City Adds Sixteen More Schools to List for Possible Phase-out or Turnaround

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Sixteen more low-performing city elementary and middle schools are being considered for possible phase-out or turnaround. That brings the total number of schools on the list to 47. The list also includes 19 schools the city had wanted to phase-out starting this fall before a state court found it didn't provide enough community notification.

The list also includes 19 schools the city had wanted to phase-out starting this fall before a state court found it didn't provide enough community notification. A suit was brought by the teachers union, some parents and the NAACP.

The Department of Education's executive director of planning, Paymon Rouhanifard, says many more meetings are now planned with parents and staffers at the affected schools to keep everyone in the loop.

"As we look back to last year we feel as though there are things we attempted to do, but we didn't do a good enough job communicating out what the protocol and the process was," he explained.

At least four meetings are being scheduled at each school on the list. The key players include the principal, the school's leadership team, teachers, and parents. In many cases, members of the wider community have been invited, too, such as City Council members and community-based organizations. The Department of Education says alumni from John Dewey High School in Brooklyn were called to a meeting at its Lower Manhattan headquarters because they're very concerned about the school's fate. The department says it's also spoken with the NAACP, which had sued to stop the phase-outs of 19 schools this year because it felt there wasn't enough community involvement. Decisions will be made in November and December, before the Panel for Educational Policy votes in January and February.

“Too many kids are stuck in failing schools," says DOE spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld. "Right now, we are looking at those schools that have been consistently struggling to determine whether they can improve with help or need to be replaced with a new school.  Before we make any decisions, we are meeting with their administrators, teachers and parents to determine the best path forward.  But we need to do right by our kids, and that will involve some difficult decisions.”

Officials say they also take a close look at the "replacement school pipeline," meaning local alternatives in case a school is closed. One complaint in the lawsuit was that the city didn't consider special programs, such as one for new mothers, that would disappear if a school was closed.

Despite the department's assurances to the schools and their communities, however, the teachers union was skeptical. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew issued a statement saying, “If Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg want their legacy to be closing every school in New York City, they should be ashamed. They should be focused on fixing schools, not shuttering them.”

The Obama Administration has made it a priority to focus on the bottom five percent of schools nationwide. Federal stimulus funds were set aside for schools that are identified as Persistently Low Achieving by their states. Schools that receive these grants must undergo one of four government-approved interventions: a "tranformation" which involves replacing the principal and bringing in professional development; a "turnaround" in which half the teachers are removed; a re-start, in which the school is closed and replaced with a charter or small new school. The building could also be shut but that's not an option in New York City's tight real estate market.

Currently, 11 struggling high schools are going through the milder "transformation" approach with federal school improvement grants worth up to $2 million annually for three years. Some of these even got to keep their principals because they hadn't been there very long. (See our series, The Big Fix).

The 47 other schools now facing interventions break down as follows:

The 16 elementary and middle schools that were just announced all had gotten low marks on their progress reports, meaning 3 C's in a row or a D or an F. Quality reviews and school environment surveys were also considered, according to the Department of Educaiton. The schools technically don't qualify for federal school improvement grants but the city is hoping to use money from the state's new Race to the Top grant.

These 16 schools are: PS 102 (Bronx); PS 107 (Bronx); PS 260 (Brooklyn); PS 40 (Queens); PS 30 (Queens); PS 50 (Bronx); PS 114 (Brooklyn); PS 189 (Bronx); PS/IS 137 (Brooklyn); PS/MS 147 (Queens); Kappa VII Middle School (Brooklyn); JHS 302 (Brooklyn); MS 571 (Brooklyn); IS 231 Magnetech 2000 (Queens); IS 195 Roberto Clemente (Manhattan); MS 142 John hilip Sousa (Bronx).

There are 12 high schools that were on the state's list of Persistently Low Achieving schools, meaning they qualify for federal funds. These are: John F. Kennedy High School (Bronx); Sheepshead Bay High School (Brooklyn); Jane Addams High School (Bronx); John Dewey High School (Brooklyn); Richmond Hill High School (Queens); High School of Graphic Communication Arts (Manhattan); Grover Cleveland High School (Queens); Fordham Leadership Academy (Bronx); Grace Dodge Career and Technical Education High School (Bronx); Newtown High School (Queens); August Martin High School (Queens); John Adams High School (Queens).

Three more schools would have been on that list but they were recently taken off: Washington Irving High School in Manhattan, Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn, and PS 65 in the Bronx. The Department of Education says they have new leaders and made improvements.

Finally, there are the 19 schools that the Department of Education originally wanted to phase-out this fall, before the lawsuit. Officials now say those schools could get different interventions if they make improvements on their annual progress reports. Those schools are:

Norman Thomas High School (Manhattan); Chrisopher Columbus High School (Bronx); Monroe Academy for Business and Law (Bronx); Metropolitan Corporate Academy High School (Brooklyn); Paul Robeson High School (Brooklyn); W.H. Maxwell Career and Technical Education School (Brooklyn); Beach Channel High School (Queens); Jamaica High School (Queens); School for Community Research and Learning (Bronx); Business, Computer Applications & Entrepreneurship High School (Queens); Global Enterprise High School (Bronx); PS 332 Charles Houston (Brooklyn); Academy of Collaborative Education (Manhattan);Kappa II (Manhattan); Middle School for Academic and Social Excellence (Brooklyn); New Day Academy (Bronx); Frederick Douglass Academy III Secondary School (Bronx); Choir Academy of Harlem (Manhattan); Academy of Environmental Science Secondary High School (Manhattan)

The Department of Education says the entire list could very well change in the coming weeks. First, the state must release its new Persistently Low Achieving list. If that includes schools not on this list, the DOE will automatically add them to the list of schools its considering for phase-out and undergo a deeper investigation. Second, new high school progress report data will come out, which could potentially add additional high schools to the list. The department explains its criteria for identifying schools that need interventions on its Web site.