberg acknowledges that school closings are tangled in emotions.

The decision to phase out a school is not an easy one, but our obligation is to our students, and we are not going to set them up for failure by pretending a school will suddenly make progress after years of failing its kids.

In the Bronx, a sad moment on Thursday at Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy in Marble Hill. The Daily News reports that a popular teacher "lost it" after a student's behavior set him off. The News said the history teacher, who was apparently well liked by students, threw a chair across the room and cut himself.

“A teacher at Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy expressed anger and distress in front of his classroom today,” said Education Department spokesman Matt Mittenthal. “Students were moved to another room and are safe, and the teacher was taken to the hospital for medical attention.”

And in case you missed it on Thursday, Linda Fogg Phillips, who is Facebook's expert consultant for education and parents, provides on SchoolBook five practical tips for teachers for using the social media tool.

Gotham Schools' Remainders and Rise & Shine posts have more complete roundups of education news.

With schools closed next week, The Learning Network is shutting down its busy operation, too. But before leaving for the break, editors/educators Katherine Schulten and Holly Epstein Ojalvo posted this last query for students: How Are You Spending the Holiday Break?

We're not students, but here's SchoolBook's answer: looking forward to 2012, when we hope to push forward with more initiatives to help families in their school searches, and bring more (and better) news and information to the site's users.

Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.