Monday, December 19, 2011

Staten Island "Gets" DOE School Closing Irrationality

As the nationwide policy of using public school closings as a main cog in undermining and privatizing public education shows increasing signs of fracturing as the failures in New York and Chicago over a decade and more are emerging into the public consciousness. I know many people fighting these closings year after year often throw their hands up in frustration with a "what is the point in fighting" attitude, don't underestimate the value these fights have in raising public awareness even if we lose the battles. Over time I believe we will win the war. We may lose a generation of children. Think: by the time Bloomberg is gone a child will have gone from pre-k to high school with the "test prep/credit recovery ed deform regime.

Until now Staten Island was exempt from school closings by the WalBloomKlein administration. ICE's Loretta Prisco, a long-time SI resident and political activist on the Island wrote on ICE Mail:
This is the Sunday's editorial from our local paper. They get it! They have never shut a SI school.  Some feel that is why they are closing the school - to avoid the criticism that SI is never touched.  P.14 is next to the projects - and very troubled ones at that.   A charter school opened nearby.  I am sure the savvy parents will take their kids out of 14 and place their kids' names in the "lottery".  Loretta
The Advance I believe has been known as a fairly conservative paper. But this editorial is so good in that is exposes most of the fault lines in the school closure policy - excpet for the fact that the "change in school culture" the DOE claims is the reason for closing is really about dumping out the teachers. Teh principal too, but they can dump the principal at any time they want but with tenured teachers they just can't do that without closing the school and turning teachers into ATRs, with the hope they can ultimately end Last In First Out (LIFO) and fire them (with 25 more schools on the chopping block, watch the LIFO attacks intensify).

Let's do a bit of parsing:

Staten Isl Advance joins chorus vs. school closings 

http://goo.gl/K6Kms

Even though the city Department of Education’s plan to close PS 14 in Stapleton is proceeding, students, parents, teachers and other supporters of the embattled neighborhood school are not giving up the fight. Not by a long shot.

Hundreds demonstrated last week in front of Borough Hall and can be expected to make their opposition heard again at a Jan. 25 public hearing on the DOE’s plan and in other venues before the final vote of the Panel for Educational Policy on Feb. 9.

Nonetheless, the PEP, which is packed with mayoral appointees, is expected to approve the closure, which was ordered because of PS 14’s poor performance on tests and its low rating in the DOE’s new grading system for schools.

The other piece of the puzzle is a parallel plan to replace PS 14 with a “new” school, to be known as PS 78.

The DOE wants to phase out PS 14 over three years as successive classes move through it and move on to intermediate school, and, over the same period, successive new classes will be enrolled in PS 78. By 2015, PS 14 will have closed and PS 78 will have reached full enrollment of 653-713 students - the same number of students PS 14 now has enrolled.

This “new” school will occupy the same building on Tompkins Avenue, and, as a zoned elementary school, will serve exactly the same population that PS 14 served.
In other school closings they changed the teachers, admin and the students, so this might prove more tricky. But as Loretta points out there is a charter school in the area (not an accident) that might cream some of the top admits off the new school.
This year, 92 percent of PS 14’s students qualified for free or reduced-price lunches, which points to the entrenched poverty in this community. Of course, economic circumstances and their relation to family education and parental involvement, are generally known to be a critical factor in kids’ ability to do well in school.

So kids from the same stressed socioeconomic background and the same troubled neighborhood will make up the student population of PS 78 just as such kids make up the student population of PS 14 now.

****If that’s the case, what’s going to change?

****A DOE official insisted that phasing out the old school will result in “a pretty major change in school culture.”
THE FIRST MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION 
****Really? How so?
The official said, “We can get different leaders in there, some different teachers in there, sort of an updated program.”

OK, there will be a new principal, a number of new teachers and a revised curriculum.  IBut was PS 14’s poor showing solely a matter of administration and staff? If the students at PS 78 face the same day-to-day challenges in and out of school as the students at PS 14 face, it’s hard to see how PS 78 will do substantially better.

Now, the critical difference officials are pondering could be in the amount of support the DOE gives to the new school. Obviously, having taken this drastic step, the department will do whatever it takes to see that PS 78 succeeds.

But the question people who oppose the death sentence for PS 14 have is:
THE MONEY QUESTION IS COMING UP:
****Why couldn’t the DOE provide that high level support for PS 14? It might have made a big difference and avoided closure. After all, it was only in 2009 that PS 14 earned an A on its progress report. What happened?

“How does DOE phase out a school before providing the necessary support, while simultaneously bringing in a new, well-resourced school - PS 78?” asked City Councilwoman Debi Rose. “The closure of PS 14 is evidence of the continuing systemic failure of the DOE to manage resources for the education of the children in its care. It appears that they are relegating our students to separate and unequal learning environments.”

Speaking of which, we have to wonder what’s going to happen when PS 78 comes on line next September and it and PS 14 are operating simultaneously out of the same building. Are they going to be treated equally or is doomed PS 14, already deemed a failure, going to be relegated to a lower tier in DOE’s eyes?

Count Community Education Council 31 President Sam Pirozzolo among the skeptics. He says that if the DOE’s full commitment and resources are going to be put into supporting all five grades of PS 14/PS 78, “Then just fix the whole school.”

And call it PS 14, so no one has to go through the trauma of having their school pulled out from under them.

Too bad the DOE didn’t consider this option.  
Too bad, indeed. School closing hearings will commence in January and the following PEPs will vote to endorse these closings. But if the opposition keeps heating up we may begin to see a lot more editorials like these (unimaginable a short time ago) as the reality of the failures of ed deform sweep the nation. And yes, we do need your bodies there to swell the crowd and create the kind of disruptions and opposition that shows a growing movement. I say make then vote under police guard in front of a screaming crowd. (If you missed it see Brian Jones' speech at the PEP on the police presence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPiNqcKSDm4).

And would you have seen a story like this until recently?
In Miami, charter schools enroll a disproportionately low number of poor students. (Miami Herald)
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