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Former Bronx HS UFT Rep challenges school closings

December 13, 2009 pm31 4:24 pm

[Lynne Winderbaum, retired ESL teacher from JFK, longtime Chapter Leader, and through most of the Bloomberg years, our Bronx UFT HS District Representative, responds to the announced school closings. Lynne left this as a comment at Gotham Schools, and asked that I post it here]

All those suggesting that resources should have been put into helping the high-needs students at existing high schools such as Columbus must know in their hearts that this misses the intention of the DOE.  There has been a relentless march to close large high schools for several years. They have been replaced with small schools providing varying quality of education, some of which are also on the failing list.

…would someone please look into the “credit recovery” schemes…?

While DOE officials such as Shael Suransky create charts showing that the number of ELL and Spec. Ed students in small schools is equivalent to that in schools of 1000+ students, the data is not disaggregated. The large schools’ ELL population is disproportionately non-English speaking and have several times the number of ELL students who are also classified as Special Education. Schools like Columbus work hard to serve the needs of students in these categories.

Where did the other 700 ELL students go?

Many of the new schools opened by Klein and Bloomberg do not provide mandated ELL or Special Education services and often refuse to admit students in these categories, being “screened” schools. A review of the DOE High School Directory that I did two years ago for the Bilingual Education Task Force of the UFT showed only 56 out of 391 city high schools offered mandated bilingual programs. Of these, only 18 were not traditional large high schools.

A review of the “Master Schedule Final” of a large number of high schools offering ESL services show that ELL students are often grouped into single classes regardless of their level of English acquisition. Some offer no classes dedicated to the beginning English students or transitional classes. This is a violation of Part 154 of NYS Ed law.

Self-contained special education classes mandated on IEP’s are often changed to place students in CTT classes in small schools that do not have the critical mass of these special-needs population to make proper services feasible.

Schools like Columbus are trying to educate all of our students.

Two years ago, I received a call from John Berman of the NYC Comptroller’s office asking me if I could account for the fact that there were about 200 ELL students in the Roosevelt Campus whereas there were 900 in the old Roosevelt HS. Where did the other 700 go? Where did the special education students from New School for Arts and Sciences go after that school was closed? They were the model of the Wilson Reading Program for the Bronx, located in the high-need Longwood section. They received almost 90% of their incoming students reading at Level 1 or 2 and graduated the majority of them reading at Levels 3 & 4. Will the schools that replace Columbus show success working with such populations?

If graduation rates and credit accumulation are the metrics used to determine the statistical success of a school, would someone please look into the “credit recovery” schemes used at many schools to allow students who failed classes to make them up in as few as three days? Or the Regents grade changes that are reported to the state which then refers them to the DOE’s own Office of Special Investigations who in turn does a cursory investigation rarely resulting in any charges.

Chancellor Klein has said that a dropout will be destined to a life of failure. Schools like Columbus are trying to educate all of our students. The schools that replace them, while possibly graduating a high number of students, too often have not educated them but simply granted them diplomas based on credit recovery, teaching to the test, and dubious statistical acts. There is a political will to show failure of certain schools in NYC and the students who now attend these schools and want to remain there will be the losers.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2009 pm31 5:50 pm 5:50 pm

    I say, chap, I find this all somewhat disrespectful. One ought to simply accept Mikey and Joel at their word. There’s no doubt they both have more money than you and therefore know of whence they speak.

    Who knows what becomes of the bootless and unhorsed? Were they worth fretting about, they’d have long credit records that would make it a snap to identify them. Must dash.

    Consider a position in the Smellington Academy next September and abandoning all this nonsense.

    Smellington G. Worthington III

  2. Jack Israel permalink
    December 14, 2009 am31 1:31 am 1:31 am

    Did our president or better yet the VP of HS read this? Or perhaps there was sudden change in Central American politics that needed his attention.

    Lynne is my hero, she should be VP HS. Don’t you think?

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