Tue, Mar 12, 2013
At a public hearing on Monday, hundreds of people gathered to demonstrate against the department’s proposals as the Panel for Educational Policy voted to close two schools in New York City, including Freedom Academy High School in Brooklyn Heights and M.S 45/Stars Prep. Academy in Manhattan.
The panel also decided to phase-out 20 schools throughout the city. Seven of them are in Brooklyn: P.S 167 the Parkway, J.H.S 166 George Gershwin, P.S 174 Dumont, J.H.S 302 Rafael Cordero School, Sheepshead Bay High School, P.S 73 Thomas S. Boyland, and General D. Chappie James Middle School of Sciences.
“Those are very difficult decisions,” said Dennis M. Walcott, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. “But I think it would be harming our students in the long run to allow poor performing schools to stay open.”
Graduation rates at Freedom Academy High School have been below 61 percent for seven of the last eight years, according to the Department of Education. The institution received an overall F grade on its progress report in 2011-2012, indicating deficiencies in the way the school is organized to support student learning.
The department decided to close the high school instead of phasing it out because of the low student enrollment. The city said that the 175 students of the school will be accommodated in other high schools throughout the borough.
The Panel for Educational Policy also voted to open 13 new co-location schools in Brooklyn, meaning that existing schools will have to share their buildings with the new schools.
The idea is to have smaller schools, explained one of the members of the leadership team of the Department of Education, who was present at the hearing. “It works particularly with kids who have needs that are more intensive than the average kids,” he said. “We can actually get a better outcome by creating more personalized learning environments that are targeted to them.”
Parents, teachers and students gathered at the hearing to protest the closures, the phase-outs, and the co-locations.
Sandra Christianson, who has been teaching for seven years at the J.H.S 302 Rafael Cordero School in East New York, said she does not understand why her school is being phased-out.
The city said that the decision to phase out Christianson’s middle school was based on the poor performance of the school. According to the department of education, only 20% of the students, who are in grade six through eight, performed at grade level in English, putting the school in the bottom 20 percent of middle schools citywide. The school, she said, accepted 120 students in the bilingual program every year.
“The school has a very high ESL bilingual population,” Christianson explained. “So our scores are always low because our students are not able to understand the language.”
The panel voted to open and co-locate two new district middle schools in the building where J.H.S 302 Rafael Cordero School and Achievement First Apollo Charter School are currently operating. The members also voted to expand the charter school.