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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Under Public Pressure, City Retreats on Cleveland and Bushwick High School Closings

Aniah McAllister, 20; Justin Soto, 21; and Kassandra Barrientos, 18, outside Bushwick Community High School in Brooklyn in March


April 26, 2012, 11:20 a.m.
Hours before a board was scheduled to vote on the closing of 26 public schools, city officials withdrew two of them from contention, retreating from their original plans in the face of strong opposition from elected officials.
The two schools, Grover Cleveland High School and Bushwick Community High School, have little in common.
Cleveland, which earned a C on its last school progress report and has more than 2,400 students, has been a staple of the Ridgewood, Queens, neighborhood for decades, taking in thousands of students of varying academic ability, but graduating fewer of them in recent years.
Bushwick Community High School is a transfer school, a last-chance place for students who do not succeed in more traditional schools like Grover Cleveland, and have fewer than 10 of the 44 credits they will need to graduate. Bushwick has 420 students and, like Cleveland, earned a C on its last progress report.
Both schools were recommended for closing based on their graduation rates, which are below the city’s average. But in both cases, elected officials intervened to try to spare the schools.
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, a graduate of Grover Cleveland, held a hearing earlier this month at which she criticized the Education Department for spending millions of dollars to bring vocational classes back to the school, when they had been disbanded years before.
And last week, a senior staff member for the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, placed two phone calls to officials at the department to ask that Bushwick Community remain open.
City officials said they withdrew plans to close Grover Cleveland and Bushwick Community because the schools were showing signs of improvement — more students were passing their classes and Regents exams. And when city officials visited the schools for their yearly quality review, both were rated “proficient” or higher.
This information has been available to city officials and the public for months, yet the two schools did not make the initial cut earlier this month, when the schools chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, removed seven other schools from the closing list, citing their improved performance.
“Over the past several weeks, during public hearings and visits from my senior leadership, we looked closely at schools whose performance and quality of instruction have shown positive signs in the last two years,” Mr. Walcott said in a statement. “We have come to believe that two of those schools — Grover Cleveland High School and Bushwick Community High School — have demonstrated an ability to continue their improvements without the more comprehensive actions that are clearly needed at 24 other schools.”
And Ms. Nolan, in a joint statement with Dmytro Fedkowskyj, the Queens representative to the Panel for Educational Policy, thanked city officials.
“We are appreciative and grateful that New York City Department of Education has removed Grover Cleveland High School from the ‘turnaround’ list,” the statement said. “They have recognized the strength and improvement under Principal Denise Vittor and all the excellence that the Grover Cleveland community offers. We continue to express our opposition and concern with the proposed ‘turnaround’ model, and we urge the city to drop their quest to close all these schools, especially the large comprehensive Queens High Schools.”
A third school, Junior High School 80 the Mosholu Parkway in the Bronx, earned a B for student progress on its report from the city last year and received high marks on its quality review. But city officials said that when they visited the school this year, they were unimpressed with the quality of teaching, and students’ scores on the state math and reading exams had dropped.
Anna M. Phillips is a member of the SchoolBook staff. Follow her on Twitter @annamphillips.

More withdrawn proposals

SchoolBook: How Students, Parents, Teachers Are Feeling About Taking The Current Standardized Tests

How are your children holding up during standardized testing?

