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Who closed the Bronx’s high schools?

December 27, 2015 pm31 12:27 pm

There’s a story that has to be told. It needs details. It needs to include conversations, arguments, protests, planning. It needs exact dates. I can’t do all of that. It needs to be told better than I can tell it. But I can start.

In recent years, nine Bronx academic comprehensive high schools were closed and three were down-sized, two sabotaged so badly that I assume they will be retargeted for closure. Also, three Bronx vocational high schools were closed, and the fourth was down-sized.

No large or medium-sized Bronx high school has escaped unscathed (save Bronx Science, which serves relatively few Bronx kids)

The usual narrative says that Bloomberg and Klein did this.

The usual narrative is (mostly) wrong.

Bloomberg and Klein completed, enthusiastically, viciously, work that was started by others. Let’s see who they were.

When I began teaching (substitute in March 1997), it was hard for me to wrap my head around the huge number of high schools in the Bronx. I came from a high school that served three towns. The city next door had three high schools for the whole city (plus a tiny alternative high school, plus a tiny arts school ).

But the Bronx! DeWitt Clinton, Walton, John F Kennedy, Christopher Columbus, Theodore Roosevelt, Evander Childs, Harry S Truman, Herbert Lehman, South Bronx, Morris, Adlai Stevenson, William Howard Taft. Then there were the vocational schools: Grace Dodge, Samuel Gompers, Alfred E Smith, Jane Addams. Each one of these schools was bigger than the entire district where I had been educated.

And there were more schools. Bronx Science, which I knew was mostly kids from other boroughs. There were Bronx Regional, University Heights, and a handful of small, alternative schools of one sort or another. I became more familiar with at least the names of the alternative schools when I worked summer school at Bronx Regional in 1999. And I learned about another batch of schools: New School for Arts and Sciences. Monroe Academy of Visual Arts and Design. Monroe Academy of Business and Law. These were some of the mini-schools that replaced James Monroe HS, closed in 1994 for poor academic performance. That made three schools I knew of that had been closed:  Andrew Jackson in Queens (I had an intern at a previous job from there), George Washington in upper Manhattan and James Monroe.

James Monroe had been closed when Giuliani was Mayor and Cortines was Schools Chancellor, but I don’t know the details, and suspect the decisions were made by the State at least a year earlier. The mayor must have been Dinkins, but this was before Mayoral Control.

Then I heard about Morris High School. Morris is a beautiful building, with a spectacular auditorium, and in 1998 the State began to close it. Eventually it was replaced by four mini-schools, one per floor.Enrollments were capped, and Morris kids started showing up at other high schools in the Bronx. In 1998 the Governor was Pataki and the Mayor was Giuliani, and the Chancellor was Rudy Crew, though I don’t know how much any of those three were involved.

Next, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. The closings began in 2002, after Bloomberg’s election, and days after Joel Klein replaced Harold Levy, but the plans had been in the works for several years, and I believe (but do not know) that it was the State that had made the crucial decisions. Each school was replaced with mini-schools. In the case of Taft, some of those mini-schools have since been closed. At Roosevelt, one of the mini-schools is on the Renewal List, which may mean it is also being targeted for closure.

But the next batch of schools has a clearer group of assailants. Again, the planning pre-dates Bloomberg/Klein, although they gladly signed on. In this case the impetus came from a huge grant from Bill and Melinda Gates. They paid, a lot, to experiment on our kids. And yes, the Mayor and the Chancellor agreed. Their pointman was Eric Nadelstern. But none of this happens without the enthusiastic support of UFT President Randi Weingarten.

It’s time to tell the story, but I need to ask others to fill in the details. Weingarten and Gates’ NYC people chose to preemptively shut down large Bronx high schools, and create mini-schools. There was no legal requirement, no State mandate. She did this over the objections of her members in the schools, and over the objections of her elected chapter leaders in the schools. Stevenson, Walton, Columbus, South Bronx, Kennedy, Evander.

The massive Bronx high school closures of the early 2000s required full support from the UFT leadership. Weingarten and Unity Caucus gave their full support to this destruction.

The story does not end there. Mini-schools get created like crazy in 2002, 03, 04, 05….  Columbus and Kennedy were initially down-sized, not phased out. But at this point Klein and Bloomberg picked up the ball. Their henchman, Nadelstern, was joined by new bureaucrats, reformers with little real teaching or school leadership experience, some from Teach for America themselves. I can think of Suransky and Sternberg, but there were others. They targeted the vocational schools (now called Career and Technical Education, or CTE, schools.) They eventually retargeted Columbus and Kennedy, and killed them off. They got mini-schools into Clinton and Lehman, and even Truman. And they began shutting down mini-schools inside old Bronx high schools, including some that they themselves opened.

