Friday, June 05, 2015


Everyone connected to education has ideas about how to "fix" so called troubled schools. Now the State Education Department and city are calling them Out of Time or Renewal schools.

These are the schools that invariably have higher concentrations of high needs students. When a high school has high numbers of English language learners, students with interrupted formal education, overage-under credited students, instructional support services pupils (special education) and/or those living in temporary housing, that school will probably have some more difficulty graduating all of their students.

This blog proposes a test to see if the Bloomberg/Gates reformers are right that poverty, homelessness, and students not knowing English are just excuses and the solution to the problem of low performing schools is to improve the quality of the teaching.

Let's do an experiment where it is Bloomberg style reform verses traditional public education to see who really has the solutions to improve the failing schools.

We can perform this limited trial in Brooklyn where the two original Out of Time Schools, Automotive High School and Boys and Girls High School, are located.

To set this up, we will need to borrow from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's playbook by cherry- picking quality students but without having to give the school a new name or starting four new schools in a building built to house one school as was done in the past or even replacing all the teachers. Our plan will save the taxpayers some money.

We can accomplish Bloomberg style cherry-picking by using a model for recruiting students that has been very successful: a draft just like they do it in professional sports.  

Think about how Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League and National Hockey League achieve competitive balance. The teams that have the worst records pick new recruits in the draft before teams that are successful. If we apply the same method for selection of new students for Recovery or Out of Time schools, we can turn them around almost instantly and with very little cost or disruption if the traditionalist theory is right that quality students= good schools. Boys and Girls and Automotive and any others that are out of time select new students first because they have the worst records. Then come the Recovery schools who pick students next. The so called high achieving schools would pick last.

If we send the top eighth graders to the Out of Time and Renewal high schools in each district, like magic these schools will improve if scientists such as the American Statistical Association are accurate saying teachers make up a difference of 1-14% on student test scores. Just send the schools high achieving pupils, and presto, instant turnaround.  No need to close any schools or bring in any wrap-around services or lower class sizes. They won't need extra hours or more nonsensical professional development. Just give them the top pupils and see what happens.  If traditionalist theory is correct, it will be quite easy to improve the Out of Time and Renewal schools. 

If the traditionalists are wrong and reformers like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee are correct that it is bad teachers that lead schools to fail, high performing schools won't be impacted even if they get the last picks of students since they obviously have superior teachers which explains their success. The reformers are certain that the most important factor to making a good school is the quality of the teaching. It has nothing to do with the background of the pupils. Let's put that theory to the test.

Some of you are probably thinking parents in the "good" schools aren't going to like this experiment. Their schools will have students enrolled who can't make it into a Renewal school. Well there is an answer both Republican and Democratic mayors would like.

Mayoral control means we can ignore parents. Both former Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor de Blasio concur on this. This experiment is for one district where school choice can be put on hold for a couple of years.  If parents want to opt out of the district, maybe we can allow it.  But why would they want to leave?

Our Out of Time-Renewal experiment can take in a fortune in Race to the Top funding so we actually could hire more lawyers and other administrators to put teachers on trial and track student progress. Anyone against this program we could say is an adult who represents some special interest who just wants to keep the statusquo and does not want to see schools improve.

OK so there is some satire above but the absurdity of what our education system has devolved into is on full display each day we show up for work.  The Parthenon Report back in 2006 suggested to the city's Department of Education limiting the number of high needs students placed in large comprehensive high schools to give those schools a chance.  To the surprise of nobody, the DOE ignored the advice. Under a different mayor the people in charge continue to expect schools with large concentrations of at risk kids to perform as well as schools that really are destined to succeed.


James Eterno said...

We received an email comment on this post. Just to be clear, schools with a great number of high needs students should not destined to fail. They just need many more resources compared to the average school such as funds for lower class sizes. However, the main problem is that no school, unless it is specifically set up for teaching high needs students, should have them thrown at them in huge numbers.

What so called school choice has done is it has set up a system where all of the savvy parents choose the schools they think are good for their kids and that leaves the students who don't have advocates all concentrated in certain schools. That should not be allowed to happen.

Take out the high needs kids and the school will improve. Bloomberg proved it when he exempted special education and English language learner students from his new small schools.

Anonymous said...

How about this experiment:
Permanantly remove all the chronic disrupters from every NYC school. The small percentage of crazies that ruin so many classes and school climates. The ones that make it difficult for teachers to deliver great lessons and for students to be comfortable and learn.
GET RID OF THIS CANCER and you will see real improvement.

Anonymous said...

Lots of things we could do. They used to have 600 schools for those disruptive students. Let teachers solve the problem.