Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Large High Schools in the City Are Taking Hard Falls

This is an important article in today's NYT about a most vexing problem: what to do with huge, failing high schools – so-called dropout factories.  I wasn't expecting much from the article, frankly (most such articles are of the silly he-said-she-said variety), but this was well done, capturing the genuine anger and disappointment of some, yet also the endless failure and the many failed turnarounds that finally led to the school's closing:

But in auditorium after auditorium at schools on the closing list, like Columbus, Jamaica and Beach Channel High Schools in Queens, and William H. Maxwell Career and Technical Education High School in Brooklyn, the hearings have exposed a torrent of anger about how large high schools have fared in the Bloomberg years.

The city's Education Department says that on the whole, the closings have been a success. The small high schools created in the shells of old large high schools have average graduation rates of 75 percent, 15 percent higher than in the city as a whole and far greater than those of the schools they replaced.

"Obviously, closing schools is not something anyone enjoys," said Joel I. Klein, the schools chancellor. "By and large, what this is about is simply the fact that when you have many kids in a high-needs community, you find that the smaller schools, where they are highly personalized, where they have strong partnerships and involvement with various organizations, those things really have been a successful strategy for us."

To education officials, the failures of Columbus, a 70-year-old school that graduated only 40 percent of its students on time last year and received a D on its most recent report card, are self-evident. And they say they make the closing process as painless as possible. For the closing school, it is a gradual death, with current students allowed to graduate if they do not fall behind, but no new classes admitted. As space opens up, the new schools come to life, adding a grade each year.


Large High Schools in the City Are Taking Hard Falls

Ruby Washington/The New York Times

Students from Christopher Columbus High School and Global Enterprise Academy marched to protest the scheduled closing of their schools.



Published: January 25, 2010


The boos cascaded over the auditorium as a city education official read out the case against Christopher Columbus High School, one of the last remaining large high schools in the Bronx.

Columbus has had a "long history of sustained academic failure" and "chronically poor performance and low demand," Santiago Taveras, a deputy chancellor, told the standing-room crowd. As a result, he said, it should be closed.

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