Klein and Bloomberg our the clearest villains in this story. Their intent was bad, beginning to end. There is no mitigating detail, no tragic misunderstanding. The Bronx was a target.

It could be said in defense of the State Education Department and the Regents and Morris, that there was some good intent. I’m not sure.

It could be said in the case of the Weingarten and her people at the UFT that they had some sort of noble goal, or they were blinded by Gates’ money or his flattery, but were too stupid or short-sighted to realize how harmful this was.

But Gates?  Rich guy, liked an idea, threw money at it, saw that it failed, and walked away. “Many of the small schools that we invested in did not improve students’ achievement in any significant way.” But his obligation to remediate the damage he caused? There is none. Unforgivable.

Eric Nadelstern. Our own Peter Pettigrew. He actually knew something about education. But he saw the destruction of Bronx high schools as a stepping stone in his career. When Klein stepped down, he must have seen the Chancellor’s Office as his… When Bloomberg not only passed over him, but chose educational-know-nothing Cathie Black, and appointed Nadelstern (botching his name) as her tutor, well, I let myself smile a little. He’s now teaching at Teacher’s College, though I don’t understand how, without the usual credentials.

Now, there’s a lot to this story. One blog post is not enough. There are details that need adding. Others need fixing. Documents that need referencing. But I got the rogues right:

  • New York State (need names)
  • Bill Gates
  • Randi Weingarten (need names of her team on this)
  • Eric Nadelstern (add associates)
  • Joel Klein
  • Michael Bloomberg

 

 

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. chaz permalink
    December 27, 2015 pm31 6:01 pm 6:01 pm

    Jonathan:

    I wrote about Eric Nadelstern and the damage he did in my July 20, 2012 post.

    http://chaz11.blogspot.com/2012/07/according-to-former-stooge-of-bloomberg.html

    And don’t forget he was pushing Superintendents to hire the Leadership Academy Principals as well.

  2. December 28, 2015 pm31 7:56 pm 7:56 pm

    Happy Holiday Season Jonathan!The short answer to your question “Who closed the Bronx’s high schools? is the New York State Education Department and the Regents for poor performances despite academic and non-academic interventions or for the larger good prior to Bloomberg.

    Under mayoral control, Bloomberg carried out the changes that some of the fellows or representatives of some private corporations including the Gates Foundations and other entities (1) embedded in the New York State Education were advocating in addition to school officials including the Regents among others then, that is, the creation of small schools to replace low performing schools and large academic and vocational high schools.

    According to Jay P Greene (2) “With the support of the Gates Foundation, New York City created 150 small schools of choice between 2002 and 2008.” If classrooms and schools are to be places where students’ personal and learning needs are met, they should be small argued Patricia A. Wasley in Small Classes, Small Schools: The Time Is Now(3).

    Hope the following article is more less the long answer to the question “Who closed the Bronx’s high schools?’ in addition to my previous posts:

    “Mayor Bloomberg: Stop closing schools, there’s a better way” (3).

    The Chancellor’s District worked, and we can learn from it. BY Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS / Sunday, July 22, 2012, 4:14 AM

    Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew created the Chancellor’s District – which was a success turning around troubled schools. While the fight over closing schools may be hotter than the weather this summer, the evidence shows that this is not a strategy that works to help all New York City kids get the education they deserve. Yet Mayor Bloomberg has adopted it with a single-mindedness that makes no sense. He has closed more than 140 schools since he took control of the city’s school system in 2002.

    Bloomberg’s agenda has disrupted school communities, alienated parents and destabilized neighborhoods. College-readiness rates in the new schools created to replace closing schools are abysmally low, and overall grad rates in these new schools have actually been falling, even as overall grad rates remained flat. Instead of closing schools, there is a better and more effective intervention to turn them around. The Chancellor’s District was an innovative program involving nearly 60 schools that flourished from 1996 to 2003 under a joint agreement between then-Chancellor Rudy Crew and the UFT. It’s an approach we can use in the 24 schools that are now the subject of litigation between the Department of Education and the principals’ and teachers’ unions over how they will be staffed. Schools in the Chancellor’s District were given a fiscal shot in the arm – spending an average of $2,700 more per student than at comparable schools. That extra money was well spent, on an intensive and cutting-edge literacy curriculum to bring students up to speed, additional teachers to help lower class sizes, academic after-school and summer programs to get struggling students the extra help they needed and school-based professional development that helped teachers to constantly improve their skills.

