Thompson: Fruchter & Robinson Detail NYC Turnaround Controversy
EdVox's Norm Fruchter recalls the Annenberg Institute for School Reform (AISR) report by the New York City Working Group on School Transformation which concluded that the city had increased concentrations of high-risk, high needs students at schools that were targeted for closure.
In April, the NYC DOE dismissed the report. Fruchter, an analyst for the AISR, now reports that the DOE acknowledges that the way it has conducted its school turnarounds "intensified the burdens of struggling schools.” In a letter published in the Gotham Gazette, NYC now says, “over the past 18 months, NYC has been working with the New York State Education Department to address its concerns about situations where our choice-based system may be leading to an over-concentration of students with disabilities, English language learners, and/or students that are performing below proficiency in certain schools.”
Fruchter's criticism of New York City's turnarounds should be read in context with Gail Robinson's "NYC's School Closing Gambit Leaves Students Behind," in the Huffington Post, Rachel Cromidas' "Arbitrator: City Used 'Circular Reasoning' to Justify Turnarounds" in Gotham Schools, Edwize’s Maisie McAdoo and Rhonda Rosenberg, in "Getting Past the DOE’s 2012 Test Results,” and Rachel Monahan's “Bloomberg’s New Schools Have Failed Thousands of City Students," in the Daily News.
Gail Robinson recounts the way that Dewey, Adams, Lehman, and Flushing high schools were damaged as the DOE dumped challenging students on schools that were targeted for closure. For instance, students leaving prison and even a “16-year-old [who] never spent a day in school until enrolling” was sent to Flushing High School. She then recounted her visit to a school targeted for turnaround. Robinson writes, “Undoubtedly some teachers there were marking time. But I also saw many working hard to help students who come from families under a lot of stress -- impoverished, new to this country, not speaking English.”
Tackling the turnaround controversy from a different angle, Gotham School's Rachel Cromidas reports on arbitrator Scott Buchheit's rationale for overturning the district's turnaround plans. Buchheit cited a DOE memo which said, “excessing is not a permissible way to deal with unsatisfactory teachers.” But, he found city officials who said that that was the purpose, from the start, of the turnaround process. The arbitrator concluded that a deputy chancellor "suggested that the school closings were inauthentic, when he wrote in a memorandum to principals shortly after Bloomberg’s speech explaining that their schools would be closed 'as a technical matter.'” The arbitrator cited Mayor Mike Bloomberg's frequent criticisms of seniority and his apparent desire to use the turnaround process so "the best teachers stay; the least effective go.” Buchheit added, “Suffice it to say that at the arbitration hearing the Mayor reaffirmed his dislike.” Of course, the combative administration plans to fight the ruling.
The mayor continues to put an aggressive spin on last week’s announcement of 2012 test score results. Maisie McAdoo and Rhonda Rosenberg explain, however, Bloomberg lumped results from District 75 with old schools, so he could claim that new schools and charters out-performed the “traditionals” by .8 points. District 75 provides programs for students with conditions ranging from autism to serious emotional disturbances. More to the point, charters and new schools, combined, still underperform traditionals by 12 points.
If there is any report that is likely to force the DOE to back off from its plans, it is the investigation by the Daily News. News examined 2012 state reading test scores for 154 schools that have opened since Mayor Bloomberg took office and reported that, nearly 60% had passing rates that were lower than older schools with similar poverty rates. Just 38% of students at those elementary and middle schools passed the reading test, compared with 47% of students citywide. The newspaper then reported that 15% of those new schools received D’s and F’s on the DOE’s report card, in contrast to the city average of 10%.
I am not going to be a hypocrite and claim that the Daily News’s reporting is as reliable as the other analyses of the failure of the Bloomberg administrations signature “reform.” I enjoyed the title of its graphic, however. The august journal proclaims, “Mike’s Schools Flunking Out!”- JT(@drjohnthompson)via.