Schoolbook-50SchoolBook Editors  April 19, 2012, 12:48 PM
Worry, anxiety, fear. With so much now riding on standardized testing, some students are picking up on the emotions of the grownups around them and approaching this year's standardized testing with a variety of emotions.
Parents, teachers: Share your stories here about how your children have reacted to the testing, and what you have done to address their concerns.
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Kelvin Song  April 21, 2012, 6:15 PM
Why not just ask us directly?
I am 14, and am currently in the Eye of the Storm, between the ELAs and Math tests.
Feeling? "Flying Blind". With the pineapple question, and Pearson sneaking Field Test questions onto the real test(Wow, NY, it only took you several years do realize we don't care about Field Tests). It would also be nice if adults would tell us if state test performance even affected us other than driving down our parents' property values. 
How about "Defensive"? Parents love comparing how well we do this year to last year, forgetting that this year Pearson was contracted(cough*millionsoftaxpayerdollars*cough) to change the tests and recycle junk from other states, er, make them more difficult. C'mon people, remember what you learned in science class(Perhaps why they don't give state science tests each year?). You have to keep all but one variable constant, or your findings are about as valid as what the hobo down the street in the tinfoil hat spouts. Even if you don't mind the terrible job Pearson does, you still have to remember the noise that skews scores. Something as small as opening the curtains means the difference between an A and a C-.( 
Perhaps "Exhausted". The tests this year are the biggest yet. They tagged on two reading passages and fifteen comprehension questions on the LISTENING part of the ELA. Maybe Pearson thinks Albany will pay them more if they make a longer test...
Kelvin Song  April 21, 2012, 6:20 PM
I recorded what I put down for ELA Book 1 Form C, comes with a big warning label(Many are probably wrong). Mainly meant as a response to the "SECURE TEST, DO NOT DISCUSS CONTENT UNTIL END OF MAKEUP SCHEDULE"
1 A
2 B
3 A
4 C
5 A
6 B
7 C
8 B
9 B
10 D
11 B
12 D
13 B
14 A
15 A
16 B
17 D
18 D
19 B
20 A
21 A
22 C
23 A
24 A
25 A
26 C
27 B
28 A
29 C
30 B
31 D
32 B
33 C
34 B
35 C
36 C
37 B
38 A
39 D
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Cny Teaching  April 22, 2012, 9:47 PM
Elementary students: 3 days in a row. 90 minutes each day in a silent sanitized room. What does our commissioner robot and his evil overlord controllers want for the future of middle-class and below students (because their wealthy backers and private school dandies will never have to worry about "standards" and state tests)? Are we being mandated to train cubicle monkeys and service sector minimum wage workers? Real critical thinkers would pose a threat to the "reform" movement because so much of it is clearly wrong-morally and educationally.
Vicki Zunitch  April 23, 2012, 11:01 PM
Yes, you are being mandated to train cubicle monkeys and service sector minimum wage workers. As Charles Amundsen of DOE (he said his salary was paid by Bill Gates, not sure how that works) said at one school about the new Common Core for "literacy" -- used to be English: "After all, you don't write novels every day, you write notes to your boss." Ah-hah! 
Only one error in Cny Teaching's paragraph: not all private school people are dandies. Many, actually most, of us are making great sacrifices to school our children elsewhere because the only thing we detest more than the government forming our children's minds is the government forming our children's minds and completely disenfranchising us from any say in the matter at all at any time or place including during (10-minutes-a-year) teacher conferences.
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William Smith  April 25, 2012, 2:47 PM
The pressure of test taking needs to be removed. Daily quizzes are the best measurements for success or failure (just as in real life). Tests should be designed as learning devices. All questions and solutions should be available to the public. It is a total waste of time if the test is not used as a teaching tool. The education business is supposed to be about teaching and learning, not a contest with winners and losers. The only test that should be secret is the SAT/ACT and it should be sort of like an IQ test with no feasible way to prepare for it other than doing your best day to day in school and through an understanding of the questions and solutions in the public question pool.
Chris Moonie  April 21, 2012, 5:54 PM
Get rid of these meaningless tests, close all the government schools, and home school your kids. They will grow up healthy,happy, and successful. A childhood spent in a school is a very sad childhood indeed. I want to cry everytime I see school children in the morning dragged of to school by their parents. I guess people are actully brainwashed into believing that school is good for them. Time to wake up and give these children back their childhoods.Forced schooling is abusive toward children and should be outlawed.
Britta Sorensen  April 24, 2012, 2:11 PM
I work with third graders. Two stopped and stared in a dead-panic for at least twenty minutes, hearts racing, freaking out over questions they weren't sure about.
One spent 45 minutes trying to read, then stopping, then trying to read again, only to tell me, "I can't do it. I can't do it. I don't deserve to go to 4th grade anyway."
After the test, many kids rushed to ask me what would happen if they got a 2 on this test, but a 4 on the math, or any other combination of scores. They said, again and again, how worried they were, and how they didn't want to fail. They didn't want to have to repeat the grade.
I remember feeling maybe 1/4 of this stress and panic when I had to take the SAT when I was 17. These kids are 7 and feel the weight of the rest of their lives on their shoulders while they take these tests.
Syed Meer  April 24, 2012, 4:48 PM
I have two kids taking the ELA's: a fifth grader who thinks he is an old hand at it, and a third grader who is very nervous that she will have to redo third grade. while neither of them will confess to any anxiety or discomfort with the testing itself, their personalities have become very brittle and insecure this month and their usual boisterousness very dampened.