    The results were clear: In the three school years studied in a comprehensive report, the portion of students meeting standards on the statewide fourth-grade reading test rose 17.7 percentage points, while scores in other struggling schools rose 11.9 percentage points.

    When negotiating the Chancellor’s District agreement, Crew and the UFT knew that real accountability meant supporting schools so they can get better, not just standing by while they struggle and fail. To his credit, Mayor Rudy Giuliani agreed with this approach and funded it.

    With mayoral control, Bloomberg has direct authority over the entire school system, not just a handful of schools – but he has taken none of the responsibility for their results. By failing to do so, he has missed an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of all our students and school communities.

    In the days of the Chancellor’s District, schools entered the district in June and were ready with new programs in place by September. There is no reason we cannot enact a similar, fast-track transformation – using federal dollars – in the 24 struggling schools whose fates now hang in the balance.

    The only difference between that time and today is collaboration. At that time, when we needed to fix schools, we stood together to do it: the mayor, the chancellor, the Board of Education, the State Education Department and the UFT.

    We are ready to work with the mayor and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott to fix, not close, our struggling schools, including taking part in real negotiations to reach an agreement on teacher evaluations. We know we can transform those schools – but first we need the city to transform its approach to them.

    Weingarten is the president of the national American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO. Mulgrew is president of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City.”

    Source URL:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/new-yorks-secret-educatio_b_4368282.html Source URL: http://educationnext.org/more-research-showing-small-schools-work-gates-remains-silent/ Source URL: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb02/vol59/num05/Small-Classes,-Small-Schools@-The-Time-Is-Now.asp Source URL: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/mayor-bloomberg-stop-closing-schools-better-article-1.1118928

    Peace

    FSMEDU

    PS. Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.”―Ernest Benn

    Date: Sun, 27 Dec 2015 16:28:05 +0000
    To: fsmedu@msn.com

    • December 29, 2015 am31 1:31 am 1:31 am

      Francis,

      before there was Bloomberg, Gates dangled money to break up schools. These were not schools that the state ordered closed – these were voluntary closures and down-sizings. Which schools? Evander, Walton, Stevenson, South Bronx, Columbus, Kennedy. And who pushed this hard? Gates, and his people. The Bronx Superintendent, and some DoE people. And Randi Weingarten.

      The UFT did not fight the closure of Evander? Maybe because they actually supported it…

      • December 30, 2015 am31 9:49 am 9:49 am

        Schools that were closed before Bloomberg for poor performance…or the greater good.
        Peace
        FSMEDU
        1. Source URL: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/11/12/nyregion/cortines-citing-litany-of-failure-plans-to-close-2-big-high-schools.html?pagewanted=all
        “In the 1980’s Chancellor Frank J. Macchiarola closed Benjamin Franklin High School, a troubled school with declining enrollment, and replaced it with the Manhattan Center for Math and Science, which became successful with a focus on academic studies. Last year, Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez closed admission to Julia Richman High School in Manhattan and replaced it with at least six smaller schools.” By JOSH BARBANEL NYTimes

        2. Source URL:
        http://www.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.6115947/k.B143/Official_USA_Site.htm?msource=weamdbrdn115&utm_source=md&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=brd_impact

        JOHN JAY HS FLUNKING OUT -FOR GOOD

        By Carl Campanile June 19, 2001 | 4:00am

        The failing John Jay HS in Brooklyn is expected to be put out of its misery, with the building converted into a more exclusive grade 6-to-12 college-prep program.

        The Board of Education tomorrow is expected to vote to shut down the troubled Park Slope high school at 237 Seventh Ave. attended by virtually no students from the surrounding affluent neighborhood. In its place, the board will create the 2,000-seat “Secondary School for Law, Journalism and Research,” covering grades six to 12.

        Only students from Brooklyn’s District 15 – which includes the brownstone neighborhoods of Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Kensington Park and Windsor Terrace, as well as Red Hook and Sunset Park – will be admitted.

