G.E. D. Students at Risk
Some seven hundred teachers, para-professionals and school secretaries are facing "excessing" from our G.E.D. programs on June 28, the last day of school. We are educators who teach in District 79 (the "Alternative Superintency"). "No Child Left Behind"? Our students are all kids who were left behind. We teach the students who have dropped-out and are now motivated to return to get their G.E.D. They are ESL students, students looking for a "second chance", newly arrived students who never had the chance to learn to read and write in their native countries. We are dedicated professionals and we are worried about the effect on hundreds and thousands of young black, Latino and Asian students who may likely get "lost" in the chaotic reorganization process.
On May 24, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein called a press conference and announced the closing of four GED programs, which would be "reorganized" under a new name.. He also stated the multi-site Program for Pregnant Teens would be closed and another program for at-risk students. He stated all changes would be in place by September. Seven hundred staff members will be effected. Only four hundred will be able to be placed in the reorganization process.
Under the "reorganization" and the creation of a new school, all current teachers in the program will be "excessed" (dismissed from their schools), and need to "reapply" to jobs they have held for many years. One-half of the jobs are to be eliminated, and of those, only those teachers "approved" by the new principal would be allowed back.
The press conference, held in our school, was done without prior knowledge of the teachers. Our union, the United Federation of Teachers, was given one day's notice of this plan.
The four closed G.E.D. programs are the Auxiliary Services for High School (ASHS), Off-Site Educational Services, Vocational Educational Services, and Career Educational Services. The New Beginnings program will also be closed. The new "reorganized" program is to be called "GED-Plus" and a literacy Restart Program is to be opened.
The DOE also announced the closing of the Program for Pregnant Teens, a multi-site program that is dedicated to helping these young women stay in school despite their difficult situation. The UFT is seeking to keep these crucial services and programs open.
It is outrageous that the Department of Education is excessing GED teachers when the need for them is more urgent that ever. Every year an estimated 20,000 students drop out of NYC schools (reported in Newsday, February 21, 2007). The drop out rate for black and Hispanic students is the highest of any city in the country. As of June 2005, the schools estimated that 138,000 NYC youth, ages 16-21, have dropped out or were significantly off track (Education Week, 15 November 2006). Over 40 percent of English Language Learners drop out of high school before finishing their education. The stress of continual "high stakes testing," mandatory regents, and new small schools which use a two-year option and refuse to enroll ELLs and Special Education students, are only some of the factors pushing kids out of school.
We welcome change and any real measures which help kids, teachers and the community. But this is the third "reorganization" in three years and can only be described as "reckless reform." ASHS has already been drastically cut back from 50+ sites to 5, even though the demand for G.E.D. is bigger than ever. Each time these closings came in July or later in the year, resulting in loss of many teachers and with terrible disruption to students. In September last year, students were told to transfer to a new site, and several hundred students were lost in the abrupt chaotic transfer process.
Now, thousands of students who participate in these programs do not know where they will go in September. Teachers do not know whether they will have positions in September. What centers will provide ESL services, which centers will provide Special Education? Where will Basic Education students go? What about Pre-GED students? What about students transitioning back from incarceration and desperately needing the training and support our schools provide? When will we be allowed to "reapply" for jobs we have held for years? These "unanswered" questions are part of the state of chaos now evident in our schools.
--Teachers, Paraprofessionals and Staff at Auxiliary Services for High Schools
June 15, 2007
More information: 917-545-5671