Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Dark Side of Education Reform: Students as Victims and the Destruction of Manhattan's Murray Bergtraum HS

U.S. News and World Reports ranked Murry Bergtraum High School for BusinessCareers on Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan among America’s “Outstanding High Schools” in 1999.... Up until about the year 2000, Bergtraum offered a wide array of academic and business courses. Students could study Latin, French, Italian, or Spanish. There were Advanced Placement classes, music and art courses. There was a literary magazine, a yearbook,a school newspaper, a band, a debate club, language clubs, and sports teams. Like Bronx Science, Stuyvesant, and other selective specialty high schools in the city, students applied and competed for admission to Murry Bergtraum.
Thus begins the testimonial of a former Bergtraum teacher, Andrea Dupre. Retired CL John Elfrank-Dana sent this link. What happened in 2002? Bloomberg/Joel Klein.
But by 2011, New York State identified Bergtraum as a School in Need of Improvement (SINI) and its New York City School Report Card grade fell to a “D.” Ironically, the arc of the school’s fall began in 2002 with recently elected New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s four-pronged approach to reforming the city’s schools. These included centralizing control at the mayor’s office; carving up large high schools into smaller schools; utilizing “disruption” as a means of managing faculty and administrators; and eliminating “bad” teachers. In 2002, Bergtraum was one of those large high schools, enrolling about 2500 students. So were Stuyvesant in Manhattan, Francis Lewis in Queens, Lehman in the Bronx, and Edward R. Murrow in Brooklyn. None of these large successful schools including Bergtraum were on the mayor’s list for closure. Yet as the others maintained stable programs and staff throughout Bloomberg’s three administrations, Bergtraum
collapsed, its once fine reputation now a thing of the past.
Read Dupre's entire story below and keep in mind that Bergtaum was a key school building on Eva Moskowitz's radar -- she is in there now and one day the entire building which was state of the art when built in 1976, will fall into her hands.

As for the UFT:
Bergtraum’s beleaguered UFT chapter leader struggled to get support from the evasive teachers’ union, reluctant to break rank with the mayor. As Diane Ravitch explains, New York City’s teachers’ union essentially established a holding pattern in its criticism of the mayor: The only group that might have stymied his [Bloomberg’s] goal was the United Federation of Teachers. But the union leadership was grateful to the mayor, because he had awarded the teachers a 43 per cent salary increase and a
generous boost to their pensions. Randi Weingarten, the union’s president, endorsed continuation of mayoral control (Ravitch, 80).
As the conditions at Murry Bergtraum deteriorated, the UFT, like the DOE, chose to bury the dark side - effects of reform policies: a school community’s sense of isolation within a large, centrally controlled system, the unsettling consequences of reform...
The Dark Side of Education Reform: Students as Victims and the Destruction of a Manhattan High School


  1. This just proves the theory-it's all about the real estate- especially in NY. While no one now will try to take over the Stuyvesant jewel in the crown, one day look for someone to say that "another building, in the outer boroughs, would be an even better location for Stuyvesant". The other schools you mentioned are all in the outer boroughs. How sad for Bergtraum and for the children.

    If the school does fall to M., to preempt a quick real estate flip, the NYC Council should say that every school building built by the taxpayers of NY should forever remain a school building, fully owned by people of NY. Then when her empire fades away, as all empires do, the people of the city can reclaim their building.

    1. Excellent recommendation. Anonymous you are right on point!


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