        The school will be completed on June 30, 2004 so current high-school students at John Jay may graduate.
        Last week, board officials also agreed to open a more rigorous, 700-seat college-prep high school on the Upper East Side for students in Manhattan’s District 2.
        ““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`
        3. Source URL: http://www.nytimes.com/1987/11/18/nyregion/troubled-bronx-school-s-fate-now-rests-with-students.html
        Troubled Bronx School’s Fate Now Rests With Students by
        By SAM HOWE VERHOVEK Published: November 18, 1987
        J.H.S. 123 is one of 16 public schools in the city that were placed ”on notice” last month by Schools Chancellor Nathan Quinones because of poor student performance. Two months earlier, Mr. Quinones – who will be leaving his post at the end of the year – had singled out the school, trying unsuccessfully to close it.
        “Mr. Quinones, in warning the 16 schools, said they could be shut down unless they improve student performances in reading, math and attendance. Four of the schools are in the Bronx, four in Manhattan, six in Brooklyn, and two in Queens. None are on Staten Island.”
        ““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`
        Source URL: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/11/12/nyregion/cortines-citing-litany-of-failure-plans-to-close-2-big-high-schools.html?pagewanted=all
        Cortines, Citing Litany of Failure, Plans to Close 2 Big High Schools By JOSH BARBANEL
        Published: November 12, 1993
        Mr. Cortines declined to name the troubled schools, out of concern that the disclosure would stir opposition among alumni, teachers and students. But other educators identified the schools as Andrew Jackson in Cambria Heights, Queens, and James Monroe in the South Bronx.
        Both schools have poor academic records and a history of violent incidents, and graduate only a small fraction of their students in four years. Mr. Cortines said that both had received repeated warnings by both the Board of Education and the State Education Department. The closings would require approval of the school board, which has closed other schools in the past in attempts at educational reform….

        • December 30, 2015 pm31 1:51 pm 1:51 pm

          Francis, thanks for the comprehensive list. A couple of things:

          JHS123 was not closed, and I’m really trying to focus on high schools anyway.

          Ben Franklin was replaced with a single school: Manhattan Center. Not really the same style or era.

          But yeah, Andrew Jackson, George Washington, James Monroe and (I missed this one) John Jay were earlier closings, precursors to the massive closings later.

  3. Harry Winston permalink
    December 28, 2015 pm31 10:05 pm 10:05 pm

    A New Visions contract was behind most of the early closures. I remember sitting in Morris giving a proposal for a new school. Many were accepted. The DOE took the ideas and hired their own people. Someone made a ton of money.

    • Harry Winston permalink
      December 28, 2015 pm31 10:11 pm 10:11 pm

      This was in year 2000, by the way – before Bloomberg. This was in motion during Giuliani. Lots of corruption at that time. The zoned schools were completely out of control Morris, Taft, and Evander were very dangerous. Problem was closing those schools ruined all the schools in those areas because they no longer had a place to send the thugs.

    • December 29, 2015 am31 10:43 am 10:43 am

      I was at that meeting at Morris as well. It had the UFT’s full support (they encouraged teachers to make proposals, helped draft them, etc). I think it was one DoE guy and one UFT guy running the show.

  4. December 29, 2015 am31 10:13 am 10:13 am

    “Who closed the Bronx’s high schools?” …One of the elephants in the room was Bill Gates…Peace. FSMEDU

