There is a post at the JD2718 blog written by Lynne Winderbaum that is must reading. Lynne is a retired UFT Bronx High School UFT District Representative. Lynne was one of the Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's political party) people that anyone could respect, like and certainly talk to. As a retiree, she can tell the truth about what went on in the school closing fervor that started many years ago. Lynne makes it clear that the UFT was in on this from the start.
She tells the story of a Bronx High School meeting with principals and chapter leaders hearing stories from the Bill Gates people about how small schools could solve education's problems.
Eric Nadelstern from the Bronx Superintendent's office and John Soldini, then UFT VP for Academic High Schools remembered that the intent to close and replace the large high schools with small schools was made clear at that meeting. Others who were there were incredulous at the announcements of intent to close schools because they did not remember the meeting that way
When the new schools opened inside the big schools and started taking the top achieving students, the large schools took students who could not get into the well funded smaller schools and were doomed. As Lynne says:
Waivers were granted to allow (new) small schools a two-year exemption on accepting special education students. And even after the waivers expired, the special education students were not the high-needs children displaced to the large high schools. The English Language Learners were not the recent arrivals who were displaced to the large high schools.
Soon the displacement of high-needs children bore its predictable fruit. The small schools looked like magic institutions with higher graduation rates and fewer disciplinary problems. The large schools offered a complete array of special education and ELL services. They took troubled students without screening them out. As a result, their statistics began to show the impact of the small school movement. They were deemed failing.
The same formula was used in other boroughs later except Staten Island. In Queens it was used on a smaller scale but the story Lynne tells is familiar to those of us who worked at Jamaica High School. Just as with Columbus High School in the Bronx, there was nobody listening when we complained.
Once again we ask that an experiment be conducted when schools are having difficulty. All the Department of Education needs to do is limit the number of high risk students that school takes until it its statistics rise to levels that are deemed acceptable. This was proposed as a solution by an outside group in 2008 and ignored by Mayors Bloomberg and de Blasio.
If you spread the high needs students, you will achieve remarkably different results.