Thursday, January 13, 2011

Yes, Virginia, They Do Undermine Schools on Purpose

The Riverdale Press has an article which describes the process by which DOE policies have contributed to the failure of many large high schools, especially, but not exclusively, in the Bronx.

Leonie Haimson: 
This is an excellent article; I hope all read it.  Congrats to Nikki who is doing an excellent job at the Riverdale Press. http://riverdalepress.com/stories/Did-DOE-set-up-JFK-for-failure,47860

Lynne and others: I will never forgive them for how they closed the automotive repair shop at Kennedy, which had a huge waiting list and guaranteed good paying jobs for grads right out of HS, to make more classroom space after the new small schools had taken floors from Kennedy.  It was exactly the sort of valuable program that should have been saved and replicated, instead of destroyed.

I remember Bob Hughes (New Visions) testifying before the Council that his schools didn’t push anyone out, but just used “underutilized space” for their schools, Hah!  But these guys have no shame.

Check out this column by Sam Freedman of the NY times about this.  God knows how many kids’ lives were damaged by this one decision.

Retired UFT Bronx HS District Rep Lynne Wynderbaum:
"While I have always felt that HS of Law and Finance is one of the better small schools, the impact of its introduction into the JFK campus with 4 other small schools on Kennedy HS cannot be minimized as Evan Schwartz states in this article. "The small school coming into Kennedy had nothing to do with the problems that Kennedy had" is at best revisionist. Aside from the thoroughly documented space squeeze and overcrowding that started in 2003 and worsened each year that each school added a grade, the contention that they weren't complicit in the shift of high-needs children to Kennedy HS is quite debatable. He acknowledges that they did not accept Special Education students for the first two years but says that was because they did not have the teachers. This is putting the cart before the horse. Special Education mandates say that if you accept students who are in need of mandated services, you must provide the program (i.e. hire the teachers!). Using lack of qualified teachers as a reason to not accept these students would mean that any school that didn't want to accept such students would simply not have to hire the appropriate teachers! But the fact is that they got the reprieve for a totally different reason: the DOE gave all their new small schools a two-year waiver to not take Special Education students. That happened everywhere, not just JFK. So between 2003-2005, no small schools at the campus had to accept Special Education students and large Kennedy HS gladly did. We had over 400 Special Education students at the time and they were provided with all the mandated services. So overcrowding, space encroachment, shift of high-needs populations, and disproportionate budget benefits from their New Visions grants, all had an impact at the time and began the irreversible impact on Kennedy's data and fate.

Just one correction to the article. I never said that supply closets were left unlocked when academic departments were eliminated under Mr. Rotunno. I explained that one of the problems this caused was that material and books formerly stored in department offices and bookrooms were now scattered throughout the building and difficult to locate for instructional use. Some books were even piled up in unused classrooms. But the corruption and disorganization came well after the initial damage to Kennedy caused by the DOE policy to bring in small schools and relegate Kennedy and its students to second-class citizen status."

Lynne
NYCDOE maintained a flagrantly illegal policy of allowing new small schools to exclude kids with IEPs and ELLs for the schools' first 2 years.  Someone(s) filed a complaint re this policy with US DOE's Office for Civil Rights.  NYSED actually came out with some "data" purporting to show that the NYCDOE's new small schools had lovely percentages of kids w/IEPs and ELLs, in an attempt to protect NYCDOE, but nobody in his/her right mind believed the NYSED data since NYCDOE admitted its exclusionary policy publicly.  From what I gathered, there was a back channel deal with OCR - NYCDOE ended the illegal exclusionary policy and OCR allowed NYCDOE to get away without having a formal finding of unlawful discrimination made against it.

The rationale the NYCDOE gave for the illegal, exclusionary policy was appalling, btw.  I was surprised that they actually had the temerity to say it publicly.

Dee Alpert
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