    Source URL: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/05/23/bill-gates-selling-bad-advice-to-the-public-schools.html Article 05.23.117:26 AM ET Diane Ravitch Bill Gates: Selling Bad Advice to the Public Schools Everyone agrees that American schools need help. But as Diane Ravitch argues, the fixes proposed by billionaire savior Bill Gates will only makes things worse.Over the weekend, The New York Times published a startling expose of Bill Gates’ successful efforts to shape education policy in the United States.As I showed in my recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Gates is one of a small group of billionaires that is promoting privatization, de-professionalization, and high-stakes testing as fixes for American public schools. I called this group “the billionaire boys club,” which includes Gates, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. The Times article documents how Gates has put almost everyone concerned with education policy in his debt: advocacy groups and think tanks of left and right, education journals, public television programs, leaders in academia, local school districts, and state education groups. In addition to what is reported in the Times, Gates has significantly influenced the policies of the U.S. Department of Education, especially its signature program “Race to the Top,” which encourages more privately managed charter schools and recommends that states judge teacher quality by student test scores. Gates appears to mean well, but he has obviously—and repeatedly—gotten bad advice.About a decade ago, he decided that the biggest problem in U.S. education was the size of high schools, and he proceeded to spend $2 billion to persuade school districts to downsize their high schools. He told the nation’s governors that the American comprehensive high school was “obsolete.” Districts lined up to get grants from his foundation to break up their high schools, and more than 2,000 of them converted to small schools, with mixed results. Some fell into squabbling turf wars, some succeeded, but Gates’ own researchers concluded that the students in large schools got better test scores than those in his prized small schools. So in late 2008, he simply walked away from what was once his burning cause. The main effect of Gates’ policy has been to demoralize millions of teachers, who don’t understand how they went from being respected members of the community to Public Enemy No. 1.Now, he has thrown his support behind the idea that America has too many bad teachers, and he is pouring billions into the hunt for bad teachers. As the Times article shows, he has bought the support of a wide range of organizations, from conservative to liberal. He has even thrown a few million to the teachers’ unions to gain their assent. Unmentioned is that Gates has gotten the federal government to join him in his current belief that what matters most is creating teacher evaluation systems tied to student test scores. Gates seems not to know or care that the leading testing experts in the nation agree that this is a fruitless and wrongheaded way to identify either good teachers or bad teachers. Student test scores depend on what students do, what effort they expend, how often they attend school, what support they have at home, and most especially on their socioeconomic status and family income. Test scores may go up or go down, in response to the composition of the class, without regard to teacher quality. Students are not randomly assigned to teachers. A teacher of gifted children, whose scores are already sky-high, may see little or no gains. A teacher of children with disabilities may be thrilled to see students respond to instruction, even if their test scores don’t go up. A teacher in a poor neighborhood may have high student turnover and poor attendance, and the scores will say nothing about his or her quality. But all will get low marks on state evaluation systems and may end up fired. So far, the main effect of Gates’ policy has been to demoralize millions of teachers, who don’t understand how they went from being respected members of the community to Public Enemy No. $40 Mil Education Grant Saved By State’s Ruling Teacher evaluations are at the center of billionaire Bill Gates’ effort to improve public education in America. CBS Pittsburgh—which made testing the be-all and end-all of schooling, and Bill Gates’ misguided belief that teacher quality can be determined by student test scores. In the years ahead, American students will undergo more and more testing, the testing industry will fatten, and the quality of education will suffer. To save their necks, teachers will teach to bad tests, school districts will drop the arts, and shrink the time available for subjects like history, geography, civics, science, and foreign languages to make time for more testing. And there will be more cheating scandals as test scores determine the lives and careers of teachers and principals, and the survival of their schools.What is most alarming about the Times article is that Bill Gates is using his vast resources to impose his will on the nation and to subvert the democratic process. Why have we decided to outsource public education to a well-meaning but ill-informed billionaire? Diane Ravitch is the author, most recently, of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (Basic).

    Date: Sun, 27 Dec 2015 16:28:05 +0000 To: fsmedu@msn.com

    • December 30, 2015 pm31 6:22 pm 6:22 pm

      I understand that memory still lingers Jonathan. Please accept Bill Gates’s mea culpa for financing the unsuccessful small school experiment. .Peace. FSMEDU

      “The Weekend Interview

      Was the $5 Billion Worth It?..Bill Gates talks teachers, charters—and regrets.

      Source URL: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424053111903554904576461571362279948

      The Wall Street Journal

      Was the $5 Billion Worth It?

      A decade into his record-breaking education philanthropy, Bill Gates talks teachers, charters—and regrets.
      By Jason L. Riley July 23, 2011

      Since 2000, the foundation has poured some $5 billion into education grants and scholarships…

      “One of the foundation’s main initial interests was schools with fewer students. In 2004 it announced that it would spend $100 million to open 20 small high schools in San Diego, Denver, New York City and elsewhere. Such schools, says Mr. Gates, were designed to—and did—promote less acting up in the classroom, better attendance and closer interaction with adults.

      “But the overall impact of the intervention, particularly the measure we care most about—whether you go to college—it didn’t move the needle much,” he says. “Maybe 10% more kids, but it wasn’t dramatic. . . . We didn’t see a path to having a big impact, so we did a mea culpa on that.” Still, he adds, “we think small schools were a better deal for the kids who went to them.”

