Except for the compliant press, does anyone believe that the grades the New York City Department of Education gives to schools mean much? Chaz discusses the absurdity of schools receiving A and B grades that have very few students who can be considered ready for college work.
This story hits close to home. As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I teach at the phasing out Jamaica High School. One of the schools replacing us as we phase out is called Jamaica Gateway. They received an A on their report card.
I congratulate Jamaica Gateway for their grade.. Their administration is very professional. They have been nothing but kind to me as I try to coordinate SAT exams in Jamaica's building. Some of their staff transferred from Jamaica High; we work very well together. Jamaica Gateway's Chapter Leader is a good friend. Their students achieved a 97.5% graduation rate and a 60% college ready rate. That's not bad at all. Where did these graduates come from? The answer is Jamaica High School.
Many of the top achieving juniors and sophomores from Jamaica High School were automatically transferred into Jamaica Gateway when it opened in 2011. Their entire 2012 graduating senior class was educated at Jamaica High School for three years. I was the Advanced Placement US History teacher for many of these kids two years ago. There were some really great students in that group.
The Jamaica High School-Jamaica Gateway formula of taking top pupils and moving them out of a school that the powers that be want to fail and placing them into a program that they want to succeed is a mini-version of the school reform movement.
Who is left behind in the traditional school? Many of the students who remain at Jamaica High School are those who have more challenging needs such as English Language Learners, Self Contained Special Education pupils, and students who are over-age and lack credits. (We also have some Jamaica High School loyalists who had to opt out of the transfer to Gateway.) The inevitable result of cherry picking the top students is that the new school will succeed and the old school will fail. Then, the education officials go out to the public and say, "You see the new school is doing so much better than the school it replaced." This happens in charter schools and new public schools all over.
When the DOE wants to increase the overall graduation rate, they can then scare the living daylights out of the teachers in the new schools and remaining traditional schools so teachers know to pass virtually everyone to avoid the fate of schools like mine.
Does this help education? Playing political football with children is something that historians will not look kindly upon. Sadly, it is now coming to the college level. Students who are not prepared for college often drop out. What to do? Water down the college education. This is part of a petition from the Professional Staff Congress (professor's union) at the City University of New York.
"Under the pretext of easing student transfer and increasing graduation rates, Pathways will deliver a minimal curriculum for CUNY’s working-class students: it removes science lab requirements, limits foreign language requirements, and cuts back on faculty time with students in English classes. Pathways is an attempt to move students through the system more quickly even as budgets are cut—by reducing academic requirements. Pathways is austerity education for an austerity economy."
On a different but related topic, my colleague Marc Epstein has written a piece for the Huffington Post critical of the destruction of neighborhood schools. It seems that the recent super-storm Sandy and the subsequent shutdown of the New York City transportation system revealed something we all know: students are using the public transportation system in much greater numbers than in the past because they are attending schools all over the city. Wouldn't we be leaving a much lighter carbon footprint if we fixed neighborhood schools so that young people would not have to travel across the city to get to school each day?