Closing Schools Have Most Challenging DemographicsBy SHARON OTTERMAN
The findings broadly back a persistent criticism of the city's school closing policies - that the schools targeted for closure are faced with the most challenging student populations.
The study confirmed that the 25 schools proposed for closing, which include 11 middle and elementary schools, are among the lowest performing in the city. But it also found they are not universally the worst. For every low-performing school that is closing, there are schools with similar or even weaker records of student achievement that are remaining open, the report shows.
The city has closed 91 schools for poor performance since Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took office - and the mayoral-controlled Panel for Educational Policy will vote in February on the latest round of closings.
But there is "no guarantee that a closing school will be replaced by a more successful one," the report states. Eight of the schools the city plans to close this year are new, small schools: "the replacement model that the Department of Education has favored for schools that have been closed in the past."
Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, a city schools spokesman, said: "Our reform efforts are absolutely focused on our students that need the most help, and independent research shows new small schools that replace large failing schools serve more disadvantaged students on average and help these students graduate at higher rates."
Here are some of the specific findings:
- The special education population citywide remained flat at 12 percent from 2007-08 to 2008-09, but the percentage of special education students in closing high schools rose to 18 percent from 16 percent.
- The number of students in temporary housing, often one of the city's homeless shelters, quadrupled citywide during the economic downturn, from 1 percent of the total student enrollment in 2007-08 to 4 percent in 2008-09. But at closing high schools, 6 percent of students were in temporary housing in 2008-09. At four closing schools, 10 percent or more students were homeless: Public School 332, Paul Robeson High School, Middle School 571 in Brooklyn and Norman Thomas High School in Manhattan.
- Nine percent of students in the closing high schools were over age for their grade in 2008-09, an increase of 1 percent from the prior year. Citywide, the percentage of over-age students - who tend to perform poorly in school and are at high risk of dropping out - fell from 5 percent to 4 percent during that period.
- Student performance is generally among the city's lowest at the closing schools - their passing rate on high school Regents exams, for example, is 25 percent compared with 42 percent citywide. Yet most closing schools received a grade of 'proficient' on their annual quality reviews as of 2008-09 - the third highest score of five categories. One closing school ranked better ('well developed') and two scored worse ('underdeveloped').
The report is available by clicking on the following link: School Closing Jan 2011