  5. January 3, 2016 pm31 6:29 pm 6:29 pm

    One day in the early 2000’s the flyers began to appear in all teachers’ mailboxes at Kennedy HS. Headlined “21st Century Grants”, the finer print announcing that the Gates Foundation and other corporate philanthropists were encouraging teachers to imagine a different way of delivering instruction. To “dream” of changing education as it was. In return, they would offer seed money to flesh out the idea and further money down the road if the ideas were judged feasible. Teachers were invited to attend a meeting for further information and the time and place were on the flyer. I surmise that some Kennedy teachers were intrigued by the offer to start a new and different school because BETA, Bronx Theater, and Law & Finance all sprang from Kennedy staff (Marble Hill, now housed at Kennedy was proposed by a group of teachers and an AP from Morris). In addition, Chapter Leaders and principals of six Bronx High Schools were personally asked to attend by the Bronx HS Superintendent, Norman Wechsler, who was interested in pursuing the Gates grants. My principal, Gino Silvestri and I were not asked to attend, probably because we were not playing well at the time. In retrospect, the lack of that invitation probably saved Kennedy from earlier closing as you will read below.
    At the time Norman Wechsler took the helm of the Bronx HS Superintendency, there were no schools on the SURR (Schools Under Registration Review) list. Within a short time, there were five. While I in no way blame Dr. Wechsler for this since the demographic, educational, and economic factors that made some Bronx high schools so dismal were already in motion, but it certainly explains the atmosphere in the early 2000s that made the “small school” innovation so attractive. It was a timely gift that could make it seem that “reform” was afoot. Dr. Wechsler produced charts, graphs, and reports touting the educational superiority of the small school. One day as JFK Chapter Leader, I was out with my UFT District Rep. David Shulman. While he made a stop and I remained in the car, he handed me a pile of data supplied by the Bronx Superintendents office and asked me to look at it. It surely made small schools seem like the answer to failing schools.
    When the meeting took place to get the “21st Century Grant” process rolling Walton, Columbus, Stevenson, Evander Childs, were among the schools that attended with principals and their UFT Chapter Leaders. The motive for their attendance was to learn about designing their own small schools and the grant process. Attendees I know always maintained that this was the agenda of the meeting. Several years later the Department of Education took the position that by attending the meeting, the principals and Chapter Leaders agreed to the closing of their schools. Eric Nadelstern from the Bronx Superintendent’s office and John Soldini, then UFT VP of Academic High Schools remembered that the intent to close and replace the large high schools with small schools was made clear at that meeting. Others who were there were incredulous at the announcements of intent to close schools because they did not remember the meeting that way.
    Of course the SURR schools were ultimately closed by the state. But the Gates grants that led to the closing of the large Bronx high schools was a NYC effort. Christopher Columbus HS fought the attempt to close it down with a vengeance. Teacher Christine Rowland, speaking the language of data that the Department of Education spoke, made an unforgettable presentation at the Department of Education. Randi Weingarten was there, I was there, and fortunately Michelle Cahill of the DOE was there and was receptive. Columbus got a reprieve. When Cahill left, no one was listening anymore. The die was cast. The other schools all were slated for closure.
    The process of implementing the small schools was not fixed, it evolved. Initially, in order to get the grant money, there was a very detailed process. A group of staff members, students, parents, and community organizers imagined a themed school, wrote a proposal and presented it in front of a panel of Department of Education and UFT representatives. I was put on many of those panels. Proposals that seemed well-thought out, staffed, and inclusive received seed money. Down the road they had to pass muster with a higher level of sponsors to get the green light and the bulk of the money. The early small schools all came through this process. Most of them were crowded into the schools that attended the grant meeting clearly in an attempt to phase them out. Schools like Kennedy, Truman, and Lehman initially only got one each.
    When these schools opened there were immediate problems. So many resources were being poured by New Visions to administer these schools that a selective and advantaged system was being created while the schools that housed them, and the students they served became second-class citizens. So many laptop computers were lavished on the small schools that the principals balked at funding the host schools’ libraries. The faux marble desks rolled in while the old graffitied desks graced the classrooms of the host school. To accommodate mid-day lunch periods for small school students, the host school’s students were scheduled to eat lunch as early as 9:25am. At Stevenson, there was even a separate priority entrance created to allow for small school students to enter more quickly in the morning while the host school students waited on long lines outside. Waivers were granted to allow small schools a two-year exemption on accepting special education students. And even after the waivers expired, the special education students were not the high-needs children displaced to the large high schools. The English Language Learners were not the recent arrivals who were displaced to the large high schools.
    Soon, the displacement of high-needs children bore its predictable fruit. The small schools looked like magic institutions with higher graduation rates and fewer disciplinary problems. The large schools offered a complete array of special education and ELL services. They took troubled students without screening them out. As a result, their statistics began to show the impact of the small school movement. They were deemed failing. The more high risk students sent to the large high schools, the more the higher achieving students gravitated to the small schools, the clearer the fate became for the remaining large schools.
    Of course the teachers in the ill-fated schools did not take the threat to their schools lying down. Groups immediately formed at Walton, Stevenson, and schools such as New School for Arts and Sciences. They studied performance indices, produced impressive cases for keeping their schools open, and quickly learned to speak that data language which they hoped would persuade the Department of Education that they filled a need for certain students in our city. The problem was, no one at the Department of Education was willing to meet with them. Calls and emails to the Department of Education were futile. As Bronx Dist. Rep at the time, I called Frank Volpicella, now the VP of Academic High Schools. He told me to go through Leo Casey to set up a meeting at the DOE. The teachers were ecstatic at the prospect of getting a hearing. Dr. Casey told me to email his contact, Peter Dillon at the DOE and meetings would be arranged. Every school had a meeting set and at the appointed time, they appeared downtown with their Powerpoints, data, and their passion to save their schools.
    Unfortunately, it turned out that Peter Dillon, Julius Cohen, and the other representatives of the DOE paid scant attention to the presentations because, it turned out, they had no power to save the schools. They were the Department’s SMALL SCHOOL advocates and ended every meeting by handing the teachers brochures on how to start their own small schools. It was all very disappointing that the crestfallen teachers’ hard work and evidence were ignored. The intent of the teachers to save their schools and faculty was for nought. The UFT had sent them to meet with folks who had a vested interest in closing them down and redirecting their efforts.
    Five years later, when the death sentences for each of these schools was to be proclaimed at the kangaroo PEP (Bloomberg’s Panel for Educational Policy) hearings, the same person who channeled these teachers to Dillon, Cohen, et al, was loudly railing against the school closings. At this point the support was five years too late. When the teachers were fighting the school closings, the UFT was counseling them that “this was the wave of the future and they should get on board”. In fact, New School for Arts and Sciences came out with such a good small school proposal involving a work-study partnership with the Hunts Point Market that it was co-opted by New Visions in a memorable meeting at Maria del Carmen Arroyo’s office. New Visions took the proposal and promised no jobs to those who designed it. Christine McMurray and her group of dedicated teachers from Stevenson worked hard to propose a small school in accordance with the DOE’s advice. It fell on deaf ears. Columbus fought its second closing sentence as hard as the first. But there was no Michelle Cahill this time. The demise of the historic Bronx high schools was unstoppable.
    Under Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein there was a frenzy to close large high schools. The irony was that as there became fewer and fewer large high schools to serve the high needs populations, they had nowhere to go but the new small schools. Many of those started to fail as well. The system was in turmoil with schools opening, closing, and faculties that used to be stable in their schools being relocated constantly.
    The process for creating the small school had undergone a total transformation under Bloomberg and Klein as well. In lieu of an orderly process of presentations by a teacher-led committee of stakeholders that had to earn the grants on the strength and viability of their proposals, there was no process. Small schools were just created by the Department of Education to place in phasing out schools. They were being formed out of whole cloth without participation from the community. There was actually one meeting at Morris that I remember where John White gathered community members and asked them what kind of school there would want in the space opening in the building. The stakeholders offered some vocational training suggestions, but it was pro forma and the DOE went ahead with creating something of their own. In the original model the principals and teachers would work in the schools they designed. In the Bloomberg-Klein model the idea for a school came first. Then they chose a principal. Then they began to hire a staff. Since the contract calls for a Union representative on the hiring committees to staff these schools, I was on many of them. We interviewed applicants who had nothing to do with the planning of these schools. This was as far away from the original idea behind the 21 Century Grants as could be.
    There’s lots more to the story and somewhere on old CDs I have my union newsletters written at the time documenting how the closures were hurting the large school students. I’ll miss Kennedy High School. It was a great school in the Bronx that was made to fail, as were others, by the concentration of high needs students in their schools as a result of the “reform movement”. For sure, lots of money was made off public education funding by private corporations. But to the extent that so many of that movement’s assumptions have now been discredited, that the large schools with their traditions are gone forever, and education has not drastically improved, we have sacrificed a generation of students on the altar of “reform” and they will not get a second chance at an education.

    • January 5, 2016 am31 12:16 am 12:16 am

      The following article does not address the question “Who closed the Bronx’s high schools?” but it does offer further insights into it.

      Edited from: Educational Leadership …
      February 2002 | Volume 59 | Number 5

      Class Size, School Size Pages 36-41
      Big Schools: The Way We Are by Rick Allen

      “DeWitt Clinton: Up, Down, and Up Again

      One historically large school, DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City’s Bronx borough, also attributes a turnaround in academics and school climate to the creation of smaller learning environments. From its world record enrollment in the 1930s, the school declined in numbers and academic prestige in later years, so that by 1990, it had the highest dropout rate of any school in the Bronx. Long known for its academics, athletic prowess, and famous graduates (including poet Countee Cullen, actor Burt Lancaster, and a host of New York judges), by 1986, Clinton’s star had fallen so much that it graduated fewer than 12 percent of its students.

      When Clinton’s enrollment was at its highest in the 1930s, the Bronx population was 50 percent Jewish, with Irish Catholics and other immigrant groups making up the difference in a fairly prosperous borough, says Bronx borough historian Lloyd Ultan, history professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

      “Certain cultures had a tremendous educational tradition. That may have given a cast to the school. Also, in the 1930s, jobs were scarce, so you better darn well stay in school to get a job,” explains Ultan.

      Economic and social changes in the 1970s and 1980s contributed to Clinton’s decline, says former assistant principal William Dougherty, now an education professor at Manhattan College. The opening of nearby John F. Kennedy High School in the early 1970s “bled off all the better students and the most involved parents,” budget slashes closed down Clinton’s gifted program and made it difficult to offer teachers competitive salaries, and the size of the school itself fractured faculty and students into four shifts, creating a school day that ran from 7 to 5:30 , says Dougherty.

      The leadership of current Superintendent of Bronx High Schools Norman Wechsler is often credited with the turnaround of Clinton during his six years as principal there in the 1990s.

      “We needed to create the ‘gang’ or the ‘church’ or whatever you call it that was going to hold youngsters to high standards. That means you’re in students’ faces. If you don’t love kids it doesn’t work,” says Wechsler.” This “tough love” approach is the responsibility of teacher coordinators in each house who monitor students’ attendance, lateness, behavior, effort, grades, and test scores, in addition to being alert to emotional downs on any particular day.

      Clinton’s current enrollment of 3,864 students is 56 percent Hispanic, 35 percent African American, 5 percent Asian, and 3 percent white, with 8 in 10 of its students eligible for free lunches. Students can enroll in one of 10 houses, organized by grade level—with student-picked names like “Rave” or “Trailblazers”—or by special interest. Each house has its own office, assistant principal, teacher coordinators, guidance counselors, and family assistants who reinforce the school-home link.

      Assistant principal Marlene Diaz, who heads Clinton’s International House, which includes 350 English language learners, says Wechsler’s call for weekly house team meetings, which he would visit, made his leadership “crucial” for success.

      “He was there to know what the problems were and what support we needed, whether it was equipment, staff, or new ideas,” Diaz recalls.

      Wechsler encouraged Diaz and other teachers to pay attention to how their students were progressing. In 1994, only 6.5 percent of Diaz’s students tested out of entitlements. In 2000, 34 percent of her students did so, with a number of them transferring to the Macy/Excel program that caters to the school’s most gifted students. By 2000, Clinton’s graduation rate had risen to 60 percent, and graduates garnered $25 million in college scholarships and financial aid.

      Because of Clinton’s progress with smaller learning environments, Wechsler’s vision for making big high schools into smaller learning communities will be carried out throughout the Bronx. With funding from a New Century High Schools consortium that includes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, and other private groups, Wechsler will lead a district-wide effort to create 15 smaller schools in the Bronx’s five large high schools.

      But a more intimate learning environment will be only one attribute of these schools, says Wechsler. “Small” will succeed only if other changes take place as well, he insists, including a constructivist approach to teaching and learning, project-based learning, interdisciplinary teaching and collaboration, and student performance monitoring—many of the reforms that other U.S. schools are using to increase achievement. To further develop what Wechsler calls Clinton’s “golden age,” the school will have to make progress in these areas as well, he says.

      “Even though many students are having enormous success at Clinton today, 1,000 students are failing three or more subjects. That’s a loss I’m not willing to live with,” says Wechsler. “In smaller schools, having a student ‘bomb out’ would be a relatively rare occurrence.”

      Source URL: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/

      feb02/vol59/num05/Big-Schools@-The-Way-We-Are.aspx

      Peace.
      FSMEDU

  6. no more nice guy permalink
    March 10, 2016 pm31 10:36 pm 10:36 pm

    all the money in the world wont help learning congenitally defective students !

    stop all the lies and chronic rhetoric, there far too many special education students whom
    are are sucking up all the monies that should be spent on those who will advance the fastest.

    try these words out for size, recalcitrant and incorrigible, that is what schools are over stuffed with.

    bring back the 600 schools now!

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